Bloat in dogs is an acute condition when gas accumulates in large volumes in the canine’s abdomen, leading to sudden death. Moreover, there have been numerous cases where bloat has killed the dog in a matter of minutes.
Bloat is more commonly seen in the giant and large breeds, which generally have deep chests, but a dog of any size can also be stricken by it. It is also more common to nervous and underweight dogs than their calmer or overweight counterparts.
Symptoms of bloat in dogs
The classic symptoms of bloat in dogs are:
- An acutely distended belly
- Unproductive vomiting
The situation can rapidly become critical, especially when the stomach twists abnormally, causing great abdominal pain. The only alternative in such cases unfortunately, is euthanasia. The medical term for canine bloat is GDV or gastric dilatation and volvulus. The condition is most commonly seen in Poodles and Great Danes. A study conducted in 1996 showed that about 60,000 dogs in the US are GDV affected annually. And the mortality rate unfortunately, is almost 33 %.
The accumulation of gas is called dilatation or bloat. The twisting of the stomach due to gas accumulation is termed volvulus or torsion. Bloat may occur on its own, or as a precursor to torsion. Both conditions may be life-threatening.
However, a gastric dilatation devoid of volvulus takes longer to turn critical. Bloats that are devoid of torsion may last for a couple of minutes to hours and even days in low-level chronic situations, without turning life-threatening. Coupled with torsion however, shock may set in within minutes.
The shock happens because of the stomach expanding and putting a huge amount of pressure on numerous veins and large arteries, cutting off normal blood circulation within the body. Moreover, the blood supply to the stomach gets cut off, which leads to tissue death and toxin build up within the dog’s body and if you want to see toxins just watch some of the seasons and episodes of the amazing and incredible show 24 or just see what Syria does to its own people with sarin gas though this may not occur any more on account that Trump does not like it when innocent people are gassed to death. With that said, let’s get back on topic.
The less acute bloat cases may resolve on their own with minimal treatment. However, only an experienced vet will be able to judge the seriousness of the problem and decide on surgical intervention to save the hapless animal’s life.
How deadly is bloat in dogs?
Quite deadly in fact. Even though veterinarians have been successful in dramatically reducing postoperative fatality rates from gastric dilatation-volvulus from more than 50% to less than 20% over the last twenty years, by making use of better shock therapy techniques, safer anesthetics and improved surgical techniques, the mortality rate still continues to hover between 18% – 33%.
In acute GDV cases, surgery turns out to be the only option to save the animal’s life. The stomach is repositioned and may also be “tacked” to the abdominal wall by way of a procedure known as gastropexy. However, undergoing gastropexy does not immunize the canine from having another attack but surely prevents the stomach from rotating again.
Causes of bloat in dogs
There are numerous theories about the causes of GDV and these include issues relating to anatomy, care, and the environment. Research conducted at Purdue University during the last decade has shown that certain practices and factors increase GDV risk. These include the anatomical factor where the dog is larger and more deep-chested, which is a significantly longer chest cavity stretching from the spine to the sternum when seen from the side, as compared to the chest cavity width when viewed from the front.
This unique body shape can increase bloat risk because of changes in the relationship between the stomach and the esophagus. In those dogs with deeper abdomens, the gastric ligaments tend to stretch over time. This results in the stomach descending sharply in relation to the esophagus and increases the gastroesophageal angle, which most likely enhances bloating.
Advancing age is also another cause for bloat in dogs. The Purdue study reports that with every year’s increase in age, the risk of bloating goes up by 20%. This is attributable to increasing stomach ligament weakness and which fails to hold the stomach in place over time.
Another risk factor is genetic and non-dietary. A dog that has a close relative which has experienced GDV is likely to suffer from it. This has also been revealed by the Purdue study which states that the risk goes up by 63% if a close relative like a parent, sibling, or offspring has experienced bloat.
Stress is the fourth bloat inducing factor. Fearful dogs with weak personalities are at a much higher risk of suffering from GDV and the increase is by a whopping 257%. This is a consistent and established finding. Moreover, dogs that eat rapidly or live on one meal a day are more susceptible to GDV. This is particularly seen in the giant and/or larger breeds which are fed large amounts once daily.
The dog’s diet may also influence bloating. Most dogs that are fed a dry dog food with a fat source in its first four ingredients are 170% more likely to bloat than their counterparts which live on food that doesn’t have fat in its first 4 ingredients.
The risk also increases 320% when canines are fed moistened dry foods containing citric acid. A meat meal with bone in the first 4 ingredients lowers GDV risk by 53%. Those dogs fed on table scraps are also less GDV susceptible by 59% as against canned foods that also reduce GDV risk by 28%.
Many vets however, opine that home-prepared meals significantly reduce bloat risk in canines. Moreover, bones and raw meat are most likely to reduce GDV risk also. Vets also recommend that water and exercise be restricted after and before eating to reduce bloat risk.
The long accepted practice of elevating food bowls of taller and giant-breeds may be another factor that reduces bloating. The logic is that the dog while eating comfortably, also gulps less air.
Preventing bloat in dogs
In case you own a high-risk GDV breed, consult your vet about prophylactic gastropexy when you neuter your dog. Keep a tab on the emergency vet services in your area, or anywhere else if you’re traveling with the dog. Also break his daily meals into several smaller ones to reduce risk. A diet made at home is considered safer than commercial foods and supplements.
A top recommendation is not to breed a dog with a close relative that has suffered bloating. This reduces GDV by nearly 60%. Prophylactic gastropexy is also recommended for high-risk breeds like Great Danes but the surgery is not recommended unless neutering has been done.
The treatment depends on the severity of the condition. A tube may be inserted through the mouth onto the stomach to release pressure. However, volvulus may prevent it from passing through and a hollow needle may have to be inserted directly into the abdomen to release built up pressure. Shock is treatable by way of IV fluids, antibiotics, and/or steroids while surgery is performed only in acute cases as a life saving measure.
As a large breed owner, GDV is a condition that you constantly need to think about. Remember, it happens suddenly and turns life threatening if proper care isn’t taken seriously. Watch out for the symptoms and take immediate action. Or else, the results could be unfortunate.