It is vital that you do everything you can to prevent bloat in your canine companions. It isn’t just a “bit of wind” that will exit their body through flatulence!
Bloat is the commonly-used term for a life-threatening condition in dogs called gastric dilatation volvulus, or canine GDV. The word gastric means ‘of the stomach’, dilatation refers to the abnormal enlargement of a part of the body, while volvulus means a twisting of the intestine causing an obstruction. Put simply, bloating involves excessive amounts of solids, liquids or gas in the digestive system and GDV occurs when the stomach fills with gas (bloat) and twists around on itself.
If this happens to your furry friend then there is no relief for them. There is no chance of defecation, belching or flatulence. The only answer to this problem is to rush your pet to the veterinary immediately!
Wherever possible, we prefer to look at prevention rather than cure, so in this article we will help you to reduce, even eliminate, dog bloating and hopefully avoid you ever having to deal with the worst-case scenario.
How is Bloat in Dogs Caused?
Let’s face it, most of our furry friends have no ‘full’ control when it comes to eating and will happily devour what you put in front of them. The most common reasons for bloating are overeating, eating too fast or drinking water too quickly.
Another thing that can create bloating is a lot of activity right after a meal. Most of us learned when we were kids to let our food settle down before we went out to play. This was very good advice and the same applies to your furry friend.
Which Dogs are Most at Risk of GDV?
A bloated stomach can be a problem for any dog, both male and female. Studies have shown the risk of GDV increases with age and is five times more likely in pure-bred dogs than in crossbreeds. Body weight is also strongly associated with increased odds of GDV. Dogs weighing more than 40kg are significantly more likely to suffer from the condition than those weighing less than 10kg. Also, the most severe forms of bloating and GDV usually occur in adult dogs and senior dogs. It does not normally happen to puppies.
Some breeds are more susceptible to this than others, especially large, deep-chested breeds. Here are some of the breeds that are most at risk:
• Saint Bernard
• Great Dane
• Bernese Mountain Dog
• German Shepherd
• German Wirehaired Pointer
• Cane Corso
• Great Dane
• Labrador Retriever
• Bassett Hound
What Physically Happens When a Dog has Bloat?
The distended stomach presses on the diaphragm and other internal organs, causing problems with the circulation and respiratory system. This makes it difficult for your dog to breathe and for their heart to get blood and oxygen around the body, as it should. Your dog will very rapidly go into shock. While the stomach is twisted, the blood supply to the stomach and also sometimes the spleen is affected meaning that the stomach wall and spleen can start to die.
What are the Symptoms of Dog Bloating?
The most obvious symptom of bloating is where your dog’s tummy goes hard or swells up like a balloon. A dog with GDV is likely to feel pain when you press on their belly. But there are signs that are not obvious, such as them trying to vomit or defecate but unable to. Also watch out for your dog walking around aimlessly on a continual basis.
Sometimes a pooch with a bloated stomach problem hardly moves at all. They can also start breathing heavily. If the bloating is really getting severe then their gums turn pale, they may froth at the mouth and their heart starts to race.
What Treatment is Available for Dog Bloating?
GDV is one of the most serious of all pet emergencies.
To remove a twist in their stomach, a vet needs to perform surgery so that entrance and exit points are cleared and the stomach functions normally again.
After receiving treatment for a twisted stomach a number of dogs end up going back to the vet again because the problem returns. If this happens a vet can perform a gastropexy where they pin the stomach to the abdomen wall so that it cannot twist in the future.
If left untreated, dogs with GDV will almost certainly die. However, the survival rate of dogs who undergo surgery after being diagnosed with GDV is as high as 80%, which is why it’s vital you contact your vet if you suspect your dog has bloat.
What Can You Do to Prevent Dog Bloat?
Fortunately, there are a number of things that you can do to protect your pooch from stomach bloating. It is often simply the result of poor feeding habits so AVOID the following:
• Using a raised bowl to feed your pooch
• Giving your furry friend too much food or water at a time
• Only feeding once a day
• Giving your dog dry foods that are high in oil or fat (slower to digest & exit the body)
10 Easy Steps to Prevent Dog Bloating
Research at Purdue University attempted to identify the causes of dog bloating. They recommended that dog owners take the following steps to prevent bloating:
1. Give your pooch a number of smaller servings throughout the day
2. Place the feeding bowl on the ground
3. Avoid foods where fat is one of the top four ingredients
4. Don’t just give your furry friend dry food
5. Avoid moistening dry food
6. Wait at least one hour after exercise before feeding your pooch
7. Wait at least two hours to exercise your dog after eating
8. If your pooch is a fast eater purchase a special dish that slows the eating down
9. Never give more than one cup of dry food per 30 pounds of body weight at each meal
10. Introduce probiotics (Note: must contain prebiotic) into your dog’s diet
How Can Probiotics Help Prevent Bloating?
A major source of abdominal bloating comes from gas that is produced by bacteria that feed on undigested food sitting in the intestines. The longer the food takes to digest, the more gas is produced. There are many different types/strains of bacteria that reside there, and they can vary between dogs.
Probiotics are essentially strains of “good” bacteria to help break down the undigested food more quickly, regulate bowel movements and relieve the pain caused by pressure in your dog’s gut.
Please note that for maximum efficacy any probiotic supplement must contain a prebiotic too – prebiotics are nondigestive carbohydrates which feed the probiotics.
Once they have the right probiotics in their gut, it’s important to keep them strong in order for them to have a positive effect. FidoActive’s Advanced Probiotics supplement (with Probiotic) is in powder form, odorless and tasteless, so super easy to introduce into your dog’s daily regime – easily mixed into their regular dry or wet food and suitable for even the pickiest of pooches!
Probiotics with prebiotic supplements can have numerous other benefits, so they are definitely worth trying out. They can take a while to start working though, so be patient, but they will do your pooch the power of good in the long run.
However, please remember, while probiotics can restore digestive health and more, they are not a replacement for poor diet – they go hand in hand (or should that be paw in paw) with a healthy balanced diet.
Wishing you and your canine companions the best of health – always!
Helen Broadley & The FidoActive Team