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Bloat in dogs

Bloat, also known as Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), is a serious condition that can happen to any large breed dog. It’s rarely reported in smaller, deep-chested breeds such as dachshund and Pekingese. It can occur randomly and in a moments notice.

Bloat in dogs is one of the worst issues for pet owners and vets. One minute, your dog will be happy and healthy and the next she’s gasping for breath and suffering immense pain. In some cases sudden death occurs.

One of the issues with bloat in dogs is that veterinarians aren’t completely sure why it happens. It’s something of a mystery how a dog’s health can deteriorate so rapidly, often without any previous symptoms. However, there are signs that your dog is suffering from bloating to watch out for and preventive measures. But first, you need to understand the condition itself.

What exactly is it?

Bloat is considered to be a medical emergency for pet owners. If your dog displays any signs of this condition, you should get them to a vet immediately. You carry dog insurance for times precisely like this!

What does bloat do to your dog?

Bloat begins when for unknown reasons the stomach of a dog twists on itself (volvulus) and expands filling with fluid, ingesta and gas (dilatation). It is unclear whether twisting or distension of the stomach occurs first.  This causes blood vessels to be compressed, restricting blood flow to organs such as the heart and stomach. Some complications can occur days after treatment. Bloat is the second leading cause of death in dogs behind cancer.

Is bloat always an emergency?

While there are mild cases of bloat in dogs, this should still be considered a serious medical issue. Without the appropriate treatment it could be fatal. As such, even if the symptoms don’t seem severe, you should take your dog to see a vet as quickly as possible.

Signs and symptoms of bloat

There are various symptoms to watch out for that may mean your dog is suffering from bloat. This includes:

  • An abdomen that seems swollen

  • Constant retching but the inability to actually vomit

  • Excessive salivation

  • Suffering from fatigue but unable to sleep

  • Sudden unexplainable pain when stomach is pressed

Any or all of these symptoms could be a sign of bloat and should be treated as a medical emergency. You must get your dog treatment as quickly as possible. Progression of the condition can be fast, and a dog can die only a couple of hours after the first symptoms.

Causes and prevention

The risk of bloat may be lowered if the pet owner is informed and takes certain precautions. Meals should be fed multiple times per day, rather than one large meal. Feed low-fat meals, do not use raised food bowls, and do not allow rapid eating. It might also help to soak dry food in water before feeding your dog. Most importantly, be sure that the dog waits at least an hour after eating before exercising or getting into stressful situations.

Breed also has an impact on bloat. In general, deep chested breeds and tall dogs with narrow necks are at more risk. For instance, great Danes have a 42% chance of developing this medical condition in their lifetime. Also, dogs with a first-order relative with a history of GDV are at an increased risk. Other breeds at risk include:

  • Akita

  • Bernese Mountain dog

  • Boxer

  • Collie

  • Doberman pinscher

  • Gordon setter

  • Great Dane

  • Great Pyrenees

  • Greyhound

  • Irish setter

  • Irish wolfhound

  • Mastiff

  • Newfoundland

  • Rottweiler

  • Saint Bernard

  • Standard poodle

  • Weimaraner

If you are wondering whether your breed of dog is more at risk of this condition just check with your vet. Typically, dogs bred from other dogs with the condition are more likely to develop it as well. For this reason, breeding should be given more consideration.

Lifestyle factors that may impact the chances of this condition include:

  • Diet

  • Food consumption

  • Exercise routines

There may also be increased risk in dogs that have had a splenectomy. Also older and purebred dogs may be more likely to have GDV.

Due to there being no recognized cause, it’s difficult to pinpoint factors that will cause the condition. However, many vets suggest that dogs who have one meal a day are more likely to develop the condition compared to those that consume several meals. Fast eaters may be more at risk too as well as though who are eating foods that are heavy in oil and fat. Furthermore, heavy exercise just before or after the dog has finished its meal should be avoided as much as possible. Many researchers believe that high levels of stress can also have an impact.

Surgical prevention

The chance of bloat in dogs can be greatly reduced by surgery. If you have a breed of dog that is more at risk of bloat or may have a history of bloating, this is something that you could consider. Through gastropexy, a dog’s stomach is attached to the wall of the abdomen.

Be aware that this is a preventive action rather than a treatment. Although,your vet may recommend gastropexy if they have had an episode of bloat. This is due to the fact that 90 percent of dogs who suffer from bloat once will suffer from it again.