We just adopted a boxer-mix and were told to watch for signs of “bloat” in our dog. What is bloat and what are the symptoms?
Worried in Woodland Heights
Canine bloat, or more technically, gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), is a top killer of dogs–especially of deep-chested giant and large breeds, such as Great Danes and Standard Poodles.
“A dog can go into shock from bloat because the stomach expands, putting pressure on several large arteries and veins. Blood does not get through the body as quickly as it should,” continues Dr. Alicia Faggella, DVM. “In addition, the blood supply gets cut off to the stomach, which can cause tissue to die, while toxic products build up.”
What causes bloat?
“We don’t know exactly why bloat happens,” says Dr. Faggella. “Some people do all of the ‘wrong’ things, and their dogs don’t experience it,” she says, “while some do all of what we think are the ‘right’ things, and their dogs do.” But the most widely recognized and accepted risk factor is anatomical – being a larger, deep-chested dog, like your Boxer.
What are the symptoms of bloat?
The “hallmark” symptom of bloat is unsuccessful vomiting. Unsuccessful vomiting means that nothing (except for possibly mucous or foam) comes up when your dog tries to vomit. This vomiting might happen every few minutes. Another sign is pale or off-color gums. Dogs who are experiencing bloat feel really horrible so watch for lethargy (or alternatively, anxiety) and a general feeling of malaise.
How can you prevent bloat?
Especially if your dog is one of the high risk breeds or has experienced bloating in the past, you want to feed two or three smaller daily meals rather than one large one. If yours is a multi-dog household, sometimes competition can cause one or more of the dogs to eat too quickly. There are things you can do to slow a gobbler down.Try spreading the food out on a cookie sheet or putting your dogs in separate rooms to reduce the competition among them at mealtime. A slower, more even rate of food consumption will help reduce the amount of air your dog swallows, thereby reducing the opportunity for bloat.
Vigorously exercising your dog immediately before or after a feeding is dangerous too, as is allowing your dog to drink excessive amounts of water after a feeding. Also consider what you feed your pet, as that can increase her risk of getting bloat. Dog food that is comprised of corn, wheat and other carbohydrates create excess gas in your pet, which can cause bloat. To prevent bloat, always feed your pet species-appropriate food of the highest quality you can afford. Also, while it has not been proven, vets and dog owners alike suspect that elevated pet feeding “tables” increase the risk of your dog getting bloat.
What do I do if I suspect bloat?
Go to the vet immediately. Bloat can kill a dog very quickly without medical intervention. While some less acute cases of bloat may resolve themselves, it often takes an experienced veterinarian to know just how serious the problem may be, and whether surgical intervention is required to save the dog’s life.
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