When you hear of Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, or what is commonly known as bloat, you may not consider it a severe problem. And it isn’t for most other animals. However, canine bloat is a deadly condition known as the mother of all canine emergencies for dogs.
If your dog is suffering from bloat, dog mats can come in handy and help it lie down in a comfortable position. But this does not negate the need for medical attention. Bloat requires a medical emergency, and lying down should only be used as you wait for treatment.
What is canine bloat?
Generally, there are two stages of bloat. In the first case, the stomach fills with gas and is called gastric dilatation (GD). In the second stage, called gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), the distended stomach twists. When the gas causes the stomach to stretch, the gas in the stomach gets trapped. As the gas expands, it causes the stomach to twist, which has the risk of cutting bloody supply into the stomach.
The distended stomach also puts pressure on vital organs, leading to reduced blood flow to the heart. Bloat may also tear the walls of the stomach and makes breathing difficult. GD is not always severe, and you can alleviate the symptoms by pumping the stomach. But this does not make it risk-free because, like GDV, it can obstruct blood flow and lead to shock. The main difference is that GDV requires emergency surgery to reverse the stomach.
When the stomach rotates, it blocks the flow of blood from the stomach. The blood does not flow back to the heart and other organs. If it gets to this stage, the dog goes into a shock and may die if not given emergency medical surgery.
What causes bloat in dogs?
There are many unsubstantiated claims about the real causes of bloat. Urban legend holds that cold food, too much food, stress, hot food, and a diet high in carbohydrates can cause canine bloat.
According to science, the leading risk factor for bloat is genetics. Certain breeds are more prone to bloating, with larger breeds more at risk. The most prone breeds are those with narrow waists and deep chests, a characteristic feature in large or giant breeds.
Breeds most affected by bloating:
- Great Danes
- St. Bernard
- Standard poodle
- Golden Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- Gordon setter
- Irish setter
This does not mean that other breeds may not experience bloat. Even small species like chihuahuas can experience a bloated stomach. Age also is a risk factor for bloating, with the risk increasing as the dog’s age. Ingesting foreign objects also may increase the chances of bloating.
Other factors that can increase the risk of bloat include:
- Eating quickly
- Feeding once a day
- Family history of bloat
- Feeding using an elevated bowl
Symptoms of canine bloat
As a dog owner, you should know the signs and symptoms of bloat. Bloat occurs very quickly, and your ability to identify when your dog is experiencing bloat may save its life. The symptoms may be mild at first. So, if you notice that your dog is acting abnormally, try pressing the belly. If it’s bloating, your dog will whine. It is advisable to monitor your dog for the most common bloat signs, unproductive retching, and abdominal distension.
In advanced cases, it is easy to identify a dog that’s experiencing bloat. Bloat causes inflammation, so the dog will show signs of pain or distress, which include:
- Enlarged abdomen
The dog may also show signs of trying to vomit unsuccessfully. Sometimes, the dog will stretch with the chest on the ground but with the rear end raised. If the dog is overwhelmed, it may collapse due to shortness of breath.
How is bloat in dogs treated?
Bloat can kill a dog within two hours. As a result, you should call your vet immediately if you suspect that your dog is bloating. Dogs experiencing bloat go into shock within one to two hours. Once in shock, the heart rate rises in an attempt to compensate for the lost blood supply.
The pulse also drops while breathing becomes difficult, worsened by the distended stomach’s pressure on the lungs. As the situation worsens, organs will start to fail, leading to death. Treatment for bloat depends on the severity of the symptoms. The first objective, typically, is to deflate the stomach. The vet will pass a tube via the throat into the stomach and use a stomach pump to release the built-up gases and air.
If the stomach has rotated, it may not be possible to pass the tube through. So, the vet may use a large, hollow needle to release the pressure. The vet may also try to rotate the stomach to its original position, but this may require surgery.
Releasing the stomach’s air will relieve the surrounding organs’ pressure and prevent damage to stomach walls. If damage to stomach walls already occurred, that piece will have to be removed through surgery.
Dogs that experience shock will also be given intravenous fluids to reverse the shock. The vet will also administer medications to reduce the heart rate to prevent heart failure.
The vet will administer strong antibiotics, painkillers, and electrolytes to restore the blood flow. If the dog needs surgery to correct the stomach’s position and remove dead tissue, it will be taken into surgery once it is stable.
GDV tends to recur in 90% of cases. So, when vets are correcting the stomach position, they conduct a gastropexy. This means tacking the stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent future twisting.
Preventing canine bloat
While bloating is a deadly condition, you can prevent it. Some vets recommend gastropexy during neutering for breeds with a high risk of developing bloat. While this will not prevent bloat, it will stop the stomach from twisting in the case of bloat, which can save the dog’s life.
You can ensure that your dog lives a lifestyle that does not put it at risk. For example, instead of feeding the dogs large amounts once daily, divide the food into two portions.
Jeffery Thompson is a full-time content marketing specialist. He has been closely following pet industry trends for quite some time. He has dabbled in various domains. On his days off, he likes to spend his time at the nearest animal shelter or nose deep in a book.