Every year thousands of dogs in the United States die of a highly dangerous but ultimately treatable illness. The worrying thing is that the vast majority of dog owners in the country have never even heard of this disease, or at least had never heard of it before it was directly threatening the life of their beloved companions.
This disease, commonly known as bloat, is serious business — even with advances in modern veterinary medicine, 30% of dogs that suffer from this illness will die from it. That number increases to 100% if the canine patient doesn’t receive immediate medical attention.
If this information is surprising or worrying to you, you are not alone!
Whether you had never heard of bloat before now, or if you knew of it but still have questions, this article is for you! We want to help spread awareness of this terrible illness and hopefully reduce the number of dog deaths by giving owners all the relevant information they need to be vigilant for the signs of bloat.
By reading this article, you can arm yourself with key knowledge about what bloat is, warning signs you need to be aware of, as well as the critical steps to take, should this disease ever strike your dog.
What is Bloat?
Bloat is the common name for Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (GDV). Essentially this condition refers to a situation where a dog’s stomach rapidly expands as it fills with gas, fluids, or food, causing the stomach to twist and flip on its axis.
This movement of the stomach, in turn, causes two very serious symptoms — blood in the hind legs can no longer return to the heart and begins to pool at the back end of the body, limiting the healthy flow of oxygen and sending the dog into shock. Additionally, the flipping of the stomach causes the spleen and pancreas to move. The limited blood and oxygen will cause the pancreas to start producing toxic hormones, eventually stopping the dog’s heart.
It’s worth noting that a less serious version of this problem exists as well — “simple bloat” refers to when the stomach expands (distends) without flipping. This situation is less serious and can potentially resolve itself on its own without leading to the deadly movement of internal organs.
However, simple bloat can quickly progress to GDV with little to no warning, so simply monitoring your dog at home is dangerous and should be discouraged. According to Dr. Maureen Luschini, once you notice bloating in your dog, you should immediately take it to your vet.
What Causes GDV?
Although it has been the subject of study for years, veterinary science has yet to reach a consensus on what exactly causes bloat in dogs. However, the science points towards a few factors that many agree seem to play an important role in causing this illness.
Statistically speaking, scientists agree that some breeds, particularly very large breeds and those with deep chests that are taller than they are wide, are more susceptible to bloat.
These include Irish Setters, Gordon Setters, Standard Poodles, Basset Hounds, Doberman Pinschers, and Old English Sheepdogs, with Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Weimaraners being the most at-risk of any breed. However, it must be remembered that any dog, no matter what breed, is potentially at risk for GDV.
Food and Water
Apart from size and breed, eating and drinking habits are the other factors considered most likely to play an important role in contracting GDV. Some of the potential causes include:
- Eating and drinking too quickly
- Drinking too much water in a short period of time
- Exercising right after eating
There has also been disagreement about whether or not the elevation of food bowls is a factor. However, no conclusive evidence has been found to link either low food bowls on the ground or elevated food bowls to the condition, and this topic remains hotly discussed.
Lastly, dog bloating seems to have a correlation with a few other factors. Older dogs between the ages of seven and twelve are more at risk than younger ones, and evidence suggests that the risk of GDV is hereditary, so dogs that suffer from the condition can pass that weakness to their offspring.
Lastly, it’s possible that stress plays a role in bloat as well and is worth considering when dogs undergo any stressful experience.
Key Symptoms to Watch For
As mentioned, bloat can develop very quickly, and it’s absolutely vital to spot telltale signs quickly and get your dog’s medical attention as soon as the possibility of bloat is detected. Here are the most important symptoms that can indicate the onset of a case of GDV:
- Excessive drooling or salivation
- A swollen abdomen or belly
- Restlessness or pacing
- Signs of distress or pain, especially whining when pressed on the belly
A dog displaying these traits should be taken to a veterinary hospital right away, where a diagnosis can be made with an x-ray.
Treatment of Bloat
As mentioned above, a case of GDV must be treated quickly if the dog is to be saved. While surgery is not always necessary if simple bloat has not yet advanced to a full case of GDV, surgical intervention is generally needed once the stomach has flipped.
1. Treat the Shock
For many canine patients, the first step will be to treat shock, which occurs in most dogs once their stomach has changed position. This is done using intravenous fluids and medication.
Once the pet has stabilized, the stomach must be deflated and turned back into the correct position, which can be done in several ways at the discretion of the veterinarian performing the surgery.
2. Fix With Surgery
Oftentimes this surgery is accompanied by a gastropexy, where the dog’s stomach is sutured to the side of the abdominal wall in order to prevent the stomach from twisting again in the future. Additionally, depending on how advanced the case has become, it may be necessary to remove tissues that have been damaged by lack of oxygen and blood flow.
Bloat and Pet Care Facilities
Here at Kennel Club LAX, we’re alert to this serious condition and are prepared to take care of your dog. Trustworthy pet care facilities should take precautions to keep your dog safe from bloat, being careful not to overfeed, not allowing pets to drink excessive amounts of water, and exercising before meals. We take every precaution and adhere to a diligent observation schedule.
We Know Pets!
GDV can be an expensive and distressing medical condition, so before you travel, always discuss guidelines for financial responsibility with your pet care facility manager and be sure to leave an emergency number where you can be reached.
Hopefully, increasing awareness of bloat and GDV can reduce the number of avoidable deaths among dogs. In the meanwhile, you have a right for your pet care facility to provide the best possible care. At Kennel Club LAX, we know a thing or two about good pet care, and we are always looking to share our expertise as a way to show our clientele we mean business! If you’re planning to travel through LAX any time soon and need quality care for your beloved dog, give us a call today!