What is bloat?
Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is also known as bloat, stomach torsion, or twisted stomach. Bloat should be considered a life-threatening emergency! There are no home remedies for bloat, therefore DOG OWNERS SHOULD GET THEIR DOG TO AN EMERGENCY VET AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE IF THEY SUSPECT THEIR DOG HAS BLOAT. Dogs can die of bloat within several hours. Even with treatment, as many as 25-33% of dogs with GDV die.
In bloat (dilatation), due to a number of different and sometimes unknown reasons, the stomach fills up with air and puts pressure on the other organs and diaphragm. The pressure on the diaphragm makes it difficult for the dog to breathe. The air-filled stomach compresses large veins in the abdomen, thus preventing blood from returning to the heart. Once filled with air, the stomach can easily rotate on itself, thus pinching off its blood supply. Once this rotation (volvulus) occurs and the blood supply is cut off, the stomach begins to die and the entire blood supply is disrupted and the animal’s condition begins to deteriorate very rapidly.
Understanding the signs, prevention, and need for prompt treatment will help reduce the risk of mortality if your dog develops this problem.
Who gets bloat?
It is most common in large deep-chested dogs, and Samoyeds fall into this category. It is also more common in males and dogs with a first degree relative who has had bloat. Being underweight may contribute. Anxious and fearful dogs are more likely as well.
- Stress: Things like dog shows, changes of routine, new dog in the household, thunder storms or fireworks, other things you know stress your dog.
- Eating habits: elevated food bowls, rapid eating dry foods containing citric acid (made worse by moistening the food), dry foods that contain fat in the first four ingredients, drinking too much water before or after eating so the digestive enzymes are diluted, eating gas-producing food (soy products, brewer’s yeast, alfalfa), air gulping from drinking too much water too quickly. Exercise before and especially after eating.
Symptoms of bloat:
- Anxiety and restlessness may be one of the earliest warning signs
- Unsuccessful attempts at vomiting (they may produce foam or mucous). To some it may sound more like coughing so be sure to take a look when you think you hear your dog coughing.
- Unusual behavior such as asking to go out in the middle of the night when the dog doesn’t typically do this, especially if accompanied by an unsuccessful attempt to vomit.
- Hunched up appearance, caused by attempts to reduce discomfort/pain in abdomen.
- Bloated – tight and painful - abdomen may be a late finding. Don’t wait for this to occur
- Other Symptoms that may occur include pale gums, salivating or drooling, whining, pacing, trying to hide, excessive drinking, shallow breathing, odd stance and postures, drinking excessively, trying to defecate. The list is long.
Treatment: Get to a vet as fast as possible for evaluation and early treatment with IV fluids, medications as indicated. Gas will be removed from the stomach by NG tube or large needle aspiration into the stomach. Once stabilized the dog will typically go to surgery to evaluate the health of the stomach and surrounding organs, to reposition the stomach, and to suture the stomach to prevent it from twisting again (75-80% will develop GDV again if this is not done). Complications can arise as result of the shock and lack of blood supply to vital organs and these will be treated as needed.
- Be aware of the signs and symptoms and contact an emergency vet immediately upon suspicion of bloat.
- Feed large dogs two to three times a day instead of one large meal, be aware of the eating habit issues listed above and avoid as possible.
- Avoid heavy exercise before and after eating – I have a rule of waiting at least one hour after heavy exercise
- Before feeding and at least two hours after eating before heavy exercise. Some sources say as much as 4 hours.