Most dogs, especially those raised on a dry dog food diet, develop bloat. Acute gastric distension or bloat is a veterinary emergency that can be deadly if not treated immediately. Treatment must be initiated quickly in order to save your dog’s life.
Some dog breeds prone to bloat
The condition is most common in breeds of large dogs. Great Danes, Irish setters, German shepherds, boxers, Weimaraners and basset hounds seem to be most prone to the disease.
What causes bloat in dogs?
The main causes of bloat are eating too much dry food, eating too fast, and exercising after eating. Most cases are seen in dogs fed only one meal a day, usually at night.
Sadly bloat can be fatal within just a few hours if it isn’t treated extremely quickly, so if you see your dog start to eat very fast or drink a lot of water, watch him carefully for signs of bloat.
Signs of bloat
It is essential that every dog owner knows the signs of bloat in a dog. Bloat or acute gastric distension is a dog’s worst nightmare.
- The affected dog becomes increasingly restless.
- It walks aimlessly, soon throwing itself down only to get up again after a short time.
- It may start to groan and attempt to vomit, usually without bringing anything up.
- Its breathing becomes increasingly labored as the distension of the stomach puts pressure on the diaphragm. If the condition is not relieved the dog dies of respiratory and cardiac failure.
Takeaway: Sometimes it’s best to call the vet, especially if you’re not sure what your dog is experiencing.
How bloat happens
Gas accumulates in the stomach of the dog and is unable to be relieved by the normal pathways because the stomach has become twisted. The weight of food and water in the stomach enables the whole organ to swing like a pendulum. The restraining effect of the liver, spleen and intestines are overcome by the sheer weight and size of the organ.
As the dog runs or plays or rolls on the ground the amplitude of the movement of the stomach may be sufficient for it to twist upon itself through 90 degrees or even 180 degrees. This effectively seals both the outlet of the stomach to the esophagus and the outlet to the small intestine.
The gas produced by the normal digestive processes builds up and balloons the stomach wall. The twisting may also cut off the blood supply to a portion of the stomach wall as well as affecting the return blood supply to the spleen, which in turn tends to increase greatly in size, adding to the pressure within the abdomen.
When to see the vet
If you see any of these signs, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. Chances are you’ll need to make an appointment ahead of time. You’ll want to call before you leave for the vet.
What to do if your dog is bloating up
Treatment of the bloated dog is by immediate surgery. Extreme care must be taken with the anesthesia as the animal’s respiration and blood supply is depressed.
Once the abdomen has been opened a grossly enlarged stomach and spleen fills the abdominal cavity and very little can be done until the pressure of the gas is relieved with a large needle.
Once this is achieved the stomach and spleen can usually be repositioned so that a stomach tube can safely be passed down the esophagus. If the amount of food in the stomach is very great it may be necessary to open the stomach and remove the contents.
The success of the operation depends on how badly the circulation to the wall of the stomach has been affected. In cases where the blood supply has been cut off for any length of time part of the wall of the stomach may be gangrenous and must be removed. This greatly reduces the chances of survival.
Dogs that have recovered from bloat are very prone to a recurrence. The amount of dry food fed should be very much reduced and the dog should be fed twice daily. Exercise immediately after feeding should be discouraged.
How to prevent your dog from getting bloated
Feed two or three small meals a day instead of one or two big meals. This allows food to digest more completely before the next meal comes along. It also helps prevent overeating at any one meal time, which can lead to stomach upset.
Feed your dog high-fiber foods that are low in fat. This includes fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Avoid feeding your dog dry foods that are high in carbohydrates.
Feeding your dog raw meat has been shown to reduce the risk of bloat by decreasing the amount of gas produced by bacteria in the digestive tract.
If your dog has a tendency to bloat, restrict exercise after eating until he’s digested his meal completely. Keep him calm for an hour after eating.
Takeaway: Don’t let your dog gorge on dry food, it’s a risk factor for developing bloat.