Bloat in Dogs

As pet owners, it is our responsibility to not only provide love and a good home for our pets, but to be as knowledgeable as we can to help prevent illnesses and injuries and give them the very best care possible. Unfortunately, most owners no little or nothing about a life-threatening condition called Canine Bloat.

WHAT IS BLOAT?

There are two types of canine bloat:
1) Gastric Dilatation – the stomach fills with too much swallowed air, fluid or gastric foam because of an intestinal blockage causing it to swell.
2) Gastric Dilatation Volvulus – a complication of the Gastric Dilatation where the bloated stomach gets too large and twists between the esophagus and the upper intestine, obstructing veins in the abdominal area. The second type of bloat can lead to shock and low blood pressure. Left untreated, this can cause the dog to go into shock and damage internal organs, killing the canine very quickly.

It is not unusual for both types of bloat to occur at the same time. Owners need to be aware that bloat progresses very quickly, in a matter of minutes or hours, rather than days and weeks. Although this serious condition is more prevalent in breeds with large chests such as Great Danes, German Shepherds and Dobermans, this can occur in any breed and can be lethal if not treated promptly. The sooner a bloated dog is treated, the greater his chance of survival. Bloat is not a condition you can treat yourself; you will need to get your dog to your veterinarian immediately, as the only successful treatment is professional medical intervention.

WHAT CAUSES BLOAT?

Although the exact cause of bloat is unknown, research indicates that the following factors may contribute to an attack:

  • Stress – dogs that are particularly nervous, high strung and have anxious personalities are naturally at a higher risk.
  • Overeating – feeding a dog one large meal a day as opposed to several smaller meals increases the risk of bloating.
  • Diet – it is believed that a diet which consists of only dry food on a daily basis overworks the canine digestive system, gradually making it difficult to process the hard food efficiently, which increases the risk of blockage along the intestinal tract.
  • Rapid eating – ingesting food too quickly without chewing it makes it more difficult to digest, causing it to move slower through the intestines for elimination, which increases the risk of blockage and backup.
  • Poorly Timed Exercise – a walk or run which makes the dog thirsty causing him to drink large quantities of water afterwards, immediately following a meal puts too much strain on the digestive system.
  • Age - although this cannot be controlled, owners need to remember that as their dog ages, the risk of bloat increases.
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    SYMPTOMS OF BLOAT

    Most pet owners know their pets well, and can tell when they are not feeling well. Although each dog is different, there are certain signs that there is a problem:

    • Restlessness and/or pacing
    • Listless mood with hunched or droopy posture
    • Dry heaving or attempts to vomit without expelling any stomach contents
    • Foaming at the mouth or excessive drooling
    • Excessive thirst
    • A distended (expanded or enlarged) abdomen, which feels firm or hard
    • Shallow breathing
    • Pale gums
    • Repeated coughing
    • Wincing and whimpering when abdomen is touched
    • Constipation
    • Collapse

    DOG BLOAT TREATMENT

    Your veterinarian’s first priority in treating bloat will be to remove the gas from your dog’s stomach as quickly as possible, in order to reduce the risk of twisting and also to make it easier to discover where the blockage is located that prevented the air from moving through the intestines properly.

    Your veterinarian may insert a tube down your dog’s throat to provide a way for the gas to escape the stomach. Once the excess gas is removed and the stomach has returned to its normal size, surgery may still be necessary to determine what permanent damage may have occurred. If needed, any damaged parts of the stomach will be removed or repaired if possible.

    If the bloating is severe and inserting the tube into the dog’s throat is not successful, the stomach may already have twisted, which would require immediate surgery to straighten the stomach and discover where there may be a blockage. Surgery involves an incision in the abdomen and stomach so the gas can be expelled manually. If your veterinarian determines that bloating may occur again, he may perform a “gastropexy” which anchors the stomach into the correct position using staples.

    PREVENTION

    Good nutrition, proper exercise and good habits will help keep your dog healthy. Although it is not possible to eliminate the risk of bloat completely, the following tips may be helpful in reducing the chances of this occurring:

    1. Quality nutrition is imperative. Choose a high quality dog food, alternating between dry and wet foods if possible. If you must only use dry food, you can moisten it with a little bit of water to make it softer and easier to chew.
    2. Teach your dog good eating habits by feeding him smaller quantities of food more often, rather than one huge meal all at once so his hunger won’t be so intense. This may help him eat slower, which is better for his digestion.
    3. Limit his water intake one hour before and one hour after a meal, to allow his digestion to process what he has eaten.
    4. Limit or remove snacks and biscuits that are high in fat, fillers and preservatives.

    Do you have a large breed dog? What are some precautions you take to avoid Bloat? Share it with us in the comments!

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