Serious Abdominal Health Warning

By Amanda Harrison

Serious Abdominal Health Warning

Bloat is a life-threatening condition that acts rapidly and can lead to the death of your dog within hours if the condition is not recognized and treated immediately. Unfortunately, the cause of bloat remains unknown at this time, but you can learn to identify its symptoms before it may follow its deadly course.

It first helps to understand exactly what this condition is and how it can hurt your dog.  Dogs first experience a rapid and abnormal expansion of the stomach with gas. If this happens to your dog, the pressure can be so intense that its stomach could actually rotate. The rotation may then close both the entry to and exit from the stomach. That would put your dog in very serious jeopardy, since blood flow might also be restricted.

What could follow is an increase in pressure inside your dog's stomach, and compression of its surrounding organs. Eventually, shock could occur as a result of the restricted blood flow. Here are a few key facts about bloat:

  • You should always treat bloat as a medical emergency.
  • Bloat can kill your dog within hours after onset.
  • The cause of bloat is unknown.
  • Bloat affects 36,000 dogs in the United States each year; 30% die as a result of this condition.
  • Bloat can occur in dogs of any age.
  • Certain breeds are more susceptible to bloat, particularly deep-chested dogs. Dogs at particular risk include the following breeds: German Shepherds, Bouvier de Flandres, Great Danes, Boxers, St. Bernards, Doberman Pinschers, Bloodhounds, German Shorthaired Pointers, Irish Setters, Gordon Setters, Borzois, Irish Wolfhounds, Dachshunds, Labrador Retrievers, and Basset Hounds.

Early Warning Signs
Since bloat is a true medical emergency, early identification and treatment is critical to your dog's survival.

If your canine is in the early stages of bloat, it will be feeling a lot of discomfort. You may see your dog pacing and whining and trying unsuccessfully to get into a comfortable position. It may seem anxious, and it may lick or keep staring at its stomach. Your dog may also attempt to vomit, but probably without success.

Other signs of bloat can include weakness, swelling of the abdomen, and even symptoms of shock, such as increased heart rate and abnormally rapid breathing. Here are the warning signs to watch for, and if your dog demonstrates any of these, call your veterinarian immediately:

  • Whining
  • Inability to get comfortable
  • Pacing or restlessness
  • Pale gums
  • Unproductive attempts to vomit
  • Abnormally rapid breathing
  • Increased heart rate
  • Anxiety
  • Pain, weakness
  • Swelling of the abdomen (particularly the left side)

Prevention Pays
There are several steps you can take to help decrease the incidence of bloat in your dog. Feeding management offers the best method available for reducing risk until the exact cause of bloat can be identified. Try these proactive strategies:

  • Avoid having your dog exercise for one hour before, and two hours after meals.
  • Don't allow your dog to drink large amounts of water just before or after eating or exercise.
  • If you have two or more dogs, feed them separately to avoid rapid, stressful eating.
  • If possible, feed at times when after-feeding behavior can be observed.
  • Try to avoid abrupt diet changes.
  • Feed your pet small amounts of food frequently, two to three times daily.

Amanda Harrison is a writer and dog expert whose work can be seen in animal publications nationwide.

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Posted on October 16, 2010

gioblue says: Whats up yall! Just popping in to introduce myself and tell you that Im looking forward to being a part of this community. Found a ton of informative posts already. Great stuff!

Posted on June 28, 2008

Betty says: Do American Bulldog puppies (ours is 13 weeks old) get bloat as young as he is? What are the symptoms? Thanks for any information you can give me about possible bloat in American Bulldog puppies, especially at what age this can happen and can they get tummy aches and not have bloat? Betty

Posted on November 13, 2007

Sid says: I would hate to have my dog have bloat. Maybe it;s because of fleas or rabies.

Posted on October 17, 2007

Evon Shires says: Wonderful article. I have two suggestions to add -- one which might buy a little time as bloat becomes deadly rather quickly. I keep Gas-X or Bean-O tablets available at all times. If I were to so much as suspect the dog might be starting to bloat, I would immediately dose the dog WHILE THERE IS STILL THE ABILITY TO GET SOMETHING DOWN INTO THE STOMACH. Once the stomach goes into torsion, nothing goes in/nothing comes out and its a race against the reaper. And two, it has also been suggested that susceptible breeds should be given their dry dog food moistened with water or broth. This way the food has the ability to expand BEFORE it is contained by the stomach walls.

Posted on October 7, 2007

Ellen S. Byers says: I enjoyed reading this report. I have 5 adopted "Babies" so anything that I can learn to better care for them is very appreciated. Thank you. My pets are 2 Chihuahuas, a Cairn Terrier,a Jack Russell, and a Pomeranian. They are quite a handful to care for, but we love them all very much and would not want to lose them. Thanks again for your tips. Ellie

Posted on January 16, 2011

Annemarie says: I have tow italian grayhounds. One 7 and one almost 14 years old. The older one is developing fatty tumors all over her body. They are not overwaight either. What couses this situation?

Posted on March 13, 2011

anna says: The Anti Obesity drug makers and diabetes drug makers take in 10 billion$$$$ every year with no cure!! Food Chemicals are the cause of the diabetes and obesity crisis IN DOGS AND PEOPLE The FDA and Drug makers know this and are laughing to the Billionaire$$$ bank The food chemicals break the gut(insulin) and this is the cause of the diabetes and obesity crisis A filmmaker has been reversing diabetes and Obesity in now 10 countries and the drug makers do not promote the story just google SPIRIT HAPPY DIET

Posted on May 11, 2011

Sheri says: Two of my siblings lost German Shepherds to this horrible condition.  So tragic! We were told dogs should be fed with their food raised on a pedestal.  Something about the angle being  helpful in preventing this.

Posted on June 8, 2011

Crystal says: Raised dishes for some breeds is highly dangerous if they are already prone to bloat. This is from an article on -"The Glickman et al study found that use of a raised feeder increases the risk of bloat by 110%. Dr. Glickman's data showed that "approximately 20% and 50% of cases of GDV among the large and giant breed dogs, respectively, were attributed to having a raised food bowl." (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:1492-1499). It should be noted that Dr. Glickman's study was confined only to large and giant breed dogs."

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