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Bloat in Dogs

on April 7, 2016
Posted in Dogs

I had the misfortune yesterday to see a patient who had gastric dilatation-volvulus syndrome (GDV) or bloat in dogs. This patient was a German Shepherd and GDV  is seen primarily in large breed dogs with deep chests. Great Danes, St Bernards, Greyhounds, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds and setters are among the most common breeds that are affected but any dog can bloat.  This is the most serious life-threatening emergency condition a dog can face. Fortunately for my patient, his caregiver quickly recognized this problem and surgery was performed immediately with a good result. It does not always end this way however.

So, how does bloat occur? Normally a dog’s stomach sits high up in the abdomen and contains a small amount of gas and some digesting food that is rapidly passed on to the small intestines for further digestion. When a dog bloats the stomach is stretched by food or gas to many times its normal size and this creates a lot of uncomfortable abdominal pressure. Due to unknown causes, the stomach can rotate and twist cutting off its blood supply and trapping the gas inside. If no action is taken, the dog will die a painful death in a number of hours.

Other than being a large breed dog there are a number of factors that increase risk of bloat. Some of these are:

  • Once daily feeding
  • Feeding dry food that is moistened with water
  • Restricting water before meals
  • Eating rapidly
  • Exercising immediately after eating
  • High fat diets
  • Older male dogs are more at risk.

Here are some things that decrease the risk of bloat

  • Feeding multiple times per day
  • Feeding canned food
  • Feeding raw or table food
  • Feeding a calcium rich diet

How do you know if your dog has bloat?  The biggest sign is vomiting or retching without bringing anything up. You may also notice that the dog appears swollen behind the rib cage.  If your dog has these signs, RUSH him or her to your closest veterinary facility. Minutes count with bloat!

If your dog has bloat the stomach needs to be decompressed, the dog needs intravenous fluids for shock and he needs medication for his heart as well. Many of these dogs require surgery and not all of them survive. Many have complications post surgery and 50 % will develop a life threatening heart arrhythmia.

It is vitally important that if you own a big dog you know the signs of bloat and where to take your dog. You need to decrease as many of the risk factors as possible. Your large breed dog has special needs and with attention to them, you can avoid this terrible condition.

Read also: Dog Clothes: The Do’s, Dont’s And How-To’s

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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