Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A danger to any dog...

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 virtues.

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 and death.

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:

Great 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
Walking stiff-legged
Hangs his or her head
abdominal pain
rapid shallow breathing
rapid heart rate
Profuse salivation

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 meals.

Never let your dog drink a large amount of water all at once.

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.


  1. Excellent information. I have been luck enough to never have a dog suffer with this - but there is always a first time.

    I always go back to one thing when I think of feeding - what do wolves and wild dogs eat? My guys have a half and half diet - they get their 6 fish kibble for the vitamins and oils they need (even though dogs rarely eat fish in the wild :) - but I mix it with raw bison, venison or lamb. I have feed all my dogs this way and all my dogs and lived well past their "usual' life spans - my last sheltie lived to 18!

  2. Lots of excellent information guys! Man, the idea of bloat has always made Domeek nervous. You just never know if and when it's going to happen. Ick!

  3. This was a very interesting post. I have heard about Bloat but have never known a dog that has had to experience it. I thought it was interesting that you shouldn't feed fruit with the meal, etc. etc. because I always give stella her fruit mixed right in with her I will rethink that.
    Thank you again for your info.
    stella rose's mom

  4. Thankyou for all the information on bloat, if you need to know anything about raw feeding you can message my mummy cause she has researched it a lot!!!
    Love Milo :)

  5. With two Danes Bloat is ALWAYS at the back of my mind. I constantly carry GasX and my vets number on me at all times!

    Thanks this was very informative.

    Have a great week.


  6. Howdy Mates, good information on bloat. We are always aware of it cause I (Rory) of course, am a Great Dane. We have heard conflicting information from different sources too. Mum says, be aware of signs and symptoms and as you say, if in doubt, go to the Vet immediately. No worries, and love, Stella and Rory

  7. Very interesting with the fruit thing. I don't think I've ever heard that one before. I recently wrote about the gastropexy surgery for dogs as a preventative measure too.

  8. Excellent post. Thanks so much for doing all the research and work.
    Bert amd my vickie

  9. Wow, we never heard of that, thanks for the information so helpful xx00xx

    Mollie and Alfie

  10. WOW great post! I didn't know that I had to wait 3 hours after a meal. Everyone keep on telling me that I had to wait about a hour. Next time I will be super careful! I'm so paranoid about Joker getting the bloat, so I take the most safety precautions possible!

  11. Thanks for this helpful post. I had a lab who bloated (many years ago). He was our first dog so we had no idea what was going on. However, it was July 3 (20 yrs ago?) - so we took him to the vet immediately to avoid the emergency vet on the holiday. That move saved his life.

    I didn't know about bloat kits... I'm going to look into that. Also, it's a small point, but numerous vets have told me that there's no link between exercising right after eating and bloat. Of course, it makes intuitive sense that there would be a link... so I still try to avoid it.

    Thanks for a great post.

  12. Great, informative posts. Bloat scares the heck out of me. Both of my dogs are large and deep-chested dogs. Our rule is exercise one hour before or two hours after eating. I have the symptoms of bloat printed out, but I think they are also imprinted on my brain. At the first sign of any discomfort, I would call my vet immediately, but that is me. I have two friends that both lost their dogs to bloat and they had no idea their dogs were bloating. :-( Thanks for sharing this information.

  13. This is an important topic. Thanks for all the info! I am glad you blogged about the genetic link as well. That is often left out of other articles I read about the condition. I have read that slowing eating with either specific slow feeding bowls or with puzzle toys can help with preventing bloat (which is what we do here.) Also, be careful of exercise before meals and not just after. I wait at least 20 minutes after exercise to feed our boys.

  14. What a great post! Thank you so much for posting this. I knew not to exercise after eating but did not know the other stuff. Going to share this on my facebook page!

  15. Wow, I thought I knew a lot about bloat, but I learned some new things here. I find the raised bowls issue confusing - because I thought it was healthier for dogs to eat out of raised bowls. Sometimes so much information can be confusing! But we are always careful about exercise before and after meals, and feed twice daily. I did not know about the stress factor; and we sometimes add blueberries to homemade meals. Guess I'd better stop that!

  16. Too darn freakin' cute! We saw you over at Jodi's PetBlogger Showcase so we wanted to swing by and say hello. Happy October.

  17. I'm glad you shared this for the linky party. Bloat is one of those things I really worry about, seeing my dogs are one of the dogs prone to this disease. I've had two friends that lost their dogs to bloat because they didn't know the symptoms. I have the list of symptoms in the back of their medical records, but a good number of them are ingrained in my mind.

    Thanks again for sharing, it's a really important issue.

  18. What an incredible post! I'd never heard of "bloat" before and I was a professional pet sitter for a time. Thank you so much for sharing this and joining the showcase.

  19. I hopped over here from Jodi's blog. :) I have a dog who survived GVD (bloat) so I am pretty familiar with this topic. In my dog's case the vets are pretty sure that his case was caused by an allergic reaction to an insect bite (which caused his spleen to inflate twisting his stomach and maybe that is why he survived, his case was a-typical). I noticed your article was written in 2013. The info is accurate based on what was known in 2013. However, science has moved on from some of the things that they once thought caused bloat. Current science now thinks that it has to do with stomach motility and if there is a genetic component that is it. There are studies ongoing right now. They should be getting close to being finished I would think but maybe they are still ongoing.

    I will tell you that we feed a Gas-X to our dogs each meal and never let them tank up on water at one time. We make them take it in in smaller more frequent amounts. Also we never feed them within an hour after heavy exercise or exercise them until two hours after meals have passed. These things seem to be indicated by research. All the other "precautions" are really more anecdotal, many actually disproved.

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