Many of you are writing and asking about my dog Jake who died recently.
I didn't write a single article about losing Jake, instead I wrote about losing him in a RANDOM SHOTS blog. Like a few other things that I've wrote on here, it was more for me than for you my readers.
I can't tell you how much losing him meant to me. I was in absolute shock for days, and honestly I really think I still may be in a sort state of disbelief that it actually took place.
Maybe it was because it was too simple, too sudden, too easy, too oh well Jake's dead. I can't tell you how much it means to me that my readers are writing and asking why, what happened, and what have I found out?
Like you, I can really only guess. My wife and I don't have a lot of money. We live on my retirement. Contrary to what some might think, this blog does not bring in a dime yet.
I run advertisements for things that I like or admire, like say the Wounded Warriors Program or the different Cattle Breeds or the American Quarter Horse Association, but they are paying a dime for those ads. It's just my choice to put them on here for free.
Bottom line, we don't have a lot of money to be spending on things we simply can't afford - a trait that I would wish our state and federal government officials would learn - so subsequently, I didn't want to spend money on a Vet to come out here on a ranch visit or take Jake in for an autopsy called a necropsy to find out why he died.
It is about the worst thing that can happen to any dog owner. And honestly, I would not wish it on anyone!
When I came home and was told that Jake was dead, especially when he was source an athlete, completely healthy dog, is something I never thought would happen.
After seeing him, I immediately went out to start digging him a grave. The whole time, I was in complete shock. And yes, I have seen men die and not shed a tear - but I cried like a baby that day.
What could have done it? A heart attack? A stroke? He was so young, only a little over 4 years old, how could this happen?
Since then, like I said before, I've gotten a lot of e-mail from you my readers suggesting all sorts of things from choking to snake bites to just exhaustion, and more.
Since then, I've talked to many people about it. I've asked a number of folks who I know know animals - and they can only wonder as much as I do. And yes, I've talked to my Vet about it.
Some of you have sent me articles on dogs dying suddenly, and all I can only say is thank you for your concern. Your concern has meant a lot to me.
I did get a few articles relating to "stomach torsion" that comes about from "bloat". This wasn't the first time that I heard of torsion in dogs. Years ago, an old friend who was a professional dog trainer told me about torsion. I didn't really understand it. I really didn't know how bad it could be.
Since Jake's death, I've read a lot about it lately. Come to find out, this is a serious issue in the dog world. So serious that its the second leading cause of death for large dogs. And yes, Jake was a large dog at over 70 pounds.
In one article send to me, it talked about torsion as a result of "bloat" being basically a condition where a lot of gas or fluid gets trapped in the dogs stomach. This really isn't all that different from what might happen to you and I when we drank too much on a full stomach.
But in dogs, especially large dogs in particular, this is a serious problem. The reason is that their stomach isn't as well set in the body cavity as ours is. Up until reading that article, I really didn't know that a dogs stomach is kind of just hanging loose - and when it becomes over-engorged with fluid or gas - it can twist around.
It's called torsion
For you horse type folks who are reading this right now, yes, this is very similar to the kind of torsion that takes place in severe cases of colic when various parts of the horse's gastrointestinal tract twist. And as you already know, when colic goes from a slight case of colic to the twisting of either the horse's small intestine or part of the colon - then the result is blockage of the blood supply. That means that it is a painful condition causing rapid deterioration and requiring emergency surgery if you can afford it. Either way, it is a real medical emergency.
When torsion occurs in dogs, like in horses, the result is a medical emergency. The blood supply to many vital organs gets cut off when this happens, and the dog goes into shock.
Death will result if surgery is not performed. A symptom that this is happening is that the dog will be throwing up clear liquid or attempting to throw up. Next to Jake, there was evidence that he had thrown up just before dying.
According to the article sent to me, "one tragic aspect of this condition is that onset can happen rapidly, and so you may become aware of it when its too late."
Since becoming educated on this issue could mean the difference between death and several extra years of life for your dog, and since we can't be with our dogs 24 hours a day 7 days a week, there are a few things that we can do to reduce the risk of it happening? .
It appears that almost everything we have to do to help our dogs has to do with how we feed our dogs. Here are a few things we can do:
•Break up your dogs feedings. The less food a dog takes in when it eats the lower the risk. A dog that eats just once a day has a higher risk than a dog that has its meals split into two or three portions a day.
•Watch out for dry food. Dogs that eat all dry food have a higher risk. Consider feeding canned food, or mixing dry and canned together. When you do this substitute a can of moist dog food for a cup of dry food. This helps because dry food tends to expand when liquefied in the stomach adding stress to the stomach.
Many years ago, that friend who was a professional dog trainer and had her own kennel. She used to feed all of the dogs in her care wet food. She would fill their feed pans with dry food and add water. She would then allow the dry food to soak up the water before feeding them.
•Feed using raised bowls. There is a bit of controversy about this one, but feeding using raised bowls may help reduce the risk. This is because some dogs gulp down air when they eat, and its believed by some that bowls raised off the floor cut down on the amount of air gulped in. This in turn cuts the risk of bloat happening. Raised pet bowls are available for sale on the Internet.
In Jake's case, my wife had him set up with raised bowls but he was a slow eater.
•Watch out for diarrhea. If a dog has chronic diarrhea, it may increase the risk. Make sure to get diarrhea treated.
•Never exercise right after feeding. Let the dogs stomach "settle" for an hour or two before going out for exercise.
•Avoid feeding immediately after exercise. After a long walk, a dog probably wants to drink lots of water. Doing that and then eating can be a fatal recipe.
I don't know if this is why Jake died. I can only wonder. But before he died, I had no idea what a serious problem torsion is in dogs, especially big dogs.
I was shocked to learn that this more often happens to dogs in their prime. And yes, Jake was in his prime. He was only a little over 4 years old.
Although dogs of any age can get it, I found out that most victims of torsion are aged between 4 and 7 years of age. I also found out that males have a higher risk than female dogs do.
All in all, again I want to say that I don't know why my boy Jake died. It could have been an aneurysm. I know that dog have aneurysms, just like people do. And yes, It could have been a stroke, or it could have been a heart attack. I do know he wasn't snake bit - because I've seen snake bit dogs before and he had no sign of being bit.
Last year, I lost my horse Murphy when he twisted his guts because he had coliced. I don't know if I lost my dog for the same reason. And yes, like you, I know real well that we can't prevent every bad event from happening to our animals - but after reading a little, I really believe that we can at least take a few small responsible steps to help them beat the risk of torsion.
Besides, I really believe that most of the readers of this blog are good folks who like me will feel a little better knowing that we did the right thing to our animals.
And by the way, thanks again for the emails.