Care Notes – Bloat/Gastric Torsion
What is Bloat?
Bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus, which then can result in Gastric Torsion as it twists, is a potentially deadly medical condition. Bloat is when the stomach fills with air, putting excess pressure on the lungs and other organs. Pressure on the lungs makes it hard for the dog to breathe. The stomach, once filled with air, then folds over or rotates around itself, cutting off the supply of blood to the internal organs, and putting the dog’s health in serious danger. It is ESSENTIAL to seek veterinary help IMMEDIATELY. Carefully put your dog in the car and get to the vets ASAP. Notify the vets that you are on your way.
Signs of Bloat
- The stomach is distended and enlarged and is described as tight as a drum
- The stomach can sound gaseous
- Excessive salivation (drooling) with frothing at the mouth.
- Continuous attempts to vomit (unsuccessfully). Retching.
- Paleness of gums (possibly bluey – cyanotic as lack of oxygenation in blood)
- Weakening of the pulse
- Rapid heart beat
- Collapse: at this point things will be critical.
- Often as a prelude to bloat a dog will be off colour and restless. This is BEFORE the dog bloats.
Bloat will be treated by either pumping the stomach (Gastric Lavage) to free up any blockage of food or gas in the stomach which is potentially causing the bloat. Aspirating air from the stomach is also part of the treatment. If this doesn’t work then an operation to open up the abdomen to reveal a full or partial torsion of the stomach. The vet will ensure the stomach is empty and then place a stitch in effort to keep the stomach in the correct position.
Stomach bloat in dogs can be caused by one or a few of the following:
- Eating quickly and gulping in air.
- elevated food bowls (possibly, see below).
- dry foods containing the preservative citric acid
- dry foods that contain fat among the first four ingredients
- insufficient pancreatic enzymes
- dilution of gastric juices necessary for complete digestion, due to drinking too much water before or after eating,
- eating gas-producing foods,
- drinking too much water too quickly,
- extreme stress or excitement
- hereditary factors
- Dog which suffer with anxiety or nervousness
Tips to assist in preventing Bloat in Dogs
If you own a breed which is already susceptible to bloat, be aware of the early signs. Large breeds like Great Danes or St Bernards. It is the deep chested breeds that are at risk.
Large breeds should be fed two or three times a day rather than just once. This reduces the weight of the food in the stomach and spreads it out throughout the day.
- Have fresh, clean water available at all times but limit access directly after feeding.
- Avoid exercise or over excitement, one hour before and two hours after eating.
- Feed dogs individually and in a quiet area.
- Elevated feeders may or may not add to the risk, however, they are not recommended for breeds already susceptible to bloat.
- Any change in diet should be made over a period of a couple of weeks.
- Despite all the precautions, a dog may still develop bloat due to being genetically predisposed
Dogs more than seven years of age are more likely to suffer from bloat which can be down to other factors which would need investigating (such as tumours). Male dogs are more than twice as likely as females to develop bloat, whether or not they are neutered. Rapid eating and heavy post-meal exercise also seem to be risk factors for bloat.