Canine Bloat (LIFE THREATENING)

It’s a nasty thing, bloat. And it’s pretty common. So, to help educate yourself on this deadly medical condition, I have created a post of information I have learned over the years with my experience with my own dog, and medical journals I have read.

What is Bloat?

Twisted Stomach

The steps of how a stomach becomes twisted

In technical terms: Bloat, torsion, gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV)

In English: It’s the build up of gas in the stomach, making it distend. This causes circulation problems, pressure on other organs, and it can cause death or necrosis. Bloat can eventually turn into the stomach actually twisting inside the dog’s body. Gas and food are trapped in this area (can’t burp, and can’t pass gas). The stomach eventually fills up with enough gas that it cuts off circulation, and cells start to die. This is FATAL, and you suspect your dog is experiencing bloat, RUSH TO THE DOGGIE EMERGENCY ROOM IMMEDIATELY!! Bloat acts quickly, and you only have a few hours to save the dog’s life.

What can I do to prevent this?

-Feed smaller meals throughout the day (ideally, two meals).
-Discuss feeding raw with your trainer and veterinarian. Feeding raw DRAMATICALLY lowers the chances of bloat.
-No Exercise an hour before or after eating a meal.
-Eliminate grain in your dog’s diet altogether: Meals and treats. (I also mentioned this in a previous post regarding dog food)
-Keep water available at all times, except for when the dog is eating. Give them about 15 minutes after/before eating to drink water.
-Avoid dog food high in citric acid.

Other reasons for bloat:

-Breed. Some breeds are more susceptible than others: Akita, Great Dane, German Shepherd, St. Bernard, Labrador Retrievers  Irish Wolfhound, Irish Setters., sighthounds, Doberman Pinschers, Weimaraners, Bloodhounds, and other large, deep-chested mixed breeds are also affected.
-Dogs in the pedigree history that have a history of bloat.
-Underweight or overweight dogs.
-Anxious or fearful temperament. Make mealtimes as peaceful as possible for them.
-Aggressive dogs.  “Nerves” and release of adrenaline can contribute to bloat.
-Male dogs are more susceptible than females.
-Older dogs

What should I look out for?

-Distended and hard abdomen
-Can’t get comfortable, pacing, whimpering
-Panting, excessive salivation
-Retching, or signs the dog is trying to vomit, but can’t. Sometimes, white foamy liquid will come up, but not always.
-Attempting to have a bowel movement, but nothing happens.

Stomach

Xray of a bloated stomach. It should never be this big.

Do not try to home treat, and do call ahead to let your veterinarian know you are coming. They can prepare for your arrival.

The first steps to treat the shock, as the dog is in a lot of pain. They will start an IV with fluids and steroids. Antibiotics and anti-arrhythmics may also be started. The veterinarian will try to insert a tube down the throat, making a passage for the gas to escape. But, if the stomach has twisted volvulus, surgery is the next step.

If the veterinarian can get the tube through, this will help wash out the stomach contents and give release to all the gas inside the stomach.

If surgery is required, the goal is to untwist the stomach, remove any unhealthy tissue (dead cells), and place an anchor so that the stomach stays in place. This is called a gastroplexy. This also prevents the stomach from twisting again. There are many variations of this surgery, and the veterinarian will do whichever procedure he/she feels comfortable with (highest success rate).

Sometimes, a hospital stay is required (a week or more). Costs may run from $500 – $1,000 or more depending on the case.

Sources:

http://www.canismajor.com/dog/bloat.html
http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/articles/caninebloat.htm
http://www.globalspan.net/bloat.htm
http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/gastric-volvulus-bloat-dogs-life-threatening-emergency
My experience with bloat from my own dog…

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