Canine Bloat


by Lee Westo 

In this article we wish to cover several areas, first to define what "bloat" is, secondly, some of thecauses of "bloat", and thirdly, how can it be prevented.  "Bloat" is the term that is used when referring to any one of three related conditions.  The first condition being when the stomach swells up with gas and fluid.  This is known as acute gastric dilatation.  Some of the indications of this condition within your dog may be: excessive salivation and drooling, extreme restlessness, attempts to vomit and defecate, evidence of abdominal pain (the dog whines and groans when you push gently on the stomach area) and abdominal distention(swelling).  If your dog is able to belch or vomit, quite likely the condition is not caused by a twisting of the stomach.  You can walk your dog until the distress is gone, or if distress continues, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible.  Keep walking the dog.        

The second condition is a continuation of the state of acute gastric dilatation.  If the dog is unable to find relief, the stomach continues to distend.  At some point, and this varies from individual to individual, the stomach may suddenly twist on its long axis.  If the stomach twists 180 degrees or less, this condition is called torsion.  Should the stomach twist in excess of 180 degrees, the third condition is referred to as volvulus 

The initial indications of torsion and/or volvulus are the same as acute gastric dilatation, except that the distress displayed by the dog is more severe.  The "prayer position" may be assumed by the dog due to it not wanting to stand or walk.  [The "prayer position" is when the dog places its paws and chest on the ground and the hind quarters are raised.]  The dog will breathe rapidly, the mouth membranes will be cold and pale, and the dog may collapse. RUSH YOUR DOG TO A VETERINARIAN CLINIC NOW!!  The only  thing that can save your dog now, is prompt medical treatment by a veterinarian. 

What are some of the possible causes of "bloat", and what can be done to lower the chances of it happening to your dog? According to the studies researched by the author, "bloat" usually affects dogs that are of the large, deep-chested breeds.  One study had dogs with an average size of 58 pounds.  It rarely occurs in the smaller breeds.  Dogs seem prone to "bloat" between the ages of four and seven years of age, and two-thirds (2/3) of the dogs were male.  "Bloat" occurred in dogs who tended to eat large quantities of dry kibble, followed by drinking large amounts of water.  Especially dangerous was when a period of vigorous exercise follows the meal and water combination.  A dog with an individual history of digestive upsets may suddenly experience the acute stages of G.D.V.  

When a particular breed is known to be susceptable to "bloat", the owners need to exercise more caution and have a good knowlege of what to do in case of emergency.  A good to excellent relationship with your veterinarian will help facilitate your knowlege.

The following measures have been shown to help prevent some cases of bloat, but they will not prevent all cases.  This is due to the fact that research has shown other possibilities as contributing to the tendancy to bloat.  An example of this would be the question of blood chemical imbalance affecting peristalsis.  [Peristalsis is the contracting muscular movement of the stomach during digestion of food.] 
  •  Feed your dog several small meals, instead of one large meal per day.
  • Soak the dry kibble in liquid for thirty minutes prior to feeding.  The kibble will not expand in the dog's stomach causing distress.
  • Don't allow rough housing or strenuous exercise on a full stomach, or right after a meal.  
  • Limit the amount of water the dog is allowed to drink immediately after eating his/her meal.   For the larger dogs, elevating their dinner dish off the floor to a comfortable eating position will keep them from gulping large amounts of air with their food. 
  • Never allow the dog to "snack" on uncooked scraps of dough that contains yeast. This would include bread dough, sourdough bread, pancake batter, cake and cookie batter, and other things like this.