Bloat, also called gastric dilation-torsion, or GDV, is a swelling of the stomach from gas, fluid, or both. Bloat is a veterinary emergency; your dog will die if not treated! Certain breeds or families of breeds are prone to bloat which indicates a genetic component as well as linked to a chest depth/width ratio. It is important for you to know the signs of bloat, especially as your dog ages; the risk of bloat increases as the dog gets older. There are things you can do to help prevent bloat. If your dog does bloat, it is imperative you know the signs and get your dog to the vet immediately. It is a mystery to me why veterinarians and breeders do not educate owners as to the health risks in certain breeds (or in mixes that clearly look like certain breeds) prone to bloat. Any dog can bloat, however, at any age.
This is not meant to be an in depth discussion about bloat, but a brief synopsis that you can print and keep handy in case (hopefully not) you ever need it.
Symptoms can be subtle. Symptoms can include:
- pacing around continuously, or lying down in odd places, the corner of a room for example, and seeming to be uncomfortable
- salivating, panting, whining (whining is rare in collies)
- acts as if he can’t get comfortable
- acts agitated
- unproductive vomiting or retching
- excessive drooling or foaming
- swelling in abdominal region (this may or may not be noticeable) or the stomach has a hard, tight feeling
- the back can have a slight arch to it and dog has a reluctance to sit or lie down
Diagnosis and Treatment:
Examine your dog’s stomach and rib cage so that you understand and have a feel for a normal stomach area before and after eating. If you cannot easily feel the ribs on your dog, or your dog doesn’t have a “waistline” increase your dog’s exercise and put it on a diet!
Bloat is life threatening, do not wait until you see or feel an enlarged stomach. The vet must take a radiograph to decide if it is bloat, but only surgery can determine the extent of damage to the stomach. Do not let your vet tell you the dog only has a stomachache! Only a radiograph will tell you if there is gas in the stomach. The overall bloat fatality rate approaches 30% for dogs with a dilated, rotated stomach. In contrast, dogs properly treated have a greater than 80% probability of surviving a bloat episode and then leading a normal life.
If your dog has bloated, it must have surgery to determine the damage. The vet will perform stomach decompression, and the dog must have a gastropexy to tie the stomach down. If your dog is diagnosed with bloat, do not let the vet send you home. The risks of bloating again are great, 100%. Numerous reports show that gastropexy to prevent gastric rotation should be performed as soon as possible following stomach decompression on all dogs with gastric dilation, whether or not the stomach is thought to be rotated at the time. Re-occurrence rate following gastropexy is less than 5%. Surgery is now recommended immediately if it is determined the dog bloated.
If you think your dog has bloated, rush your dog to a veterinarian who can do emergency surgery. They will do immediate decompression, fluid therapy, and radiographs to rule out GDV.
If the vet recommends delaying surgery, get a second opinion immediately. Delay in surgery will decrease the dog’s chance of surviving. Once your dog has had surgery, he/she must be monitored for several nights. Do not leave your dog at a vet practice that cannot monitor your dog for the first 48 hours after surgery. If you must, take your dog to an emergency clinic for overnight monitoring.
Talk to your regular vet about bloat before it becomes an emergency, and what procedures they recommend. That way you will know, if this emergency comes up, where you need to take your dog to properly treat it. Older dogs can and do survive bloat, if they are treated quickly and have surgery--don’t let your vet say your dog is “too old” to survive. I know of one collie who had bloat surgery at age 11 and lived another 3 years. What determines success rate is the degree of damage to the stomach, the extent of shock, and the quickness of diagnosis and surgery, and round the clock follow-up monitoring for several days.
Suggestions for prevention vary and are still debated. This is a combination of
suggestions based on articles, research, and my personal experience/opinion.
Oil or fat listed in the first four ingredients increases the risk of bloat by almost 2.5 times. Risk is decreased by a higher number of meat-based ingredients included in the first four ingredients. Dr. Larry Glickman recommends picking a dry food with no fat listed among the first four ingredients. The theory is that while protein and carbohydrates move out of the stomach fairly quickly, fat is delayed in the stomach. Other fresh food is recommended, including fresh vegetables.
*Do not feed on raised food bowls (put the bowl on the floor),
*Feed more than one meal per day, preferably two meals per day, creating smaller amounts per feeding. Risk increases with larger volume of food fed once per day.
*Add fresh meet, and/or canned meet, and vegetables to the dry food,
*Avoid food with added fat/oil listed as one of the first four ingredients, do not add fat or oil to the food,
*Avoid foods preserved with calcium citrate,
*Keep your dog in good body condition (Exercise!), do not allow your dog to get fat, and muscle tone is equally important too,
*Be aware of labeling tricks; ingredients on labels are listed in descending order by weight. For example, if the amount of the first four ingredients weighs the same, the manufacturer can list them in any order they choose. “chicken, oats, corn, rice,” may look like the food has mostly chicken, but the ingredients are actually the same amount by weight.
Besides the recommendations above, I personally:
*feed two times a day,
*slightly moisten the food with water,
*add canned or fresh meat to each meal, (canned from a high quality manufacturer)
*restrict strenuous exercise for 30 minutes to an hour after eating,
*fresh water available at all times to the dog,
*provide ample exercise to keep my dogs in condition-especially the older dogs.
Risk factors for bloat by Amy Nesselrodt DVM, Collie Expressions Magazine 8/06