Bloat in Dogs
Bloat is one of the frightening things that can happen to your pet as one minute he’s coming in for dinner, and then next he’s going into shock, only to become comatose and die, all before you have had a chance to wonder what happened. Bloat is a common name for Torsion and Gastric Dilation-volvulus or GDV, both of which are critical and need immediate medical attention. Most often it is our larger breed dogs that are prone to bloat – with some even having a predisposition to it. Akitas, Great Danes, German Shepherds, Newfoundlands, Saint Bernard’s, Mastiffs, etc., the giant breeds and large breeds with the deep-chests are those common to find themselves with such problems and unfortunately, it is these most gentle beasts that find their lives cut short by this unpredictable and complicated condition.
Description of Bloat
Bloat typically manifests through gastric distention, expansion of gas, fluid, and or food in the stomach and is usually the result of large hastily eaten meals, possibly followed with large amounts of water, and finally considerable amounts of exercise, usually within the first few hours after eating. The torsion or volvulus that occurs in bloat, are terms that describe the stomach rotating, essentially flipping over, causing an abnormal twisting of the intestines resulting in intestinal obstruction that limits the dogs ability to relieve the gas or excess fluid by vomiting or belching, and constriction of the intestines and esophagus, strangulating blood flow causing necrosis or gangrene, basically death of the blood starved tissue.
Once the blood supply is cut off, other ill-physiological events occur. Cardiac arrhythmia takes place once the blood returning to the heart decreases. Toxins build up throughout the body while it goes into shock. The stomach can rupture causing peritonitis.
While the exact cause of bloat is hard to fully understand, it is generally understood to occur following large amounts of food followed by extreme exercise. It is this exercise that causes stomach to expand with gas causing the distension that leads to more. If caught in time, a veterinarian will have the ability to insert a large tube down the dog’s esophagus to relieve the gas from the stomach. Alternatively, if it is caused by liquid and or food, this will give the distension a chance to also escape allowing a better chance of survival.
If relief hasn’t been provided, surgery is the next and immediate course of action and serves to untwist the stomach. This is a complicated and expensive procedure. Anesthesia is provided to the dog during preparation while shave and prep the abdominal area. The doctor will usually cut an incision from the sternum down to the groin to pull out the stomach and intestines. After untwisting the organs he also checks for signs of necrosis as the dog won’t be able to survive with dead tissue throughout the organs. If there are signs of necrotic tissue, the doctor will attempt to remove what he can. If signs are good the doctor will usually tack and anchor the stomach permanently to the abdomen to prevent any bloat recurrences.
Signs and Symptoms of Bloat
Most dogs with symptoms of bloat will have abdominal distention that you can both see and feel to the touch. Abnormal salivating and dry heaving will emerge as well as restlessness, lethargy and a rapid heart rate. A very obvious sign of discomfort will show in your dog – some will even look to you for help with confusion and fear in their eyes. These symptoms manifest of a short period of time and it is imperative to take your pet to the veterinarian at once – as no dog survives Bloat without treatment.
Prevention of Bloat
Prevention through the use of prophylactic measures for those that have a predisposition to bloat is the best coarse of action. There have been professionals agree that predispositions to bloat can be inherited. For those dogs and people, extra measure and caution should be taken including prophylactic gastroplexy. Furthermore, smaller feeding schedules i.e. 2 – 3 meals per day should be set. A couple of hours of rest should always follow any meal. Some dogs seem to get a big deal of energy after a meal and should be impeded.
All dogs are prone to bloat no matter the breed. Simple safeguards should be used – even if it is just a simple routine of eating, then lying down. Keep meal portions small and keep an eye out for signs of discomfort. If you do this, you help keep your pet around for a happier, healthier life.
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