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Bloating in Dogs is Almost Always Fatal if Not Treated Immediately

Bloating: My female Dachshund is bloated and has been crying all day. What can I do for her?

There is a difference between a dog that is constipated and one that is bloated. Please read the following information and determine for yourself which best fits your dog.

If a dog is not given veterinary treatment within a few hours of developing gastric torsion, most likely he will die. Because bloat is such an acute, life-threatening condition, a dog who develops it when alone usually is found dead by her owner, highlighting the importance of immediate veterinary attention.

Gastric dilation and torsion (more commonly referred to as bloat) is a serious medical emergency that often ends in death.

In this condition, the dog's stomach becomes dilated with gas and twists on itself, blocking off blood flow to the stomach and preventing the stomach from emptying. This results in further buildup of gas and initiates a vicious cycle.

Purdue University Veterinary college has done the most extensive study of bloat and the factors involved. Dogs that seem to be most at risk are large dogs with a deep chest and a small waist. There are some indications that a deep, narrow chest is a higher risk than a deep, wide chest. Canine bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is the number-one cause of death for several large and giant breeds.

When the stomach twists, it actually crimps the inflow and outflow of gastric contents and blood to and from the stomach. This in turn cuts off the blood supply to the organ causing a cascade of events that can eventual cause death. Approximately 30 percent of dogs that develop bloat die or have to be euthanized.

Because the stomach is twisted, the esophagus (the tube that goes to/from the stomach) is crimped; the dog cannot productively vomit or swallow their saliva. The abdomen expands and gets very distended. The abdominal expansion is more obvious in some dogs than others depending on their confirmation because some large deep-chested dogs may have a large portion of their stomachs under their rib cage which makes the distention less obvious. Dogs are often restless and uncomfortable as this is a very painful condition.

Among purebred dogs, the Great Dane has the highest incidence of bloat, followed by the Saint Bernard, Weimaraner, Irish Setter and Standard Poodle. Doberman Pinschers, Irish Wolfhounds, and Borzoi also have a higher incidence of gastric torsion than smaller dogs with barrel-shaped chests. Any dog that fits the profile, purebred or mixed breed, should be watched for signs of bloat.

Another factor that contributes to bloat is eating rapidly. Dogs who are picky, slow eaters seem to have a lower incidence of bloat than dogs who scarf down their food like there's no tomorrow.

Drinking large amounts of water after eating may contribute to this condition. Most dry foods expand when water is added, some more so than others. It is thought that drinking a large amount of water after ingesting a large meal may cause the dry food to expand in the stomach to a mass that the stomach was not intended to hold.

Add to this the air that was swallowed and the stomach can swell to a dangerous size. Water may also dilute the digestive juices in the stomach to a point that they cannot do their job, which may cause gas to build up. Food and exercise are not always the problem. Some dogs experience bloat with none of the risk factors being present.

A dog suffering bloat has

  • Distended abdomen

  • Retches

  • Salivates

  • Has trouble breathing

  • May pace back and forth

  • Appears very uncomfortable

The most common time that dogs get bloat is between 2:00 and 6:00 AM, 7 to 10 hours after eating and while the owner is sleeping. The most common age at which dogs get bloat is between 4 and 7 years; younger dogs have a lower risk and older dogs a somewhat higher one.

Dogs who have suffered from bloat should, in the future, be fed multiple, small feedings each day rather than a single large meal.

Even if the problem is resolved this time, it will almost certainly happen again. Your dog is predisposed to gastric dilation, which can lead to torsion, a partial twist, or volvolus, a complete 360 flip of the stomach. If this occurs, immediate surgery is needed to save the dog’s life, and unfortunately, in many cases it is already too late.

Returning the stomach to its normal position is the first concern, to relieve pressure on the vein that is pinched and return blood flow to the heart. If too much stomach tissue has died from lack of blood, the dog will probably have to be euthanized.

Summing up known risk factors

 Dogs with deep narrow chests and small waist.

 Large or giant breed.

 Being middle-aged or older.

 Having parents or litter mates who bloated.

 Fast eaters.

 Eating from a raised food bowl.

 Nervous, fearful, or aggressive personalities.

 Dogs fed only dry food.


See also: Is it bloat or constipation?