Kunga’s gastropexy (tack)

A warning: one of the pictures below is of a stapled incision after surgery.

Last week I explained a little about the condition called “bloat” and mentioned that Kunga would undergo an operation that should prevent most of the damage if he ever bloats.  A gastropexy, or “tack,” is surgery that attaches the stomach to the abdominal wall. This doesn’t prevent the build-up of gas in the dog’s stomach called bloat, but it WILL prevent torsion, or twisting of the stomach, which is what can kill your dog in a matter of an hour or so.

Kunga’s surgery was performed last Thursday at Deer Creek Animal Hospital in Littleton, CO.  I was willing to travel nearly an hour to them, rather than going to my regular vets, because Deer Creek performs the tacking operation laparoscopically, and with only one cut rather than two.  This means they make a very small incision in the right side of the dog, behind the thirteenth rib, and use a camera mounted on a tube to view the organs.  The surgical instruments go in through the same small hole. (Many vets do this by making another, separate incision.)  The vet cuts into the surface of the stomach, which is tough and has many layers, then sews the resulting stomach flaps to the side of the abdominal wall. The scarring that occurs as the stomach heals itself also helps to hold this attachment in place. The small hole is then stapled shut, and looks like this afterward:

As you can see, this incision is only about 1.5″ long, much smaller than for a standard gastropexy, which can require an incision of 5-6 inches minimum. Healing should be faster and the time under anesthesia, always an issue for giant dogs, is less.

Yep, it’s expensive to do this, ranging from $750-$1,000 in various clinics near where I live. (That includes meds and all after care.) I’ll tell you from experience that this is FAR less than emergency treatment for bloat!

The overall “failure rate” is said to be about 10%, but I hunted for a clinic where that rate is near zero.  Deer Creek is a teaching hospital and the vets actually train others around the country in this procedure.

For my show friends, make sure you tell the vet your dog is a show dog.  They can get away with less shaving, both on the surgical site and on the forearm, if they know.  In fact the techs at Deer Creek managed to get a catheter into Kunga’s leg with no shaving.  Also the operative incision(s) are on the right, “non-show” side. (The vet I saw  asked: don’t the judges look at both sides? I had to say, generally no!)

Because the surgery was done around 11 am, I was able to take Kunga home with me at the end of the day, though he was a little woozy. Some vets prefer to keep the dog overnight, but I really wanted Kunga home with me. I was instructed to remove the pink vet wrap on his forearm in about an hour after leaving the clinic.  He does not have an Elizabethan collar (a “cone”).  He has been uncomfortable mostly from the air that remains in his abdomen, left over from when they inflate the abdomen to see the organs clearly. He’s not best pleased with me, but I’m very glad I had this done for him.

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  • Karen Schiavone

    This is so interesting… Carla is a friend that found us our Dane. Our 4 year old Blue Great Dane, Wilson bloated last February…. It was the scariest thing we have ever gone through. we were lucky to have an ER 5 minutes away as of course he boated at midnight… He went through a 5 hour operation where he lost his spleen and part of his liver… They tacked him while they were in there….He developed a heart condition after surgery and was in the hospital for 4 days…. I slept on the floor with him for 3 weeks as he was on so many meds and needed help to walk… Our Dr said he was very lucky to pull through the surgery..He lost 30 lbs and developed stomach issues and would throw up about 3 or 4 times a week…He was put on meds to help with that… It was a rough year. His stomach will never be the same but changed his food about 5 months ago to a grain free product – and what a difference…He is off the meds and hasn’t thrown up since… He is doing really well – doesn’t have the stamina he once had. 6000 grand later but at least he is with us… He is our first dog – we did tons of research on Danes and took every precaution about bloat – but it still happened. Such a scary thing – never knew i could love a dog that much!!! loved your story!!!! thanks for sharing!!