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Have You Ever Heard of "Bloat" (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus) in Dogs?

No? Well, you're not alone! But it's good to know a little bit about it, as it is a very serious condition in dogs which can quickly result in death.

What is it?

When "bloat" occurs, the dog's stomach fills with air, food or fluid, making it expand. Pressure on other organs builds up, the blood stops from returning to the heart, which subsequently sends the dog into shock and can make the heart stop. In addition to that, the stomach can flip or rotate and toxic hormones may accumulate.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus develops without a warning, can progress quickly and is always an emergency. Dogs can go into shock very quickly once "bloat" occurs, and every minute without treatment increases the risk of further damage, and potentially death.

What are the causes?

"Bloat" can occur at any age but it is seen more often in middle-aged dogs. All breeds can be affected but more so large breeds with deep chests.

It is still unknown what triggers it specifically but some risk factors include:

  • Quickly eating

  • Overeating

  • Drinking large quantities of water very quickly

  • Using a raised food bowl

  • Stress and Anxiety

  • Exercise after eating

  • Genetic factors

  • Increased age

How can I spot it?

  • Restlessness and pacing

  • Swollen or painful abdomen

  • Look of distress

  • Retching or unsuccessful attempts to vomit

  • Excessive drooling

  • Pale gums

  • Panting or rapid breathing

  • Collapsing or inability to stand

How can it be treated?

When you spot any signs, you should seek medical aid as soon as possible, as it increases the dog´s chance of survival. Without treatment, your dog could go into shock within only 1 or 2 hours. Depending on the severity of the "bloat", surgery might be required. The stomach will be deflated and put into its correct position, damaged tissue removed and, if needed, the stomach will be sutured to the abdominal wall to keep it in place in the future.

How can it be prevented?

None of the measures guarantee that your dog won’t ever bloat, but they might decrease the risk and severity:

  • Feed smaller portions more frequently during the day

  • No exercise on a full stomach

  • Do not feed from a raised food bowl

  • Do not let the dog eat too fast

  • Do not let the dog drink large amounts of water at once

  • A gastropexy is possible as a preventive measure

If you notice anything unusual about your dog and spot some of those symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact your vet. It quite literally might be the matter of life or death for your dog.

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