Canine Bloat A Little Known Health Risk by Gary Adair
Bloat, Torsion or GDV (Gastric dilatation volvulus) are all frequently used terms for this life-threatening condition known to affect both deep-chested and large breed dogs. In fact, it’s a serious medical emergency and is the second leading cause of death amongst dogs after cancer. While breeds such as the Akita, Great Dane, German shepherd, St. Bernard, Irish wolfhound and Doberman pinscher are the most commonly predisposed breeds, many hunting dogs and other large, deep-chested mixed breeds are no less immune. Heredity is thought to play a role as well.
So what exactly is bloat and what are the symptoms? In layperson terms it is simply the swelling of the stomach due to an abnormal accumulation of air, fluid and/or foam in the abdomen, which results in a buildup of gas. This is most commonly referred to as gastric dilatation. As the stomach distends, there could be twisting (volvulus) between the food tube (esophagus) and at the upper intestines (duodenum), thus limiting the dog’s ability to relieve distention through belching or vomiting. This condition is known as gastric volvulus or torsion. In either case, multiple physiological events begin to occur — shock, low blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, cell damage, a buildup of toxins etc — although the typical signs of bloat are salivation, retching and abdominal distention. Getting your dog to the Vet is vital when the latter symptoms are initially observed!
While prevention is paramount and will be discussed momentarily, a medical procedure can be performed to prevent reoccurrence, for those dogs treated who survive and help those breeds which are most susceptible to this condition. Although used in emergency situations involving volvulus, gastroplexy or anchoring surgery can also be performed as a prophylactic measure. Talk with your veterinarian for more detailed information about this surgery.
Although there is no scientific evidence to support it, food given immediately before and especially after strenuous activity is the most common explanation for the cause of bloat. Other ways of minimizing risk are controlling obesity, stress and feeding smaller portioned meals two to three times a day.
Additionally, discourage the rapid consumption of food and water, although water should be readily available at all times and provide a diet consisting of more meat and less grain are other preventative measures. Dietary changes should be made over a 7-10 day period, as well.
Regardless of which term is used, bloat is a serious condition which many times results in irreversible consequences even death. Being aware of your dog’s daily well being, knowing the signs of bloat and whether heredity is an issue goes a long way in preventing this potentially life-threatening condition. As always, discuss all medical issues pertaining to your dog’s health with your veterinarian.