Bloat is the generic name for gastric dilatation and volvulus, otherwise known as GDV. Not all experts are on the same page about how this condition occurs. They agree that it’s deadly. So deadly, in fact, that only cancer kills more dogs than GDV.
Certain conditions are known to trigger bloat and they involve gas and twisting guts. In other words, a dog’s intestines or stomach flips in a manner that cuts off the flow and gas build-up. Some believe that it might happen the other way around, that too much gas causes the stomach to twist. Either way, GDV is a critical event that can kill dogs within an hour.
Although bloat can strike any dog, certain breeds are more vulnerable. Large individuals or dogs with deep chests often get GDV. For instance, Great Danes, Dachshunds, Whippets, Irish Wolfhounds, and poodles are statistically at a higher risk. Additionally, GDV seems to develop when any dog is highly active and then consumes a large meal or water. It’s also been recorded in reverse. Dogs that play energetically after a big feeding or drinking lots of water can also develop bloat.
Bloat cuts off blood flow to the heart. The stomach could rupture from the pressure of too much gas. Other organs could twist and complicate the matter.
If an owner is to save a pet with bloat, they need to recognize the symptoms.
- A swollen tummy
- Drooling, panting
- Extended neck and elbows sticking out (the pressure of gas also affects the lungs and this behavior is an attempt to breathe more successfully)
- Signs of pain
- Rapid heart rate
- Inability to settle down, pacing constantly
- Dry heaving; the dog’s trying to vomit but fails
- Sometimes the “vomit” will be saliva
- Becoming less responsive
- Staggering, lack of coordination
Bloat cannot go away on its own.
There’s no home remedy, either. When any of these symptoms show up, rush your pet to the vet immediately. They’ll treat it as an emergency and perform tests to confirm the diagnosis. The only treatment is surgery. Unfortunately, even when the operation corrects the twist, not all dogs survive. That’s why time is of the essence. The longer one waits, the lower the survival rate.
The good news is that bloat is preventable. Some vets recommend that you avoid feeding dry kibble or from an elevated dish. Water must be available at all times. Since large meals seem to play a role, one can also feed reduced portions several times a day. Reduce mealtime stress that might encourage a dog to gulp its food. It’s critical that food is consumed slowly, even if you feed little bits by hand.
Finally, several medical conditions raise the risk of bloat. Always have your pet checked for food allergies and inflammatory bowel diseases. As an extreme recourse, some owners have their dog’s stomach surgically stabilized but this is something you should discuss with your vet.