Though more prominent in certain breeds and larger dogs in general, Bloat (properly called gastric dilatation volvulus or GDV) is a serious medical condition all dog owners need to be aware of.
To demonstrate just how serious it can be, mortality rates in untreated dogs are reported from 10% to as high as 60%, even with veterinary intervention and surgery it ranges from 10% to 30%.
Note: The word Bloat is often used to describe the normal build up of gas after eating which dissipates by itself over time, this is not what we are referring to when talking about gastric dilatation volvulus.
What is bloat?
Bloat occurs when the stomach fills with a combination of gas, food and/or water. The enlarged stomach can create pressure on other organs, reduce blood flow and most seriously twist in various directions inside the chest cavity. In cases of a stomach twisting along the longitudinal axis it’s possible for the stomach to do a complete 360° rotation closing off the oesophagus and preventing the dog from relieving the condition by vomiting or belching gas and immediate veterinary attention is required.
If not treated quickly the abnormal pressures and stomach distortion can cause low blood pressure and reduced return of blood to the heart, loss off blood supply to the stomach, decreased blood flow to the liver causing a build up of toxins in the body, damage to the spleen, blood poisoning and toxic shock. Ultimately one of more of these conditions leads to death.
There is no single cause for Bloat; over feeding, eating large meals in a single sitting, dry foods like kibble which absorb liquid and expand in the stomach and excessive water consumption in a short period of time are all contributing factors. Dogs with deep chest cavities are more prone to the condition but smaller dogs can still be affected.
Certain breeds are clearly more susceptible to Bloat than others. The University of Purdue conducted a study of dogs that had developed Bloat and calculated the following risk ratios of commonly affected breeds; for example, compared to average size cross breeds a Great Dane was 41.4 times more likely to develop Bloat, a Saint Bernard 21.8 times more likely and so on…
|Breed||Risk Ratio||Risk Rank|
|Old English Sheepdog||4.8||9|
|German Shorthaired Pointer||4.6||10|
|Chesapeake Bay Retriever||3.7||15|
|English Springer Spaniel||2||19|
Signs your dog is suffering from Bloat:
The most obvious sign is a swollen belly. Retching (trying to vomit but nothing comes out) is also a strong indicator. Less obvious signs include rapid breathing and profuse salivation which can indicate pain caused by an obstruction, in time this can cause your dog to look pale, have a rapid but weak pulse and eventually they’re likely to collapse.
Bloat is an emergency condition which requires immediate veterinary attention. Treatment typically involves releasing pent up gas with the use of a stomach tube or inserting trocars (basically big needles) inserted into the stomach through the abdomen when use of a tube is not possible. Surgery is required to return the stomach to the correct position, a partial gastrectomy to remove dead tissue from the stomach wall may also be required if the attack was not addressed quickly enough.
If you suspect your dog may be suffering at attack of Bloat, contact your veterinarian immediately; do not wait.
As always, the best cure is prevention and there are several simple practices to mitigate the risk of bloat.
If you have a breed which is susceptible to Bloat have a plan in place for addressing it if an attack is suspected. Know where your local veterinarians are, their contact details and available hours.
Large dogs should be fed two (or even three) smaller meals a day instead of a single large meal.
Water should always be available to your dog but be vigilant and ensure that your dog does not gorge themselves, especially after eating if your dog is fed dry food.
Physical exertion should be avoided for at least one if not two hour after eating.
Dogs that have suffered an attack of Bloat are more susceptible to a second occurrence, if your dogs has been affected you should double your efforts on the above precautionary measures.
Keywords: Dog bloat. Gastric dilatation volvulus.