Who is Most at Risk?
- Large and giant dog breeds, such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Weimaraners, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Wolfhounds & Bloodhounds, are most at risk for bloat due to a deep and narrow chest. The incidence increases with age. Additionally, there is a familial association with this condition (it tends to run in families), and it is likely to happen again in the same pet if definitive treatment (surgery) is not performed.
- Ingestion of a large amount of food or air is also a risk factor for bloat. This might result from
- Dry food eaters and those without access to adequate water seem to be most at risk. Exercise after eating has long been accused of causing bloat, but clinical studies do not support this.
- Feed several small meals each day
- Do not feed from an elevated food bowl
- Offer water at all times
- Do not breed dogs with a history of bloat or their direct family members
- Try to reduce stress especially around feeding time
- Consider having a “gastropexy” performed as a preventive measure
What is Bloat and Why is It So Serious?
- Recent research has implicated two anatomical differences in dogs at risk for bloat that may contribute to the syndrome:
– loose stomach ligaments that allow for stretching of the stomach with gas and/or food
– delayed emptying of the stomach allowing for more pressure to build
- Once the stomach is distended and ligaments are stretched, the stomach can rotate and flip over, which prevents food and gas from escaping. Because the spleen is attached to the stomach by ligaments, it too can rotate and flip over, compromising its own blood flow.
- The distended stomach presses on the vena cava (one of the main veins that return blood to the heart). This can lead to reduced cardiac output, arrhythmias, shock, & ultimately death. Pressure on the diaphragm can restrict lung expansion and severely impair the ability to breathe. Increased pressure on the lining of the stomach can lead to sloughing of the tissue and ulceration with life-threatening infections as a result.
Symptoms of Bloat
- Dogs suffering from bloat will usually attempt to vomit, but are unable to bring anything up. They are nauseous and salivate excessively. They have a very distended, painful abdomen and are extremely restless. Their heartbeat may be irregular. As the disease progresses, blood pressure will drop, shock will develop, abnormal blood clotting may occur, and death is imminent without treatment.
- Overall mortality rates have been reported from 15-30% of affected animals
- Those dogs requiring removal of portions of the stomach have higher mortality rates
- If dogs are treated within six hours after the onset of symptoms, they have a much greater chance of surviving. Therefore, owners should provide veterinary care as soon as possible when a dog develops symptoms consistent with bloat.