Diseases and Conditions: The Dangers of Bloat in Dogs

Welcome to an essential discussion about bloat—a serious and rapid emergency that can affect dogs. In this article, we'll delve into the details of gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), commonly known as bloat, and understand why it requires immediate attention and intervention.

Understanding Bloat and its Severity

The stomach's natural position is high in the abdomen, holding a small amount of gas, mucus, and the food being digested. It follows a rhythmic pattern of contraction to digest food and pass it to the small intestine. However, in bloat, the stomach becomes distended many times its normal size due to gas and/or food accumulation, leading to excruciating abdominal pain. In a peculiar twist of fate, the bloated stomach can rotate, cutting off its blood supply and trapping gas inside. This twisted condition, scientifically termed gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), is nothing short of a life-threatening catastrophe. Within hours, the dog's health deteriorates rapidly, calling for urgent action.

Risk Factors for Bloat

Large dogs weighing over 99 pounds face an approximate 20 percent risk of bloat. Additionally, the risk increases with age. Breeds with a deep chest structure, such as Great Danes, Greyhounds, and setters, are traditionally more susceptible. However, bloat can affect any dog, including small breeds like Dachshunds and Chihuahuas.

The precise cause of individual bloat cases remains elusive. While no specific diet or ingredient has been conclusively linked to bloat, certain factors may influence the risk, as discussed below:

Factors Increasing the Risk of Bloat

  • Increasing age
  • Having close relatives with a history of bloat
  • Eating rapidly
  • Feeding from an elevated bowl
  • Consuming dry food with fat or oil listed in the first four ingredients

Factors Potentially Decreasing the Risk of Bloat

  • Adding table scraps, canned food, or non-kibble supplements to the dog's diet
  • Possessing a happy or easy-going temperament
  • Feeding a dry food containing calcium-rich meat meal among the first four ingredients
  • Eating two or more meals per day
  • Cereal ingredients such as soy, wheat, or corn in the first four ingredients do not increase the risk.

Detecting Bloat in Your Dog

Bloating in dogs is marked by distress, frequent attempts to vomit, and a hard and distended upper abdomen due to gas accumulation. However, in well-muscled or overweight dogs, the distention might not be as apparent. These symptoms can also be observed in other emergencies, necessitating radiographs for accurate diagnosis. The hallmark of bloat is a sudden onset of abdominal distention, distress, anxiety, and pain, accompanied by multiple unproductive vomiting attempts. While some dogs may not exhibit classic symptoms, it's better to be cautious and seek immediate veterinary attention when in doubt.

Emergency Treatment: A Race Against Time

Saving a bloated dog's life requires immediate action on multiple fronts. The stomach must be decompressed to relieve the pressure on vital blood vessels. Rapid intravenous fluids are administered to reverse shock and maintain circulation. Additionally, assessing and stabilizing the heart rhythm is vital, as a particular and dangerous rhythm problem, known as premature ventricular contraction (PVC), can occur with bloat.

The Crucial Role of Surgery

Stable bloated dogs should undergo surgery without delay. The procedure helps assess and repair internal damage, including the removal of nonviable tissue on the stomach wall. In some cases, the spleen may also twist, necessitating its removal. The surgery concludes with a gastropexy, where the stomach is tacked to its normal position, significantly reducing the risk of future twisting.

Statistical Insights

Studies have shed light on the outcomes of bloat cases. While preventive gastropexy surgery significantly reduces the recurrence rate of bloat, it is not an absolute guarantee against twisting. Breeds at higher risk, like Great Danes, benefit immensely from prophylactic gastropexy.

Being aware of bloat and its risk factors is crucial, especially if you have large or deep-chested breeds. Knowing the signs and seeking immediate veterinary care can be life-saving. Preventive gastropexy is a wise choice for at-risk breeds, ensuring the well-being of our beloved canine companions. Remember, preparation and swift action are key to countering this mother of all emergencies—bloat. Let's be vigilant and keep our furry friends safe and healthy!

Don't have a vet in your area yet? We can help you find a local veterinarian.

If you have more questions, the GeniusVets Telehealth platform will give you unlimited access to text and/or video calls with board-certified veterinarians! To learn more click here.