Bloat in Dogs: Its Causes and How it Can Be Avoided

AIMSS_iStock_000078756643_LargeGastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), or bloat as it is more commonly known, is a serious emergency that occurs when the stomach fills with gas and expands, oftentimes twisting (volvulus) in on itself. But, bloat in dogs, while common, is still a mystery to pet owners – particularly when misinformation on its causes (chewing ice, for example) abounds.

Despite its ambiguity, bloat is among the top causes of death among our canine companions – making this serious condition one that all concerned canine parents should better understand.

The Basics of Bloat

Bloat is essentially a form of gastric distention, which happens when the stomach fills with air along with digestive fluids and food. As the stomach continues to expand, it will sometimes twist or rotate, resulting in constriction of the blood vessels and arteries. As the blood supply is cut off, a life-threatening emergency becomes imminent.

While the causes of GDV/bloat are attributed to a number of factors, no one knows exactly why some dogs develop this condition.

We do know, however, that dogs with deep, wide chests and narrow waists are more commonly affected by bloat. Certain breeds seem to be more susceptible as well, because of these proportions – most notably, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters, and Standard Poodles.

However, any dog can be at risk of bloat, which makes understanding the signs imperative.

The Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs

  • Distended or bloated abdomen
  • Retching or attempts to vomit
  • Pacing
  • Restlessness
  • Labored or rapid breathing
  • Excess saliva
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Collapse

Because the condition can quickly move into a dangerous emergency, if your dog is exhibiting these symptoms call Animal Internal Medicine and Specialty Services’ Animal Emergency Clinic immediately. We offer 24 hour emergency services, 7 days a week.

Diagnosing and Treating GDV

Treating bloat relies upon how it has progressed. In an emergency situation, a pet must be assessed to determine whether stabilization of the major body systems is the first objective while beginning the diagnostic process.

Diagnostics will often include x-rays, blood chemistry analysis, and an EKG. Ongoing monitoring of the cardiovascular system and blood pressure will also be critical.

When the X-rays confirm GDV, a surgical procedure called gastropexy will likely be required.

While untreated dogs have a high mortality rate, if treatment is started as soon as signs begin to develop, the prognosis for many dogs can be good. So, please act quickly if your dog is showing signs of bloat.

Is It Possible to Prevent Dog Bloat?

Bloat is, understandably, a frightening diagnosis, and many dog guardians want to know what can be done to prevent this scary scenario.

While there is no single, foolproof method of preventing bloat, there are some ways you can help diminish the risk:

  • Feed your canine companion 2-3 smaller meals each day, rather than one large portion
  • Encourage your pet to eat slowly by using a slow food dispenser that will challenge your dog and promote slower consumption
  • Address ongoing anxiety or phobia with your veterinarian, as stress can increase risk for bloat
  • Avoid rigorous exercise or playtime immediately following meals and allow at least an hour for digestion

To learn more about gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) and how to reduce your pet’s risk, please contact us.

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