Bloat in dogs can be a life-threatening emergency and affects dogs of all breeds, young and old. Recognizing the symptoms early and getting effective treatment are critical for survival.
Two Bloat Conditions
There are two conditions related to bloating. The first one is known as gastric dilatation where the stomach becomes distended, filled with fluid and gas. The second type of bloating is volvulus, where the distended stomach rotates or twists, pushes up into the heart and can kill a dog. The spleen is attached to the stomach and also rotates with it, preventing fluid and air from escaping the stomach. It is impossible for the dog to belch or vomit, while fluid and gas continue to build up in the closed-off stomach. Since blood circulation is stopped, the tissue in the wall of the stomach dies.
This process creates quite a few other problems including:
• Blood disease
• Gastric perforation
• Shock to the circulatory system
• Cardiac arrhythmias
• Inflammation of the abdomen lining
Though bloat in dogs can occur at any age, middle-aged and older dogs seem to be the most vulnerable. Big-chested dogs or large breeds in general are predisposed to this condition. Small dogs rarely experience this type of bloating, however Dachshunds with a deep chest are susceptible. It happens so fast in the most active, healthy dog. It can occur after they eat a big meal, drink a large amount of water or exercise vigorously.
Signs Of Bloating
Signs of bloating in dogs include salivating, pacing, heaving, gagging, attempts to vomit and an enlarged abdomen. If you press on the belly, the dog may groan or whine. A hollow sound may be heard if you thump on the abdomen. In some cases, the abdomen may not appear distended at all but the dog may appear uncomfortable, lethargic or walk with a stiff leg. They might look extremely distressed, anxious or hang their head low.
Other signs include:
• Pale tongue and gums
• Weak pulse
• Rapid heart beat
• Labored breathing
Regardless, if you see any of these signs or symptoms, take your dog to your veterinarian immediately.
Time is very important for a quick, effective treatment. Your veterinarian may have to pass a long plastic or rubber tube from your dog’s mouth to the stomach. A rush of air and fluid from the tube is what brings relief, washing the stomach out, so to speak. The next 36 hours are critical and the dog should not eat or drink anything. Intravenous fluids are usually required and their normal diet gradually reestablished.
X-rays of the abdomen may be necessary as well as emergency surgery to reposition the stomach and spleen or even remove the spleen and part of the stomach if there is dead tissue. There is always a chance that the bloating can occur again.
Tips and suggestions to prevent bloating in your dog
- Feed your dog smaller meals, two to three times a day
- Do NOT feed your dog with a bowl that is raised unless advised otherwise by your veterinarian
- Some dogs tend to eat fast. Especially, if other dogs are in the home. Use dog food bowls specifically designed to slow down your dog during meals. Check out the Slo-bowl.
- Avoid dog food if FAT is listed in the first 4 ingredients on the label
- Avoid citric acid as an ingredient
- Restrict access to water for one hour before and after a meal
- No exercise after your dog eats a full meal. Allow time for him digest and process the food.