Important – If you feel like your pet has bloat, contact your veterinarian immediately.
For dogs and various other mammals, bloat is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach fills with air (dilatation) and/or twists upon itself (volvulus). It’s also called gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV) and is prevalent in larger breeds. Lifetime risk of experiencing a GDV event in large chested breeds ranges from 3.9% for the Rottweiler to 36.7% for the Great Dane (Source: National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine).
What is bloat in a dog?
Simply defined, bloat in a canine occurs when the dog has recently eaten a large meal and exercised heavily within a short period of time. During this time, the full stomach of the dog has ‘flopped’ over itself creating a twist in the stomach. It is commonly confirmed via x-ray which shows a ‘double bubble’ of the stomach which has gasses trapped.
Bloat is a very serious and time-sensitive condition to seek treatment.
Common Canine Bloat Symptoms:
- Excessive drooling saliva
- Frequent retching / attempting to throw up
- Expelling of foamy saliva
- Anxiety, restlessness and pacing
- General laziness, excessive downtime
- Unusual agitation to touch
- Stomach distension (swelling / disfigurement of stomach)
Keep in mind these are common symptoms for dog bloat and your pet may not exhibit all or even most of the above symptoms because of their breed, severity of bloat or their body configuration. If you are unsure, immediate veterinarian treatment is highly advised.
Do NOT Attempt The Following:
- Do not treat bloat without an experienced veterinarian.
- Do not attempt to relieve the gas from the stomach.
- Do not give anything by mouth. This includes water.
- Do not allow your dog to exercise further, encourage them to rest.
How can I minimize the risk of bloat?
While a preventative surgical procedure is optional for large chested breeds and canines with a genetic history of bloat, on an individual basis there is little information available as to how this condition effects other breeds. No specific diet or single dietary ingredient has been linked to bloat with any scientific accuracy.
However, certain foods that have historically been blamed for bloat are not disproven factors. Contrary to popular belief, cereal ingredients such as soy, wheat, or corn in the first four ingredients of the ingredient list do not increase the risk of bloat.
Factors Increasing the Risk of Bloat
- Eating rapidly followed by intense exercise / play
- Genetic history of bloat
- Increasing age
- Feeding from an elevated bowl
Factors Decreasing the Risk of Bloat
- Including canned dog food in the diet
- Including table scraps in the diet
- Low stress environments; Happy or easy-going temperament
- Diet of calcium-rich meat; lamb, fish, chicken, bone listed in the first few ingredients
- Eating smaller and more frequently; two or more meals per day
Breeds with a higher risk of bloat are generally deep-chested dogs – Great Dane, Poodle, Huntaway, Weimaraner, St. Bernard, German Shepherd. In breeds such as these where a genetic link to bloat has been established, a preventive surgery called a prophylactic gastropexy (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12941556) can often be performed when the dog is being spayed or neutered.
The procedure involves surgically attaching the stomach to the inside of the abdomen to block rotation. While most common in large chested dogs, bloat can affect smaller breeds such as the Dachshund and Chihuahua. We recommend not breeding animals with a history of gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV)in their lineage as this may potentially decrease the risk of GDV for the animal and future generations.
Diagnosis – How can I tell if my dog has bloat?
Follow the above signs to determine if your pet is showing the temperament of a dog experiencing bloat. Beyond those observable behaviors, bloat is confirmed usually with X-Ray of the stomach area / general chest cavity. The image will show an enormously distended stomach nearly upside down and a “double bubble” where the stomach is divided into two gas-filled sections – a hallmark characteristic of the twist (diagnosis of volvulus – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volvulus).
Treatment – What can be done to treat canine bloat?
Once bloat has been suspected or diagnosed, treatment needs to happen quickly. The first step of repairing the damage caused by bloat is to repair the damage caused by the intestine twist and blockage to the digestive system. Treatment usually begins with an IV fluid drip to help the dog with shock. The second step is to relieve pressure on the blood supply to the heard – bloat common reduces circulation of blood flow and will send the dog into shock.
Once bloat occurs, the stomach tissue begins dying. An experienced veterinarian will be able to determine the third step, which is usually surgery to correct the condition. This is not always straight forward and results will depend on tissue damage and whether the spleen is involved. Medication is also given for pain, electrolyte imbalance and shock.
Summary – What to do now?
While bloat is relatively uncommon in most breeds, it is crucial for large chested dog breed owners to be aware of the symptoms and seriousness of bloat. It is good to know how to contact your veterinarian outside of normal hours as this condition worsens significantly with time. Outside of that, large dogs are amazing companions and provide amazingly loyal protectors. Make sure you do your part and keep them safe – even if it is from something as simple as paying attention to their temperament and keeping their meals small.