Bloat in dogs - a serious health concern

Bloat in dogs

(Gastric dilation and tortion or GDV)

Bloat is serious and can easily lead to death. 
It is a painful condition which can be caused by a weak digestive system. 
Bad eating habits can contribute if a dog eats too quickly. 
If you suspect your dog may be suffering from bloat – see your vet immediately. 
These notes are to help you understand the condition, and to see if diet can play a part. 


What is bloat?

Basically, the dog’s stomach becomes dilated with gas, and twists around. This closes off the stomach’s entry and exit points and can also close off blood flow to the stomach.

This results in even more build up of gas, so the stomach twists again and a vicious circle is in place.

The stomach balloons with the gas, and presses upon neighbouring organs and abdominal blood vessels. This can close down the digestive system and reduce blood flow.

Organs may then shut down, there may be ulceration and rupture, and the dog will go into shock.

There will be severe pain and the dog will be fighting for its life.

 Symptoms of bloat.

A dog which seems to have abdominal pain for no apparent reason may have bloat, or it may have one of many other unrelated problems.

Because bloat is always a medical emergency, it is important to recognise the symptoms. 
Look for a tight, hard, uncomfortable and swollen abdomen.
There may be an excessive heartbeat
The dog may retch but produce nothing other than a frothy mucus, vomit, drool, drink excessively or breathe faster than normal.
The dog tries to defecate unsuccessfully.
The dog attempts to bite, or worry, the abdomen, or is very unsettled.
The dog adopts the 'Sphinx' position.

Just because a dog shows any of the above does not necessarily mean it has bloat, but if a deep chested dog is showing these symptoms, play safe and see a vet very urgently. Bloat is an emergency.


Prevention of bloat and recommended diet.

Unfortunately, deep chested dogs and those which have already suffered bloat tend to be most at risk, so in these cases it is wise to operate a dietary and exercise management programme. 

 Feed little and often – at least twice or three times a day to give the enzymes time to work on a lesser volume – and restrict activity and water intake for an hour or so before and after meals.

 A diet high in protein and fibre is recommended – and try to avoid table scraps. Use our compare buttons to see which food is best for you.  This recommended food includes pre-biotics , and will therefore help the digestive system to work better. Remember, small feeding amounts taken slowly limit the potential problem.

 Your vet may recommend preventive or remedial surgery where the stomach can be tacked to the adjacent wall to prevent twisting. Some recommend raised feeding bowls, whilst others are not sure about this. Discuss all aspects of available prevention with your vet.

 Dogs at increased risk of bloat.

As mentioned above, deep chested, large and giant breed dogs of middle age and older are those at greater risk of suffering from bloat, as are those with a parent or sibling who have suffered bloat.

Other factors increasing risk can be once daily feeding of large amounts, quick eating, exercise soon after eating, drinking large amounts of water all at once after eating, stress, lower than average body weight and timid dogs.

 The breeds which may be at risk  are the deep chested larger dogs or those with narrow and deep chests. These include the Doberman, Old English Sheepdog, Great Dane,Pyrenees, Boxer, Collie, Weimaraner, Saint Bernard, GSD, some Setters, Bloodhound, Standard Poodle, Labrador Retriever, Irish Wolfhound, Shar-Pei, Bassett Hound, Pekingese and Dachshund.

See your Vet.

These notes are not written to alarm you, but to give you food for thought. If you have any worry about bloat – see your vet before it happens, and try to remember the feeding and exercise tips above.