BLOAT and why it is important to understand the symptoms.

Posted by vikram on November 16, 2012  /   Posted in Blog

There are few ailments in veterinary medicine that rival the seriousness of BLOAT also otherwise known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV).

I hope this article helps the reader in some way and the real reason I am writing this is because my Douge de Bordeaux puppy nearly died from bloat. His story is quite sad – starting from when I rescued him aged 7 months old. At that time, he suffered from a spinal injury. He was a pitiful sight, dragging himself around only on his front two legs and his only future was simply being put to sleep. Knowing that my invention – the Quincys mobility harness was going to help him slowly regain muscle and walk again, I decided to adopt him. Over the first few months he already started showing signs of improvement and after eight months or so he was walking without the aid of the Quincys harness. He was coming to all the shows, exhibitions, and everyone loved him. Most of all, I loved him.

It was around this time, one evening, I gazed upon him sitting in the garden, all miserable and an extremely full belly. I cursed him quietly a few times and smiled to myself thinking that somehow he’d managed to get into his food cupboard and helped himself to the food bag.

I saw him again an hour later still sitting in the same position and this time his stomach looked twice as big! Immediately I went to the food cupboard and found it was locked! I realised straight away that he had bloat and rushed him to the veterinary hospital located close to my hometown of St Albans, Hertfordshire.

The vet examined him and confirmed the dog had bloat. I explained to the vet that he was uninsured because of his injury and even explained what the dog had been through, thinking stupidly that maybe my bill will be reduced!! The vet explained that they would need to carry out x-rays and give the dog some medication which would cost around £350.00. Furthermore if the stomach was found to be twisted, then it would be my choice as to what to do.

This ‘my choice as to what to do’ confused me, and then I realised that he meant money. So I asked him what the cost of an operation would be, to which he replied, £2500 for the operation and a further £2500 for the aftercare.

Although I had the money to pay for this, I had to ask him one more question “So.. if a little old lady came in here with her dog at 11pm in the evening as I have done, and say…, she couldn’t afford to pay the £5000.00, let alone the £350.00, would you would simply put her dog to sleep”?

To which he replied, “If a charity stepped in and paid for the operation, of course we would operate, however, we are not a charity”.

Fortunately, my little puppy didn’t have a twisted stomach and he’s all okay now, however, it could have all ended differently for him if I had not realised the symptoms of bloat.

Its up to you to decide as to what to do, but for myself,

  • I have changed his food from Bakers to Barking Heads.
  • I no longer allow him access to the water bowl immediately before or after a meal.
  • I feed him smaller meals three times a day, and finally,
  • I feed all my three dogs separately to minimize any anxiety.

Now… lets get to telling you about Bloat In Dogs

There are few ailments in veterinary medicine that rival the seriousness of BLOAT also otherwise known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). Once bloat occurs, it is the speed is imperative and this determines whether or not your dog will live or die.

 

How does Bloat occur?

Bloat normally occurs when something goes wrong during digestion of food. Gases build up in the stomach so fast that the stomach blows up like a balloon, stretching the organ so much that normal circulation of blood to and from the heart is cut off. The stretching itself and the lack of blood to the stomach’s cells can cause cell death, or necrosis.

Even worse and more immediately serious, is, when the stomach actually “twists” (known as volvulus) at the top near the esophagus and at the bottom of the stomach at the pyloric valve. Here, the gas builds and builds so gets trapped within the stomach. As the stomach starts growing it cuts off circulation and irreversible damage is done to the cells. The dog goes into shock and then cardiac arrest. This can happen within several hours after the start of bloat. Even if you are not sure, its still best to rush your animal to the vets or an animal hospital IMMEDIATELY.

 

What Causes Bloat?

There are numerous reasons that bloat can happen in your dog.

A few examples of what is believed to be contributing factors are:

  • Large meals eaten at one time. It is recommend serving your dog two smaller meals a day, rather than just one big one.
  • Rigorous exercise done either before or after a meal. You should wait about two hours before feeding afterexercise and two hours again after eating before you let your dog run around.
  • Dry food, high in grain, causes fermentation during digestion which again causes gas. Dry food should have meat, meat meal and bone meal listed within the first few ingredients, NOT GRAIN. In other words, dry food should have more meat than grain in its ingredients. A few disagree with this, however, most would agree with this.
  • If only dry food is given, some people moisten it with water if it is a the better quality dog food. However, with lesser quality foods, meaning they are less meat-based and are mostly grains, it is better to NOT to wet the food, as water mixed with grain will start the fermentation process which has by-products of gas. But if the food is mostly meat, it’s OK, and can actually help with digestion. It is ideal to mix dry food with canned food where possible.
  • Gulping large amounts of water at one time during meals. Keep water within the dog’s reach at all times,except during meals.
  • Snacks and biscuits that are high in carbohydrates. Grains are carbohydrates.
  • Avoid dog food high in citric acid used as a preservative and also food that is high in fat.
Other factors which can also increase the Risk of Bloat includes:
  • Certain Dog Breeds — for example the Large breed dogs are most susceptible, although, certain small dogs can bloat too.
  • Dogs that are “deep barrel chested.” Meaning the length of the chest from backbone to sternum is long and the width of the chest is narrower.
  • Dogs that may have an ancestor history of bloating.
  • Underweight and thin dogs.
  • Fear and anxiety can also bring about bloating. Dogs that have anxiety should always eat in an environment made as peaceful as possible for them and away from other dogs.
  • Male dogs are more prone to getting bloat then the females.
  • Older dogs are more at risk than those that are younger.

How to know if your dog has bloat.

If you know your dog, you will find that most of the symptoms are behavioural at the beginning. The dog may slow down and look sluggish. The abdomen stretches to many times its normal size due to the increase in gas. If the stomach look blow up as if the dog looks pregnant, this is one of the first most obvious signs. Although, in some cases, this part of the bloat event can’t be seen. But, usually you can see the distended abdomen which will also feel very hard to the touch, like a ball that has been pumped up with too much air.

The built up internal gases cause SEVERE abdominal pain in your dog, so, you may see that your dog acting uncomfortable, pacing the floor, not being about to find a comfortable position to lie down or may make sounds like they are in pain.

The biggest, most obvious symptom is that the dog appears to be nauseated. They will unsuccessfully attempt to vomit and will retch and gag, but nothing comes up, or very little, if any. They will also attempt to have a bowel movement, assume the position, but again, nothing comes out. Excessive drooling is also a common symptom.

IF ANY OF THESE THINGS HAPPEN, CALL YOUR VETERINARIAN OR RUSH YOUR DOG TO THE NEAREST ANIMAL HOSPITAL. It is better to be safe than sorry. REMEMBER, there are only a few hours available to handle this problem, so time is everything in a case of bloat. Your vet will put everything else aside to address your dog’s condition.

 

How does your vet treat Bloat in a dog

There are only two basic things that are done to the dog in the case of bloat. The first thing a vet may try is to insert a tube down the throat making a passage for the gas to escape. But if the stomach has twisted, surgery is the only solution. The vet will have to make an incision into the stomach and relieve the gas that way. While in there, he may decide to perform what is called gastropexy. This is where the stomach is actually stapled into its normal position, or anchored into place, so that it cannot blow up should there be another episode of bloat.

Even if the dog has been relieved of the bloat with just a tube and not surgery, he should be surgically examined regardless, so that the vet may assess the damage done by the episode. Damaged parts of the stomach may need to be removed, or the patient’s owner may decide to allow gastroplexy since many dogs that experience bloat often go through it again at a later date. Sometimes only a day or two later, they may bloat again.

It is a good idea to have on hand at home an over the counter drug such as Phazyme, Mylanta Gas (not regular Mylanta) or Gas-X. They contain simethicone which helps reduce gas. This may buy you a little more time to get to a vet.

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