Risk Factors and Prevention of Bloat in Dogs

Understanding the Risk Factors for Bloat in Dogs

Gastric dilatation-volvulus, commonly referred to as GDV or “bloat”, is a common cause of death for several large and giant breeds. It is a life-threatening disorder and if left untreated, results in death.

Bloat occurs when the stomach fills with food, water and/or gas. This results in increased pressure that enlarges and compresses the stomach and eventually causes the stomach to rotate or twist into an abnormal position. 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.

Common signs of “bloat” include excessive drooling and unproductive vomiting. 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.

Breeds thought to be at high risk include: Akita, bloodhound, collie, Great Dane, Irish setter, Irish wolfhound, Newfoundland, rottweiler, Saint Bernard, standard poodle and Weimaraner.

Risk Factors for Canine Bloat

Dr. Larry Glickman, an epidemiologist at the Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine, conducted a study on canine bloat, where he followed over 1,900 dogs to help identify risk factors. Risk factors include:

Several previously popular theories regarding the risk factors for bloat were not substantiated during Dr. Glickman’s study. There was no correlation of bloat risk to exercise before or after eating or to the timing or volume of water intake before or after eating. There was also no correlation of bloat to vaccinations or to a particular brand of food. In a newer study published in January/February 2006 issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (JAAHA), also found ” Neither an increasing number of animal-protein ingredients nor an increasing number of soy and cereal ingredients among the first four ingredients significantly influenced GDV risk.”

Treatment for Canine Bloat

It is important that dogs showing signs of bloat be taken immediately to a veterinary for emergency care. Treatment generally includes intravenous fluids to treat shock, decompression of the stomach with either a stomach tube or by use of a hypodermic needle that enters the stomach through the side of the abdomen, can help relieve the pressure. Emergency surgery is then recommended to evaluate the health of the stomach and to return it to its normal position. Once the stomach is evaluated and returned to the normal position, a “gastropexy” is done. A gastropexy secures the stomach to the body wall to help prevent future episodes of bloat. Some dogs may also require removal of a damaged portion of the stomach wall or a damaged spleen. With early diagnosis and prompt treatment, approximately 80% of dogs with GDV will live.

Prevention of Bloat

There is much to still be learned about the causes and the best methods to prevent bloat. The following are current thoughts on the best methods for prevention:

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