Bloat – What is it? How can you prevent it in your dog?
What is Bloat?
This weekend something unfortunate happened – one of the Wet-Noses family members dog, Indie, died of bloat at 6 years of age. With all of the work we do with dogs, we were surprised we had not heard of this. So what exactly is bloat? Bloat or “twisted stomach”, otherwise known as Gastric dialiation-volvulus (GDV) is a very serious condition that is life-threatening when it occurs because dogs can die within several hours and even with treatment 25-33% of dogs die (Nash, 2011). There are two parts to this disease: the first is gastric dilation and the second part is the twisting of the organs.
With gastric dilation, the stomach will fill up with air, putting pressure on both the diaphragm and other organs. Bloating normally happens “when there’s an abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and/or foam in the stomach,” (Ranger Production, 2001). The air-filled stomach puts pressure on the dog’s diaphragm making it hard to breathe in addition to compressing “large veins in the abdomen, thus preventing blood from returning to the heart,” (Nash, 2011). Bloat can occur with or without twisting (volvulus). What causes the twisting or contortion of the organs of the dog is that as the stomach swells it can easily rotate on itself 90-360 degrees between “its fixed attachments at the esophagus and the upper intestines,” (Ranger Production, 2001) therefore pinching off blood supply which in turn causes the stomach to begin to die. When the entire blood supply becomes interrupted causing low blood pressure and damage to internal organs causing the dogs health to deteriorate rapidly.
The signs of bloat are “abdominal distention (swollen bell), nonproductive vomiting (animal appreas to be vomiting, but nothing comes up) and retching. Other signs include restlessness, abdominal pain, and rapid shallow breathing. Profuse salivation may indicate severe pain,” (Nash, 2011). Dogs, like humans, swallow air while eating; however humans will burp to release excess air and does not cause stomach dilation. For some reason, dogs that develop bloat do not burp to release the excess swallowed gas/air.
There are a variety of causes that may contribute to a dog getting bloat: temperament, eating habits, and exercise before/ after eating, heredity and breed.
- Temperament: Dogs that are more anxious, stressed and/or fearful in nature are at an increased risk of developing bloat.
- Eating Habits: Bloat typically occurs, as noted above, through distention of the stomach due to gas, fluid and/or food in the stomach. Other habits include: “elevated food bowls, rapid eating, eating dry foods that contain citric acid as a preservative (make worse if owner moistens the food), dry foods that contain fat among the first four ingredients, insufficient pancreatic enzymes, eating gas producing foods (such as soybean products, brewer’s yeast and alfalfa), drinking too much water too quickly,” (Ranger Production, 2001).
- Exercise Before/After Eating: Bloat is a result from quickly eaten, large meals followed by lots of water followed by lots of exercise within the first few hours after eating.
- Heredity: Dogs that have a “first-degree relative” who has had bloat, dogs who have “untreated Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI),” (Ranger Production, 2001).
- Breed: Larger breeds are more prone to bloat and even have a tendency to get it are: Akitas, Great Danes, German Shepherds, Newfoundlands, Saint Bernard’s and Mastiffs. “The Giant breeds with deep-chests are those common to find themselves with such problems…” (Bigpawsonly.com, 2006).
Now, don’t worry – there are some preventative measures you can take to decrease your dog’s risk of bloat. For dogs that have a predisposition to bloat, it’s very important to take preventative measures in their daily routine to decrease their risk. This could include a “smaller-feeding schedule (2-3 meals per day)” (bigpawsonly.com) and 2-3 hours of rest following a meal. Be sure to allow your dog access to water but immediately before or after a meal, especially if your dog is eating dry kibble as this will increase your dog’s risk. In conclusion, all dogs are prone to bloat but simple, daily safeguards can be used to prevent bloat – even if it’s as simple as creating a regular eating schedule for your dog, then having them rest. Keep your eyes out for signs of discomfort in your dog and if you think your dog might have bloat, go to the nearest emergency veterinarian to have them checked out.
Below is a table from Peteducation.com which shows the GDV Risk Ratio in addition to the Risk Rank. This was created from the University of Perdue and their study they did, please be sure to look at Peteducation.com for further information.
|Breed||GDV Risk Ratio||Risk Rank|
|Old English Sheepdog||4.8||9|
|German Shorthaired Pointer||4.6||10|
|Chesapeake Bay Retriever||3.7||15|
|English Springer Spaniel||2||19|
“Bloat in Dogs.” Big Paws Only – Community and Information for Large Breed Dogs and Their People. 2006. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. .
“Bloat in Dogs.” GlobalSpan.net. Ranger Productions, 2001. Web. 21 Feb. 2011.
Nash, Holly. “Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus) in Dogs.” Pet Health Care | Dog and Cat Behavior Information by Veterinarians. 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2011. .