Bloat In Dogs Symptoms To Watch Out For

Bloat in Dogs is one of the most serious emergencies in dogs that vets face
The life-threatening condition can kill a dog within hours without treatment
It causes the stomach to distend and twist, cutting off the blood supply and filling it with air
Symptoms include a swollen tummy, retching and signs of pain and distress and it is vital to get your pet to the vet immediately
Large breeds with big chests and dogs that are older or overweight are most at risk
It is rare, though, especially among breeds without a genetic predisposition to bloat
Steps dog owners can take to help prevent bloat include spreading meals across the day

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Symptoms Of Bloat

Things to watch out for are:

  • A swollen, hard belly
  • Retching but not able to vomit
  • Drooling
  • Pain in the abdomen when touched
  • Other signs of distress such as panting and restlessness

What Is Bloat In Dogs

Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) complex, is a medical and surgical emergency.

As the stomach fills with air, pressure builds, stopping blood from the hind legs and abdomen from returning to the heart. Blood pools at the back end of the body, reducing the working blood volume and sending the dog into shock.

If this isn’t enough, there is yet another bad thing that happens, and it is devastating to see. As the stomach flips, it drags the spleen and pancreas along with it, cutting off the blood flow. The oxygen-starved pancreas produces some very toxic hormones. One, in particular, targets the heart and stops it cold. In fact, a dog can go through successful treatment and seem to be out of danger, when suddenly the heart stops.

Even in the mildest case of bloat, which is extremely rare, dogs die without treatment.

Why Do Dogs Bloat?

This question has been causing controversy among veterinarians since they first identified the disease. They know air accumulates in the stomach (dilatation), and the stomach twists (the volvulus part). But they don’t know if the air builds up and causes the twist, or if the stomach twists and then the air builds up.

How is Bloat Treated?

Veterinarians start by treating the shock. Once the dog is stable, he’s taken into surgery. They then do two procedures. One is to deflate the stomach and turn it back to its correct position. If the stomach wall is damaged, that piece is removed. Second, because up to 90 percent of affected dogs will have this condition again, they tack the stomach to the abdominal wall (a procedure called a gastropexy) to prevent it from twisting.

How Can Bloat Be Prevented

For years, veterinarians have been looking for ways to prevent bloat. If you search on the Internet, you will find a host of suggestions, but much of it is folklore. We have to look at what is scientifically proven and implement those strategies.

Risk of bloat is correlated to chest conformation. Dogs with a deep, narrow chest — very tall, rather than wide — suffer the most often from bloat. Great Danes, who have a high height-to-width ratio, are five-to-eight times more likely to bloat than dogs with a low height-to-width ratio.

In addition to Great Danes, large- or giant-breed dogs at greatest risk include St. Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters and Gordon Setters, Standard Poodles, and Doberman Pinschers. Males are twice as likely to bloat as females. Neutering or spaying has no effect on risk.

If a dog has relatives who have suffered from bloat, there is a higher chance he will develop bloat. These dogs should not be used for breeding.

What Is To Blame

Certain dietary ingredients have been blamed over the years, but the data is inconclusive. This is because most large-breed dogs are fed a cereal-based diet, so making a statement that those diets are to blame is difficult. However, it is known that foods containing soybean meal or having oils or fats in the first four ingredients increase the risk by fourfold.

Over the years, there have been studies that show that food bowls on the floor cause more cases of bloat, but a few years later this was debunked, and elevated food bowls are now known to be just as much of a risk.

Bloat In Dogs
Raised Dog Bowls Do Not Prevent Bloat

Bloat In Dogs Feed Smaller Meals Twice A Day

Bloat In Dogs
Example of slow feeder to reduce speed of eating.

Dogs fed one meal a day are twice as likely to bloat as those fed two meals a day. Rate of eating is also a contributor. Fast eaters have five times the risk than dogs that are slow eaters. Using bowls with fingers (or center posts) or putting large rocks in the bowl slows dogs down physically, but it’s also important to address the anxiety that comes with feeding around other dogs, because that can be a risk factor. Stressed dogs and those that are hyperactive are more likely to suffer from bloat. Unhappy or fearful dogs are twice as likely to bloat as those that are happy.

Bloat can’t be prevented in many cases, but by using some of the above techniques, you may be able to reduce your dog’s risk. If your dog shows signs of bloat, take him to a veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic immediately. Bloat in dogs can have some very serious consequences.

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