20 Aug 2014
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Animal House: Ferris—My Dog; My Partner; My Friend

Animal House columnist Chris D'Arpino recounts how a twisted intestine resulted in a close call for his dog, Ferris.

Animal House: Ferris—My Dog; My Partner; My Friend

Everyone has a special relationship with their dogs.  My family and I are no exception. 

Ferris, my partner dog, has been featured on my television show; works with me at Massasoit Community College helping me teach animal CPR and first aid; helps me train first responders and rescuers on proper handling of animals; works as a therapy dog at the Coolidge House in Boston; and is generally right with me everywhere I go.

Ferris is very much my partner.  What happens to me impacts him and vice versa. 

Ferris was rescued from a shelter in Dedham and he and I were instant friends. To me Ferris isn’t just a dog.  Where I go, he goes.  We work and train together—we are truly partners.

Well, I almost lost my partner this week. 

Ferris had a twisted intestine, called Gastric Volvulus.  The scary part is the survival rate of this affliction is one percent.

A twisted intestine is extremely hard to diagnose and even with an x-ray series can be very easily missed.  Most dogs afflicted with this do not show any signs or symptoms and by the time they do it is almost always too late. 

This type of affliction is more common in large breed dogs, and dogs with large chests.

Generally what happens is the intestine becomes twisted and the flow of blood is cut off from a portion of the intestine and dies.  A build up of gas, similar in nature to “bloat” will occur as well. 

Unfortunately, even with a radiograph (x-ray) this can be almost impossible to detect.  

With Ferris, he was acting pretty normal overall, although he had a touch of diarrhea.  A little odd for Ferris, but we had been doing a lot of working and I thought maybe he was a little under the weather. 

With this in mind, I decided to let Ferris stay home and rest rather than go to work.  After a few hours I noticed Ferris drooling a lot and he is not a dog who drools.

I called my vet and discussed his nondescript symptoms. There did not seem to be any emergency based on his symptoms. This is very normal for this affliction. 

I watched as Ferris would take a drink from his bowl and shortly thereafter he would vomit.  This was not like Ferris at all. I called the vet and brought Ferris right into their office.  After a series of X-rays, it appeared Ferris had an intestinal blockage, which meant he ate something that wasn’t going to pass through his system, and is stuck.   

This would require more than Pepto Bismol.

The doctor explained to me what was going on and off to surgery Ferris went.  About fifteen minutes later the doctor came out to tell me that Ferris was in big trouble. The complications to the surgery were huge and the chances of survival from the surgery were almost as slim as ever catching this before it was too late. 

Ferris had the odds stacked against him twice. 

It has been a week and Ferris is back to his old self.  He is still hogging the bed, laying at my feet, following me wherever I go, and I have never been more thankful to hear him next to me.

The moral of the story is that we, as pet owners, will know if there is something not quite right with our pets.  We are the advocates and voice for them. In certain cases, waiting to go to see a veterinarian can be deadly. This is why having a veterinarian that we have regular contact with can literally save the life of our pets. 

Ferris was always a super special dog to me, but to beat the one percent odds of survival twice, tells me I ought to buy him a lottery ticket.

With a little more time and healing, Ferris will be back to work doing what he loves most.

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