Everyone has an opinion, and if you search the internet on
any subject you are likely to find a variety of differing opinions and
conflicting information. I wanted to address one particular illness that is affecting our dogs. The illness is called bloat, and it kills many dogs each year. If you search
for information on bloat in dogs, you will finds many sites telling you what to
do and what not to do, to avoid this tragic illness. Since bloat is something that collies can suffer from, it is something all collie owners should educate themselves about. However, it is not limited to collies, bloat can be found in many dog breeds, so everyone should learn more about this illness.
One veterinarian has written articles on how bloat is caused
by feeding kibble. He believes that
feeding dogs a diet of kibble weakens the stomach, and to keep our dog’s
stomachs strong and healthy, we should be feeding them a raw diet only. But search for info on raw diets, and you will
once again find conflicting information.
Some veterinarians feel raw diets are dangerous, and some expound on it’s
One thing I have read, did make some sense to me. Dr. Peter Dobias has written that feeding a dog fruit too soon after a meal is a possible cause of bloat. Dr. Dobias has stated that "fruit should
never be fed together with the protein meal. The main reason is that fruit and
protein digests very differently. Fruit digestion time in the stomach is
relatively short and it will ferment and produce gas if it stays in the stomach
longer. If you feed a protein meal together with fruit, the
digestion time of protein is longer and fruit fermentation is more likely to
happen. That is why I recommend feeding fruit at least one hour or longer
before a meal and at least four hours after eating."
With so much info to sort through, what do we do? We
look for the facts that everyone agrees upon.
I wanted to write the important information down, because knowing these
facts can save your dog’s life. Here is
what you need to know:
The clinical term for bloat is gastric dilation volvulus, or GDV. The mortality rate for dogs who suffer an
attack of bloat is 50%. That means 50%
of all dogs who bloat will die, but you can do a few things to increase your
dog’s chances of survival.
Bloat occurs when two things happen. The first is that the stomach
distends with gas and fluid, causing gastric dilatation. The second thing to occur is the volvulus, which is when distended
stomach rotates on its long axis. The
spleen is attached to the wall of the stomach, and it will rotate with the
stomach, so splenic torsion is also a common problem in bloat. Not every dog with gastric dilatation will
suffer from a volvulus, or torsion, especially if it is caught early.
When the stomach twists, it prevents air/gas from escaping. As the stomach becomes distended, blood flow
is compromised and this can result in necrosis of the stomach and
intestines. Which means the lack of
blood flow actually causes the tissues of the stomach and intestines to die. The bloat leads to other organ problems, and
the dog becomes dehydrated, can develop cardiac problems, gastric perforation
Certain dog breeds are more susceptible to bloat, but any
dog can develop bloat. In most cases,
the dogs are middle-aged or older, and dogs over 7 years of age are twice as
likely to develop bloat as those who are 2-4 years of age. Large, deep chested dogs have a greater
incidence of bloat. The most common dog
breeds suffering from bloat are:
Dane, German Shepherd Dog, St. Bernard, Newfoundland, Airedale, Alaskan
Malamute, Labrador Retriever, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Golden Retriever, Irish
Wolfhound, Great Pyrenees, Boxer, Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler, Weimaraner,
Old English Sheepdog, Irish Setter, Gordon Setter, German Shorthaired Pointer, Collie,
Bloodhound, Samoyed, English Springer Spaniel, Standard Poodle, Chinese
Shar-Pei, Basset Hounds and Dachshunds, who are also deep-chested. (there are other breeds prone to bloat, but these are the most common.)
At first veterinarians did not believe bloat was a genetic
condition, but studies over the years have shown that there is a genetic link to
this disease. If both parents have deep and narrow chests, then it
is likely that their offspring will have deep and narrow chests and the
resulting problems that may go with it. This is why in particular breeds we see
a higher incidence in certain lines, most likely because of that line's
particular chest conformation. Most
reputable dog breeders will not breed to a dog that has bloat in his line. "Because of the genetic link involved with
this disease, prospective pet owners should question if there is a history of
GDV in the lineage of any puppy that is from a breed listed as high risk."
Signs and Symptoms of bloat:
abdominal distention (swollen belly, which may feel hard)
nonproductive vomiting (animal appears to be vomiting, but
nothing comes up) and retching.
Restlessness or pacing
Hangs his or her head
rapid shallow breathing
rapid heart rate
The dog may go into shock and become pale, have a weak
pulse, a rapid heart rate, and eventually collapse.
In early bloat the dog may not appear distended, but the
abdomen usually feels slightly tight or hard. The dog appears lethargic, obviously
uncomfortable, walks in a stiff-legged fashion, hangs his head, but may not
look extremely anxious or distressed. In the beginning it may not be possible to
distinguish dilatation from volvulus, so if you suspect your dog may be beginning to bloat, do not wait.
So what can we do to prevent bloat:
Dogs that are nervous, fearful or stressed are at an
increased risk of developing bloat. Many
dogs who are fine at home, can bloat when sent to a boarding kennel or put in a
stressful situation. So knowing how your
dog reacts to certain situations can help decrease his or her risk.
Divide the day’s ration into two or three equal meals,
spaced well apart.
Do not feed your dog from a raised food bowl.
Avoid feeding dry dog food that has fat among the first four
ingredients listed on the label.
Avoid foods that contain citric acid.
Restrict access to water for one hour before and after
Never let your dog drink a large amount of water all at
Dogs should NEVER exercise after eating, limit their
activity for 3 hours after they have consumed a meal.
Dogs fed once a day are twice as likely to develop Gastric Dilatation
Volvulus as those fed twice a day. Dogs
who eat rapidly or exercise soon after a meal are at increased risk. Dogs who respond to nonsurgical treatment
have a 70 percent chance of having another episode of bloat, and should be
closely monitored around meal times.
If you suspect our dog may be suffering from bloat, take
your dog to a veterinary hospital IMMEDIATELY. DO NOT WAIT. Time is of the essence, as a dog who is
bloating will die without medical intervention.
And treatment must be begin immediately.
If your dog has a history of Gastric Dilatation, or has a
family history of bloat, you can buy a bloat kit. You will need to be trained by a veterinarian on how to use the
kit. Gastric dilatation without torsion
or volvulus is relieved by passing a long rubber or plastic tube through the
dog’s mouth into the stomach. When the
tube enters the dog’s stomach, there should be a rush of air and fluid from the
tube, bringing relief. You should then take your dog to the nearest
veterinarian because he/she will need to be monitored closely. The dog should not be allowed to eat or drink
for the next 36 hours, and will need to be supported with intravenous fluids.
If symptoms do not return, the diet can be gradually restored.
A diagnosis of dilatation or volvulus is confirmed by
X-rays of the abdomen. Dogs with simple dilatation have a large volume of gas
in the stomach, but the gas pattern is normal. Dogs with volvulus have a
“double bubble” gas pattern on the X-ray, with gas in two sections separated by
the twisted tissue. If you suspect your
dog is bloating, and the veterinary staff is not moving quickly or not taking your concerns seriously, you may need
to insist that they immediately do an x-ray.
Any delay in treatment will reduce your dog’s chance of survival, so do
not be afraid to speak up! Even with
treatment, 25 – 30% of dogs with GDV die.
In most cases, if a dog has bloated, the veterinarian will suture
the stomach to prevent it from twisting again. This procedure is called a gastropexy.
If a gastropexy is not performed, 75-80%
of dogs will develop GDV again, so it is strongly recommended.
Just remember, with bloat you never want to wait, early treatment
increases your dog's chances of survival and should not be delayed. Bloat can kill a dog in under an hour.
***I have been told by many sources that anyone with a breed prone to GDV should
keep Gas-x in their home, car and grooming bag. If your dog is beginning to
show signs of Gastric dilatation, a Gas-x can help relieve some of the gas, and
buy you time to get your dog to the closest veterinarian.