Common, Deadly, and Too Little Known...

Common, Deadly, and Too Little Known: Bloat in Dogs

Written July 10, 2009; posted November 20, 2012

(Information purposes only. I am not a vet :)

Your options are euthanasia or surgery – if you catch it in time. It is a medical emergency called canine gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), commonly known as bloat.

Nicholas, our standard poodle, suddenly began pacing, panting, wandering to areas of the property he never frequents, and digging. The same behaviour he exhibits during thunder storms. But it was a beautiful day. I checked my pet’s health book and called the vet but it was after hours and I was directed to the emergency clinic. We wondered if it was an emergency and tried to figure it out ourselves. There was a live band with heavy bass playing for a wedding on the next property and we decided that was his problem. I gave him Rescue Remedy and he was quiet for awhile. When I got up to check on him at 1:00 a.m., he was lying with his eyes eerily wide open. His stomach looked a little round – not the basketball you might read about – so I checked our other poodle’s stomach. Round, too. I poked it. Soft. I poked Nicholas’. Hard. I absently reached for the reference book to look up “bloating”. There it was – the dog will die in a matter of hours!

We raced to the Barrie animal clinic and they immediately tubed him to try to release the gas. But x-rays showed his stomach was twisted (volvulus). Surgery was necessary to save him - with no guarantees, of course. The procedure meant returning his stomach to its normal position and stitching it to the ribs to prevent recurrence. We hugged him and spent the night at the clinic. He survived the surgery and we hugged his groggy head again before leaving. A beautiful rainbow met us outside the clinic door.

Several national health surveys conducted by Purdue University showed GVD to be the second leading cause of death, following cancer, in some giant and large breed dogs (Purdue University Prospective Study of CGVD (Bloat), www.vet.purdue.edu/epi/bloat.htm).

And Dr. Larry Glickman, Director of the Canine GVD Research Team at Purdue, states that the incidence of bloat has increased in dogs by more than 1500% in the past thirty years.

(Since I wrote this, I read a counter conclusion by Linda Arndt, Great Dane Breeder. You might want to Google “bloat” to get balanced information.)

Recognize these symptoms:

  • Restlessness, pacing and panting
  • Drooling
  • Retching and attempting to throw up without results
  • Distended, hard belly (may come later – don’t wait for it)

Waiting too long can also result in pale gums, weak pulse, rapid heart rate, shock, collapse and death.

Call your vet immediately if you suspect bloat, and say so. The dog is in constant pain and death can happen within a short time.

.Which dogs are most at risk?

  • Large breeds with deep narrow chests. Great Danes are the most susceptible but I’m now aware of two Dobermans, a Bouvier, two German Shepherds and a Bernese Mountain dog afflicted by it – four of the six died
  • Older male dogs
  • Rapid eaters
  • Anxious dogs
  • Dogs with a family history of it

Is bloat preventable? There are some things you can consider:

  • Feed smaller meals
  • No strenuous exercise before and after eating
  • Limit water intake at meal time
  • Make gradual diet changes
  • Keep feeding area stress free

There is a lot of information on the web – some of it contradictory, but all of it stressing the need to treat this as an emergency; for example,

From an article about Gastric Torsion/Bloat in Dogs . . . “This article is dedicated to Hershey, a chocolate lab who died of Gastric Torsion. If even one person learns about this disorder and takes precautions, his death will not be in vain.”

                                                and,

“If you are unsure, rush the dog to the vet immediately. This could be the difference between life and death for your dog.”

                                                and,

“WARNING: Did you find this page because your dog is showing symptoms of bloat right now? Then STOP reading and hurry to the vet this second!”

Nicholas is home now, still a wobbly-legged thirteen-year-old. Many would say, “Why would you spend the money on a dog that old?” I might have been one of them. But for us it was no contest. He lives to enjoy more walks in the forest, visits from friends, chicken dinners and naps on the couch. Hopefully, his last breaths on this earth will be peaceful and pain free.

Nicholas lived until age 16 and died at home on Canada Day, July 1, 2012