On my birthday in November 2008 we had a lovely walk with Ellie, our golden retriever and Beau and Roxy, our two dobermanns.

Beau, our six year old male dobermann, was panting particularly hard and wasn’t himself all day. In the evening he was trying to be sick and was very listless. Unusually he refused his dinner. We were going out to dinner ourselves that night – fortunately at my Mum’s house so at the last minute we decided to take him with us.

On his third unsuccessful visit outside to poo we noticed that his stomach was hard. We immediately suspected bloat and rushed him to the emergency vet. Initially the young duty vet said it wasn’t bloat, but we weren’t happy about Beau’s condition so the vet x-rayed him – confirmed that it was torsion and that an operation was needed. The young vet went home sick and the practice owner came in to perform the procedure. We were very happy to get a call at 1am to say that Beau had come through the operation, though it wasn’t until much later that we realised he was still in danger of bloating again, or having heart failure, in the hours and days after the operation.

It goes without saying that we were extremely grateful to the vet, Clinton Jeffries, for saving Beau, and in the days that followed we realized that many fellow dog owners simply weren’t aware of this potentially fatal condition.

We wanted to change that and the seed of an idea was sown.

Having discussed the issue at length with the vet who saved Beau as well as doing our own research, we discovered that there really isn’t much you can do to prevent bloat.

The key issue, therefore, is to recognize the signs and if you suspect bloat then rush your dog to the vet.

We produced a flyer detailing the symptoms to look out for and elicited help from several vets before publishing it. Download it here.

It’s a very simple message – if you see the signs then take your dog to the vet. We could have written pages of information, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise. The next step was to get the information out to people other than those in our immediate circles.

We have a business selling car crates for dogs, so this gave us the ideal opportunity to get the message out to other dog owners. We get the flyers printed 20,000 at a time.

We give them out at shows we attend and post out packs of leaflets on request to people in the dog industry (vets, dog trainers, groomers, hydrotherapists – and ordinary dog owners who support the campaign who want to spread the word in their own ‘dog circles’). Even my dentist, a dog lover, keeps copies in his surgery to give out to his dog owning clients.

We send out PDF versions of the flyer by email and as it’s copyright-free people can use it on their own websites.

To be continued ...

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