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Canine Bloat
A Medical Emergency

Canine bloat is a scary condition that all dog owners need to be aware of because it is seriously life threatening, occurs very suddenly, and requires the immediate attention of a veterinary professional.

If you are not familiar with this condition, medically referred to as Gastric Dilatation Volvulus or GDV, for the sake of your dog, keep reading!

Do you remember a time when you enjoyed a meal so much that you over indulged and wound up with a gassy, uncomfortable and well, bloated stomach?

To a human, this is usually just a temporary issue, but to a dog, it's a whole other story because dog bloat can lead to death the same day it occurs unless emergency treatment is sought right away as in pronto!

Important Information About GVD

A bloated stomach in a dog occurs when air, gasses and liquids have suddenly accumulated in the abdominal area causing it to become enlarged. Sometimes, this gastric event is accompanied by Volvulus, a secondary and more serious condition whereby the swelling results in a torsion or twisting of the stomach.

When this happens, pathways in and out of the stomach can generally get pinched off, resulting in an array of extreme possibilities. Time is of the essence to avoid a fatality.

Because a case of bloat can progress to this critical stage very quickly - sometimes in much less than an hour, the best and only course of action is to take a dog to the vet for diagnosis and treatment at even the slighest sign of it.

Any delay generally results in the loss of a beloved pet, particularly if the stomach has twisted. Not a risk we want to take!

Signs of Canine Bloat

These are some of the symptoms to be aware of that can be present with bloat in the early or late stages:

  • Sudden enlargement of the abdomen, but not always noticeable.
  • Abdomen may be sensitive to the touch or feel tight.
  • Tired or lethargic demeanor.
  • Pet unsuccessfully attempts to vomit.
  • Drooling excessively, trying to swallow, licking lips.
  • Seems restless and uncomfortable.
  • Pained look about the eyes
  • Some groaning or whining, etc.
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Gums and tongue look pallid
  • Noticeable weakness

What Is The Cause Of Bloat In Dogs?

While no specific cause is known, there are a few factors and habit patterns that are often associated with the occurrence of canine bloat.

  • Eating large meals quickly
  • Consuming large amounts of water soon after meals
  • High activity following meals
  • Dogs that are larger or deep-chested are considered more likely to be affected, especially if their relatives have been bloaters. The breeds most often cited are: Saint Bernard, Akita, Boxer, Great Dane, Weimaraner, Basset Hound, Irish Setter, Bloodhound, German Shepherd, and Standard Poodle to name a few.
  • While dogs of any age and health condition may be affected, research has indicated the higher risk has been associated with mid-life or older dogs and with males more than females.
  • Stressful lifestyle
  • Some sources cite possible dietary factors, type of food eaten

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How Is Canine Bloat Treated?

Typically in the case where no volvulus has occurred, the veterinarian will insert a tube along the pathway leading to the stomach to release the gasses and fluids.

It has been noted that even when the stomach has twisted, it may still be possible for the tube to enter the stomach. Sometimes an x-ray is done to confirm a diagnosis.

Depending on the extent of the dog's condition, various treatments may be needed to: rehydrate, address shock, avoid infection, deal with irregular heart rhythms, or perform corrective surgery.

Preventing Or Lowering the Risk

Dog owners who have witnessed a case of dog bloat don't want to live through it again, that's for sure. Fortunately, there are a few practices advised by professionals to help prevent it:

  • Break up your dog's food allowance into 2 or 3 meals per day and make sure he is not under any kind of stress while eating.
  • Keep the water bowl inaccessible for up to an hour before and after eating
  • Avoid letting your dog gulp a lot of water at any time
  • No high energy activities or brisk walks until food has had time to digest
  • No elevated dog feeders. **NOTE: This advice came from a significant study on bloat and large dog breeds, by Dr. L. Glickman,VMD., and was referred to in the August 2007 AKC GAZETTE.
  • Avoid meals containing only dry food
  • Consider making nutritious homemade dog food, indicated by some reasearch to reduce the likelyhood of bloat.
  • If your vet or emergency clinic is not close by, consult with your vet about the merits of obtaining a stomach tube for your pet's first aid kit and having him teach you how to use it. This would just be as a back-up safety measure.
While not standard procedure, some owners of dogs in the high risk category for dog bloat, elect to have a gastropexy performed on their dog as a protective measure. This surgical procedure is designed to prevent the stomach from twisting by attaching it to the wall of the abdomen.

Canine Bloat - Recap

Since the jury is still out on the exact cause of dog bloat and more research is yet to be done, a dog's best protection boils down to:

  • Owners becoming very familiar with the early warning signs of this syndrome
  • Keeping a close watch on their beloved dogs
  • ACTING QUICKLY at the first hint of bloat

To become more informed about common dog illnesses and learning how to recognize them, I recommend you obtain a copy of Veterinary Secrets: Natural Health for Dogs and Cats . This e-book, written by a qualified vet contains information about numerous dog health issues, useful home remedies, plus which dog illnesses need a consultation with a pet professional.

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