If you have a large dog, you should be aware of a digestive problem called "bloat." Bloat is the common name for a serious condition known as gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), which is one of the leading causes of death in giant dog breeds. Recognizing the symptoms of bloat is important because the dog’s life depends on early treatment by a veterinarian. When a dog experiences bloat, the stomach fills with air and/or fluid and may rotate on itself. If the stomach rotates (volvulus), the blood supply is cut off and the stomach begins to die. Because of this disruption in the blood supply, the dog’s condition worsens rapidly. Even with veterinary intervention, as much as 35% of the dogs that experience bloat die.
Bloat is caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Certain breeds are significantly more susceptible to bloat; it is much more likely to occur in large, deep-chested breeds such as Great Danes. If you see symptoms such as non-productive vomiting after eating, anxiety, excessive salivating, whining, pacing, restlessness, labored breathing, or distention of the abdomen, you need to get the dog to a vet immediately. In the advanced stages of bloat, especially if the stomach has twisted, the dog’s gums will be dark red, blue, gray or white and the dog will have a rapid heartbeat and a weak pulse. At this stage, death is imminent.
You can reduce the likelihood of bloat by taking the following precautions:
- Feed the dog two or three times a day, rather than once a day
- Limit water immediately after feeding
- Make sure the dog avoids vigorous exercise one hour before and two hours after eating.
- Feed the dog in a quiet location.
- Know the symptoms of bloat and if you suspect a problem, call your vet ASAP.
Because of the genetic factor, even if you take the precautions above, your dog may still experience bloat. If you have a large dog, talk to your veterinarian about what you can do to minimize your pet’s risk.