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They say things come in threes – An amazing survival story

Rowan and I, Kim, have been teamed up as a vet and nurse duo since the first lockdown back in March 2020 and there’s not much that we haven’t seen through the doors here at Fenton Vets. 

… Until Patch, a 2-year-old Collie whose owners had concerns late one January evening. He hadn’t been quite right, vomited several hours earlier but now appeared uncomfortable with a bloated stomach. 

On arrival, although reassuringly bright and bouncy, examination confirmed Patch had a solid stomach which sounded like it was full of fluid and X-rays confirmed that Patch had a ‘GDV’ (Gastric Dilation Volvulus) which is an acutely life threatening condition. Mainly seen in larger and deep chested breeds, not typical of collies.

Time really was of the essence, and as we commenced treatment and further X-rays the bigger picture got more complicated. Patch also had a ruptured diaphragm, which is a sheet of muscle which separates the chest and abdominal organs. This tear in the diaphragm means that the abdominal organs such as the spleen and liver move more freely into the chest causing breathing difficulties and putting Patch at further risks.  

Both GDV and a ruptured diaphragm are individually life threatening conditions but they both have huge anaesthetic complications individually… let alone together!! We had our work cut out. 

An extra pair of hands was needed quickly and luckily another vet, Nicola answered her phone at some ungodly hour and came to help with the surgery.

We had suspicions about abnormal stomach contents and our third complication was confirmed during surgery… Something hard in the stomach, a foreign body – number three of the trio. Just when we thought we had seen it all!

With his life in our hands and his owners hanging on our updates at home Patch was in a critical condition but proved he was a fighter during the protracted surgical procedures to put everything back the way it should be. Immediate recovery from anaesthetic is also a crucial phase, so once back in his bed I set up camp in front of his kennel, providing intensive nursing care for the remainder of the night: it wasn’t long before staff members started to arrive for their day’s work!

I don’t think we will ever know the truth behind Patch’s story but our thoughts are that Patch had eaten something he shouldn’t earlier that day, which got stuck and failed to break down in his stomach causing a blockage and preventing any food or water to pass through. This caused his stomach to expand to the size of a football and then twisting, the pressure from this then managing to tear his diaphragm. There’s always a small possibility that the diaphragm had a small tear from birth which never caused Patch any problems but was enlarged due to the abdominal pressure. 

Despite the unique co-existing trio of these life threatening conditions: Foreign body blockage, GDV and ruptured diaphragm, Patch recovery continued to progress with him walking out slowly for a wee come daylight. He also managed a small amount of food. 

Patch was discharged 36 hours later, he has been seen regularly for check-ups and cuddles with the staff and we think he even smiled for his socially distanced photo to be taken with the team.  

We are delighted that Patch has now fully recovered and back to his usual self… He was delighted to have the cone of shame taken off too! 

We won’t forget you Patch, your fight for life and your story. 

Author Kim Griffiths (RVN, C-SQP)

February 2021

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Fenton Vets

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