Bloat in dogs is a very serious medical condition that should be treated as an emergency. The technical name for bloat is gastric dilation and volvulus syndrome (GDV) and it occurs when the stomach dilates or expands with fluid and gas. Once the stomach expands the problems increase, as the stomach twists and rotates around its short axis. GDV needs to be treated quickly, as the twisting action can irreparably damage the body tissues, leading to death.
Assessing and Lowering Your Dog’s Risk of Bloat
Assess genetic risk factors. We are not entirely certain why bloat occurs but we do know that it can run in families. Determine your dogs relatives (littermate, parents) have had bloat. If they have, then your dog has a higher risk of getting it.
Evaluate whether your dog’s eating habits will increase its likelihood of getting bloat. How your dog eats will influence its risk of getting bloat. Feeding habits that can increase the likelihood of bloat include: 
- Feeding a dog from a raised bowl.
- Feeding a large amount of food or water at one time or over time.
- Once a day feeding.
- Vigorous exercise around feeding time.
- Rapid eating of food which means more air in the stomach.
- Conditions in which the outflow of food from the stomach is slowed or impeded.
- Feeding dry foods with a high oil or fat content.
Eliminate risk factors. While there are some factors you cannot change, such as the genetics and the build of your dog, there are some things you can do to lessen the risk of your dog getting bloat. Researchers at Purdue University performed a major study on bloat in dogs. Study results determined that there were some steps that dog owners can do to help prevent bloat. These steps are:
- Divide the food into two or more smaller servings a day.
- Do not feed from a raised bowl. Feed from a bowl on the ground.
- Make sure that fat isn’t in the top four ingredients of the food you feed your dog.
- Do not feed an all dry food diet. Include wet foods or large meat chunks in the diet.
- Do not moisten dry food.
- Wait one hour before feeding and two hours after eating before letting your dog exercise or before going for walks, etc.
- For dry food, feed no more than one cup per thirty pounds of body weight per meal (divided between at least two meals).
- If your dog is a greedy eater and gulps its food, invest in a food dish that forces the dog to eat slower, such as the slow feeder or fun feeder.
Diagnosing and Treating Bloat
Keep a look out for symptoms of bloat. The signs of bloat usually come on rapidly. These include:
- Pacing and restlessness
- Excessive salivation
- Enlarged abdomen (belly)
- Reluctance or inability to stand or walk.
- Rapid or weak pulse
- Pale gums
- Retching or dry heaving without bringing anything up. The esophagus is involved in the twist so nothing can come back through the mouth.
Take your dog to a veterinarian immediately if you see the symptoms of bloat. Keep in mind that this is a medical emergency and the dog needs to be taken to the veterinarian as soon as possible if bloat is suspected. Dogs can die soon after the signs appear due to damage done to internal organs, collapse of the circulatory system, toxin buildup, and shock.
- A dog that is brought into the veterinarian’s office is first given a physical examination and blood is checked for responses to internal organ damage. Radiographs (X-rays) are generally taken, which will show the bloated stomach along with the twist in the stomach.
- In some cases a needle is advanced into the abdominal cavity and suction is applied to the syringe. This is done to determine if the stomach has ruptured, an unfortunate outcome in some cases of bloat.
Get bloat treated. A tube may be passed through the dog’s mouth and into the stomach to relieve the pressure of air buildup. Occasionally a tube will be placed directly through the skin and muscle into the stomach to relieve the pressure in the stomach. An intravenous (IV) line will be placed in a vein to provide medications and fluids.
- The treatment of bloat is surgery to untwist the stomach and to suture part of the stomach to the inside of the abdomen wall to prevent it from recurring. This is called a gastropexy. If the stomach ruptured the stomach will be repaired and the internal abdomen will be flushed.
- Dogs will be closely monitored after surgery. Generally the dog will be placed on antibiotics and pain killers before and after surgery. Depending on your veterinarian clinic and how intensive the surgery was, the dog will need to remain hospitalized for up to 7 days.
- Sadly up to 15% of dogs with gastric dilation and volvulus do not survive surgery despite the skill of the veterinarian.
- ↑ http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/digestive/c_dg_gastric_dilation_volvulus_syndrome
- ↑ Small Animal Practice Client Handouts. Rhea V. Morgan. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2010
- ↑ http://tate.cx:82/redpc/node/243
- ↑ http://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/digestive/c_dg_gastric_dilation_volvulus_syndrome?page=2
- ↑ http://www.instituteofcaninebiology.org/bloat-purdue-study.html
- ↑ http://www.pacaf.af.mil/News/ArticleDisplay/tabid/377/Article/594871/kadena-vet-clinic-keeps-military-working-dogs-in-top-shape.aspx
- ↑ Handbook of Small Animal Gastroenterology. Todd R. Tams. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2003
- ↑ Textbook of Small Animal Surgery, Volume 1. Douglas H. Slatter. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2003