Torsion of the Spleen and/or Blockage in the Stomach
(symptoms almost identical to those of bloat/stomach torsion)
Firstly these 2 conditions (splenic torsion and stomach blockage) are NOT bloat, but could easily be accompanied by bloat/gastric torsion (GDV), the symptoms are virtually identical so here's what to look out for;
Vomiting - all dogs sometimes make themselves sick after eating grass or whatever and some do pick up viruses or stomach upsets causing them to be sick, but this vomiting is different. It usually includes bringing up large quantities of stomach bile, maybe the last meal they had and often water they have just drunk. If your dog is sick twice and it's not self-inflicted then don't worry too much, but keep an eye on them, more than twice in a few hours then sit up and take notice - whatever you do at this stage if it is late DO NOT GO TO BED thinking it will be fine by morning, chances are you will have a dead dog by morning. The inability to keep water down is a dead giveaway usually and if you spot any blood in the vomit then run for the phone immediately. I am always very wary of a deep-chested breed who displays stomach issues as they are so prone to torsion, bloat etc. and these are KILLERS. The other disturbing thing is the speed at which a condition can develop, with our 2 St Bernards we are talking a matter of only 2 hours from the first signs (vomiting 3 or 4 times) to the condition becoming critical.
Hard Mass in the Abdomen - if you're not used to checking your dog then please do so, even if it is just so you know what is normal and what isn't. In both these conditions you are looking for a hard mass in the abdomen that should not be there. Don't want to patronize anybody, but to make things really simple it safe to say that the front half of the body nearest the head is where the lungs, heart etc. are situated and they are protected by the ribcage, but after the ribcage going back towards the tail end of the dog are the other organs including the stomach, spleen and intestines and these are all "squidgy".
When your vet physically examines a dog for any hard mass in the abdomen they do something called palpating the area and this is a vet's website description of how to do that:
Essentially you hold your hand against one side of the abdomen whilst using the other hand to gently push along the other side of the dog, feeling for anything hard. If you did not hold one hand against the other side then any mass could just move over to the other side of the dog and you would not notice it (makes sense really). You repeat the process swapping your hands over to the other side of the abdomen - bet you feel like Dr Kildare now!
Pale Gums - this is another possible symptom but not as clear as the first two and not that reliable as an indicator. Would you know what colour your dog’s gums are normally anyway? So imagine you're already panicked and you're trying to decide if the dog's gums look pale or not - there is no shade chart for this or Dulux colour chart!
Lethargic Dog - you can always tell when your little furball is "off-colour" or not their usual "bouncy self". I find a lethargic dog very worrying at any time and these cases are no different - if they look not right, then they are not right! One of my dogs actually collapsed on the garden when he had a blockage in his stomach which had become ravelled in the intestines and, although he made it through surgery, he died a few hours later. This is also one of those symptoms that is really difficult to convince a vet about most of the time, but it is always one of the best personal indicators for a poorly giant breed - stick to your guns when on the phone to the vet about this one.
Panting or Shallow Breathing - again this can just mean they are hot or they have been running about, but also indicates a raised temperature, distress or serious issue.
Might also be worth checking your dog’s normal temperature anyway, so you’re aware of what that is (usually a dog’s temperature varies between 37.1 and 39.1 degrees Celsius).