by dee dee Andersson
On April 10, 2001, I looked at Winnie and thought one of her nipples was hanging a little strangely or differently. I laid her down and rolled her over and to my horror, she had what appeared to be a pink bloody tumor poking, dead center, through her uppermost nipple. I knew instantly that it had to be taken out immediately. I called Ron, my vet, at home and couldn't reach him, so I called one of the other office vets and determined Ron would be in the next day and informed them that Winnie was being sent up. The veterinarians that tend to my Mastiffs are about 3-1/2 hours from me. So, I then imposed on a neighbor, Bobbette, to take my van and Winnie and meet my friend, Frances, about half-way to the vet and Frances would take Winnie straight on in to Ron who was waiting for her to arrive. Everything went like clockwork.
Then Ron called and told me that Winnie's heart was HUGE. I laughed and started to say I KNOW that, but Ron continued and said there was very little air moving, so then I understood he meant it was dangerously ENLARGED and we had two major problems instead of one. He wanted my consent to do an (ECG) echocardiogram on the phone with a cardiologist. Of course, I said YES! He did not want to do surgery on her because of the strain. Winnie was 4 months shy of 9 years. Okay. I did some deep breathing. What do we do? That tumor had to get out of my girl! Ron said he was going to keep her overnight and freeze the tumor and it would take about 10 days to drop out and then it would be awful, messy, ooozey and I would need to care for it to encourage it to heal and close. Ugh. But, okay, I could do this. Then he said Winnie is so good and so calm, perhaps he would do a local and excise it. Okay, I can handle that too.
Like Frances, my friend, Lynn, also lives near the vet's office. So that first night Lynn went to visit Winnie for me and keep her company. Ron showed the xray to Lynn (who is an experienced nurse) and they agreed to do another xray. The first one was a side view. This time they did a frontal view and the heart no longer looked so bad - so now we eliminate the cardio whatever it was that was a possibility. Now they agree it is a 9 year old Mastiff heart. Lynn explained to me that it is a grade one condition and I should not worry over much (thank YOU, GOD). She explained a grade three would need a pacemaker (to put it in perspective). So if Winnie has to be on lifetime medications for a better quality of life, that would be my pleasure.
On April 12th Ron removed the tumor surgically and sent the tumor out for biopsy. A few days later the results showed it was cancerous. It was a squamous cell carcinoma and it was not encapsulated, but it was completely excised with normal cells all around.
On April 13th Mimmie was released and came home.
Now if we were not having enough fun already.....
Mimmie has been looking pregnant to me over the past few days. But we hadn't breed her. She would be at about the right time to have puppies if we had bred her, but we DIDN'T BREED HER! Okay. More deep breathing. If she is pregnant, either a mutt got on the property while she was outside - noooooooooo! or Hooter got her before we realized she was in heat and separated them, or we let her back together with him before she was finished with the heat. Oh, damn. Then yesterday I saw her straining to have a bowel movement and this wasn't the first time in the past few weeks so my heart started choking me. What if Mimmie got another towel?
Okay, I need to go back in time. In March, 1999, I looked out the kitchen window and noticed that Mimmie and Cannon were playing tug of war with a bath towel that they had stolen off the deck. By the time I saw the towel it was pretty torn up, so I mentally shrugged and wrote it off. That night, however, Mimmie threw up the better part of that towel. She apparently ate it. Yes, she ate it. The whole damned towel. And she gave most of it back up amidst foul brown liquid. I couldn't be sure which end the brown came from. But, by the next morning she would neither eat nor drink and there was a large amount of yellow bile thrown up. She was also very lethargic and since this is so un-Mim-like I immediately screamed for Ron. Xray showed obstruction. He surgically removed one-foot worth of towel from her small intestine. Ron was frankly amazed it made it that far, but Mastiffs can do things other breeds cannot, no surprise to me. Circulation was restored to the bowel and there was no leakage. Mim was at the vet for a week and then released.... for three days. Her insides began seeping out, stitches weren't holding... oh, God.. we wrapped her as best we could with a pressure bandage and rushed back to Ron. Midnight surgery. Probably wouldn't make it. Critical. I stayed in a motel room beside the vet, fearing Mimmie wouldn't make it this time. But she lived through the night. And she started to get stronger. Mim stayed at the vet this time for 4-1/2 weeks.
So, okay, back to the present. It is April 12, 2001, and Lynn met me to take Mimmie up to Ron. They called me. Mimmie is full of s**t right up to her colon (in medical circles they do call this FOS). They are giving Mimmie enemas and fluids to empty her out. Perhaps she has megacolon? We don't know yet. I am betting not.
While this may appear to look like a uterus full of puppies, it was in fact Mimmie's colon packed full of stool. It is hideous. After repeated efforts to break this blockage up, Ron operated and had to remove 8" of her colon. It was packed dry with no hydration at all. It is no wonder Mimmie looked like she might be pregnant. If this had happened between her heats I would have known instantly this was happening, but because of the timing and my uncertainty, the blockage was building and building.
We feed BARF (Bones and Raw Food) and have been feeding this natural diet for two and a half years to all of our Mastiffs. We have watched the most remarkable changes in our dogs, and ALL changes have been GOOD. None bad. So there will certainly be many of my friends and peers who may blame this incidence on BARF. I have played the circumstances over and over and over again and I keep coming to the same conclusion. This happened because of a beef knuckle bone.
I KNOW this. Bone deep in my gut, I know it. When our six intact females were all in heat, staggering the heats, several in the first week, several coming in heat, several going out of heat, and our three stud dogs were moaning and groaning and howling, etc., I bought huge beef knuckle bones because everybody was being either crated or kept in solitary confinement in kennel runs. I felt sorry for them, so I gave each dog a big knuckle bone as a treat. Eight of our dogs are closely related and of our breeding, and one, Dagmar, has been raised by us since she was a baby. Mimmie is the only one not raised by us - we got her when she was nearly three years old. I was shocked the day after handing out the bones to see all but Mimmie still had their huge bones to chew on. Mimmie had only a tiny piece left. She ate the WHOLE THING. I should have worried about it, I know that now, but at the time it didn't occur to me it would cause trouble. A few days later she acted mopey and slow but she perked right back up afterwards.
Hind sight provides twenty-twenty vision. When I noticed Mimmie getting bigger in the tummy and started thinking she was pregnant, I also had that bone devouring memory in the back of my mind. But in the interim Mimmie WAS eating, AND pottying, so I didn't know there was a problem. She must have had the blockage, but she was also getting stool by that blockage so it really confused the symptoms of something being drastically wrong. We have 10 acres fenced for the dogs, so trying to follow them to watch their stools is not an option unless I force them to stay full time in a kennel run. I didn't do that to Mim because I didn't know we had a problem.
Meanwhile back at the vet's, Mimmie was getting the best care any lucky animal whose life has just been saved could possibly get. Mimmie did not want commercial dogfood. Well, of course she didn't want commerical dogfood. What self-respecting Mastiff that has been eating fresh raw meat and bones for two and a half years would deign to dine on commerical dogfood? Certainly not my Madam Mim. They were giving her about 2 cups of dry commerical dogfood with canned cat food. I was told she was not a good eater and she wouldn't even eat the canned pumpkin I recommended. Her last three or four days at the vet's, they were watching to be sure she was producing a stool. I was in touch nearly every day. A concern they had was she was not pooping, and she had thrown up a few times. But, finally she had a stool so they were sending her home.
On May 3rd, Frances bailed Mimmie out of prison and she came home. Oh, joyous day!!! The very first day home Mimmie let me know how determined she was to get back to her routine. I put her in a kennel run in the garage where I could leave the kennel closed at one end and open at the other end where it would go straight out into another kennel that is outside. This way if she had diarrhea or felt the urge to potty, she could go outside, but I would be able to monitor her. I had dogs outside, and was on my way to bring them inside. As I walked by the kitchen door which is half glass I glanced out to check on Mimmie and she had a firm stool in her run! I brought the other girls inside and went straight to the garage to put Mimmie out on the property to stroll while I cleaned up the stool and hosed out the run. Imagine my surprise when, in that split second or two, I went out and there was no longer a stool in the run! Mimmie ate the stool and instead of me picking up the stool there was a throw up in the run. Mimmie was hungry. She was skinny as a rail and in typical Mastiff acceptance, she figured if nobody was going to feed her, she would see to herself. She was eating her stools and then throwing up afterwards. And I am thinking this little trick of hers kept her at the vet a few extra days!
Mimmie is now eating a modified version of BARF. Her stools went runny for a day or two. Today is May 09 and her stools are firm, but not excessively dry or hard. She is getting soaked rolled oats, pumpkin, applesauce, yogurt and fresh chicken meat cut from the bone. This diet is being varied by other fresh veggies and bananas and apples.
I would like to take a moment and talk about BARF. I have never encouraged anybody else to switch from commercial dogfood to BARF. I would not do that because if someone loses a dog on this diet, I don't want responsibility for their decision or their loss. If I lose a dog on this diet, it will be my responsibility and I will live with it. Do not doubt that I love my Mastiffs just as much as everybody else loves their Mastiffs.
I have one dog here whose sister died of bloat before she was two years old; his dam died of bloat before she was four years old; his half brother died of bloat at 6 years; his grandsire died of bloat at 7 years. He, my boy, "water" bloated countless times as a puppy and young dog and I knew in my soul he would never see old age. Until you lose a dog to bloat, do not criticize my decisions. I watched my imported Ch. Damaria The Druid, my Bully, roll on his back in my kitchen at 3:00 A.M. trying to reposition his twisted and torsioned stomach. I was iced in on my mountain alone and I could not get to the nearest vet and he could not get to me and we cried together on the phone as my precious dog was dying and I was unable to help him.
Now, I can't prove to you, the reader, that BARF will keep me from losing a dog in the future to bloat. But I can tell you this. From the instant I changed my dogs over to BARF, there has not been even a HINT of bloat. The dog I refer to above has reduced his water intake in a day's time to less than a third of what he used to drink ten times a day. I have had dogs throw up a full day's ration of undigested, unprocessed commercial dog food, which means they carried that heavy, swollen, rotten, rancid mess around in them all day - stretching their innards.
Yes, I could lose a dog of mine who chokes on a bone. Or a bone shard could get stuck or cut something on the way down. But a dog can also die from choking on a piece of kibble. Dogs have teeth that are MADE FOR BONES. They are not born with teeth made for kibble. Shoot, they don't even need teeth for kibble at all, they gulp kibble. They chew the bones. They not only fill their tummies with food that is species-specific, they also satisfy the carnivore side of their character. My dogs practically smile at me as they stand there with a bone in the back of their jaw chomping and crunching.
I will never go backwards and feed my Mastiffs commerical dogfood. Never. Never. Never. If I lose one of them, even my dear Mimmie, to the BARF diet, I will bear the guilt. But I will not lose Mimmie or the rest to bloat, God willing. The blame for what happened to Mimmie is mine and mine alone. I have no recall of what meal followed Mimmie eating that whole knuckle bone. If I could go back in time I would have fasted her except for liquids and fiber. I may actually have fed her raw meaty bones for two days afterwards, I simply do not remember...
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