Bloat in Dogs

Early recognition of this life threatening condition is vital.

by 
Hobsonville Veterinary Hospital
July 2, 2019

In the UK 2017 the incidence was 6 in 1,000 dogs.

 

Bloat is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach fills with air (dilatation) and/or twists upon itself (volvulus). It’s also called GDV - gastric dilatation volvulus.

 

Classically, the bloated dog has recently eaten a large meal and exercised heavily shortly thereafter.

 

Signs of bloat include:

  • Drooling of saliva 
  • Frequent retching and attempts to vomit (occasionally patients may be able to regurgitate a pool of foamy saliva) 
  • Anxiety, restlessness and pacing 
  • Lethargy or agitation
  • Abdominal distension
  • Panting

Not every dog will have a classic appearance and some dogs will not have obvious abdominal distension because of their body configuration. If you are not sure, it is best to err on the side of caution and rush your dog to the veterinarian immediately.

 

What NOT to Do

  • Do not attempt to relieve the gas from the stomach.  
  • Do not give anything by mouth.

We usually do not know why a given dog bloats on an individual basis. No specific diet or dietary ingredient has been proven to be associated with bloat. Some factors found to increase and decrease the risk of bloat are listed below:

Factors Increasing the Risk Of Bloat

  • Increasing age
  • Having closely related family members with a history of bloat
  • Eating rapidly
  • Feeding from an elevated bowl

Factors Decreasing the Risk Of Bloat

  • Including canned dog food in the diet
  • Including table scraps in the diet
  • Happy or easy-going temperament
  • Feeding a dry food containing a calcium-rich meat meal (such as meat/lamb meal, fish meal, chicken by-product meal, meat meal or bone meal) listed in the first four ingredients of the ingredient list.
  • Eating two or more meals per day

Contrary to popular belief, cereal ingredients such as soy,wheat, or corn in the first four ingredients of the ingredient list do not increase the risk of bloat.

Some breeds have a higher risk of bloat, such as Great Dane, Standard Poodle, Huntaways, Weimaraner, German shepherd, (as well as other deep chested dogs). A preventive surgery called a prophylactic gastropexy can often be performed when the dog is being spayed or neutered. This involves surgically attaching the stomach to the inside of the abdomen to prevent rotation. Ask your veterinarian for details and advice if you would like to discuss preventive surgery for bloat. Still, any dog can bloat even Dachshund and Chihuahua. We recommend not breeding animals with a history of GDV in their lineage as this may potentially decrease the risk of GDV for the animal and future generations.

 

Diagnosis

 

When a suspected dog arrives in the clinic your dog will have a clinical examination and next most likely a radiograph (x-ray) to determine what has happened. The image will shows the enormously distended stomach nearly upside down and shows what is often called the "double bubble" sign where the stomach is divided into two gas-filled sections suggesting the twist (volvulus).

 

Treatment

 

At that time several things need to happen quickly, your dog will need to be put on to IV fluids for shock, the stomach needs to be decompressed. The huge stomach is by now pressing on the major blood vessels carrying blood back to the heart. This stops normal circulation and sends the dog into shock. Making matters worse, the stomach tissue is dying because it is stretched too tightly to allow blood circulation through it. Medication is also given for pain, electrolyte imbalance and shock.

 

Once your dog is stable then we can proceed to surgery. This is not always straight forward and results will depend on tissue damage and whether the spleen is involved.

 

Summary

 

It is crucially important that the owners of big dogs be aware of this condition and prepared for it. Know where to take your dog during overnight or Sunday hours for emergency care. Avoid exercising your dog after a large meal. Know what to watch for. Enjoy the special friendship a large dog provides but at the same time be aware of the large dog's special needs and concerns.

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