What is Bloat in Dogs?
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) also known as “bloat,” “stomach torsion,” or “twisted stomach.” Bloat is an extremely serious condition, and should be considered a life-threatening emergency when it occurs. If you suspect bloat is occurring in your dog, contact your veterinarian immediately!
Dog bloat cannot be treated at home.
Bloat can happen to any breed of dog at any age. Bloat is basically when the stomach suddenly fills with gas (usually swallowed air) and puts pressure on the other organs and diaphragm. The pressure on the diaphragm makes it difficult for the dog to breathe. The gas filled stomach also compresses the large veins in the abdomen which interferes with blood returning to the heart. This leads to a sudden and rapid distention of the abdomen. When this occurs, the stomach can twist or rotate (volvulus) which restricts blood flow to the stomach and spleen. Abdominal organ death begins and can be rapidly fatal due to hypo-tension and shock.
Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs
There will be a noticeable difference in your dog’s behavior. Typical symptoms include but are not limited to:
- Multiple, unproductive attempts to vomit. Retching/gagging with nothing coming up. May sound like a cough.
- Bloated or distended abdomen (swollen belly)
- Sudden lethargy, hunched appearance
- Panting, pacing, anxious, may refuse to lay down – can’t get comfortable
- Profuse salivating (indication of severe pain)
- Attempt to defecate (pass gas) without results. Much like the unproductive vomiting.
- Weakness and collapse
If you see any of these symptoms, it is CRUCIAL that you call the nearest vet, alert them that you are on your way with possible bloat. If it is after hours, DO NOT wait until morning. There is but a small window of time to handle a condition of bloat. Call the closest Emergency vet, they will be well equipped to handle this kind of emergency.
Treatment for Bloat in Dogs
Your pet will be quickly assessed for bloat. If your pet is stable, an x-ray will be necessary to determine if it’s bloat (stomach full of gas but not twisted) or if the stomach is bloated AND twisted. If it is twisted, this is an extreme emergency.
Your vet will attempt to remove the gas, either by a large bore needle placed directly through the body wall into the stomach or a stomach tube may be placed to alleviate the gas. An IV catheter is placed and fluids are given to treat the hypo-tension.
Surgery is always required if there is a twist (volvulus) and the health of the stomach and spleen will be assessed at the time of surgery. The stomach and spleen may simply need to be derotated or the spleen and/or part of the stomach may need to be removed if lack of blood flow has been severe.
Surgery can be very successful depending on the health of the stomach and spleen, however, complications are many and the first 3 days are critical.
What Causes Bloat?
There are many different and sometimes unknown reasons for the onset of bloat. No one really knows for sure what causes bloat in every situation, however, there are risk factors to consider.
- Large and Giant breeds with deep but narrow chest conformations are more susceptible. However, as stated earlier, any breed of dog can bloat even smaller breeds but this demographic is disproportionately affected.
- Bloat seems to run in certain families, so genetics is a factor. If your dog’s mother, father, or sibling ever developed bloat, talk to your vet about a Gastropexy.
- Stress. Any activity that is outside your dog’s NORMAL ROUTINE including boarding, travel, new dog in household or stress in the family environment.
- Eating too fast or activity just BEFORE or AFTER eating.
Preventing Dog Bloat
Nothing is 100% but there are some things that can be done to reduce the possibility or severity of bloat in your dog.
- Do NOT let your dog exercise immediately following a meal. No running, jumping or playing for AT LEAST ONE HOUR BEFORE and AFTER EATING!
- Instead of feeding your dog one large meal a day, divide that one meal into 2 to 3 smaller daily feedings.
- If your dog gobbles their food, purchase a “slow” bowl with multiple raised areas. This will slow down their eating and reduce the amount of air they take in.
- Do not allow them to drink excessive amounts of water at one time. This is particularly important following play or exercise.
- Enough research has been shown that feeding from a bowl raised from the ground actually increased episodes of bloat.
- Supplements to reduce gas production may be given….i.e: Gas-X or probiotics. Always talk to your veterinarian before giving ANY type of supplement to your pet/s.
- Keep garbage cans away from your pet. A splurge into the garbage often times is a precursor to bloat.
- Change diet slowly.
- Minimize change in your dogs routine. Introduce change slowly to reduce anxiety. This varies depending on your dogs temperament. Dogs that are high anxiety or high strung are more susceptible to bloat. Consider a DAP collar (anti-anxiety collar), a Thunder-shirt (anti-anxiety wrap), or behavior modification training and techniques as recommended.
GASTROPEXY is a surgery that can be performed to tack your pets stomach wall to the abdominal wall with the goal of preventing the stomach from twisting if your pet bloats. A Gastropexy will be done at the time of surgery if your dog does bloat after the stomach is derotated.
Take home message: There are many things you can do to reduce the risk of bloat BUT if bloat occurs, the single most life saving thing you can do is:
GET YOUR PET TO THE VET, ASAP!