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Dog Bloat Can Be Deadly : healyourdognaturally.com

Pet Talk: Some dogs predisposed to deadly bloating

Pet Talk. USAToday.com                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Sharon L. Peters  8.6.11

At 6 p.m., the dog is perfectly happy and healthy. At 8, he’s dead, killed by his own body.

Bloat (officially gastric dilatation/volvulus, or GDV) is a condition that some call the “mother of all emergencies,” one that kills thousands of dogs a year, one so concerning that the non-profit AKC Canine Health Foundation has identified as one of its research priorities establishing ways to prevent bloat and identifying the contributions of genetics to it.

And yet, many pet owners have never heard of it, don’t know they have a breed (or a mutt composed of a breed) that’s predisposed to it, and are unaware of the symptoms and the need for instant action when they materialize. “There’s very little time,” says veterinarian Karen Halligan, director of veterinary services at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in L.A. and author of What Every Pet Owner Should Know: Prescriptions for Happy, Healthy Cats and Dogs. Her own chocolate Lab, sweet Duke, developed bloat, had fast medical intervention and surgery, but developed post-surgical complications common with bloat survivors, and days later she let him go.

In bloat, gas or food stretches the stomach to well beyond its normal size, pinching off both sides of the organ and causing enormous pain. In 75% of cases, the stomach rotates, twisting off its own blood supply and blocking the route through which the rapidly accumulating gas could leave. Nearby organs are affected as the oversized stomach presses against them. The earliest signs of bloat, Halligan says, are repeated unsuccessful efforts to vomit, restlessness and pacing, and increasing anxiety as the dog is unable to get relief from the excruciating pain. The abdomen is often swollen and drum-like; the dog usually drools in panic because it can’t belch or vomit the mounting pressure away.

Dogs stricken with bloat can sometimes be saved, provided the human recognizes the crisis fast and seeks emergency intervention instantly — emphasis on “instantly.” Minutes are crucial, and if the dog has been afflicted for an hour or two, damage may be so severe he can’t be saved. Even with timely surgery, up to one-third of the dogs afflicted with bloat die, Halligan says. Bloat is most common in dogs weighing more than 99 pounds (though some small dogs have developed it), experts say, and in dogs described as “deep-chested,” meaning the chest width is relatively narrow and the length from the backbone to sternum is relatively long. Great Danes are at highest risk; other breeds with a tendency to bloat include greyhounds, all setters, standard poodles and boxers. “We don’t fully understand exactly what causes it,” Halligan acknowledges, but there are similarities among dogs that have developed it.

It’s more common among dogs with anxious or fearful dispositions, and those that are aggressive to other dogs or people, Halligan says. High-stress situations, such as boarding, a new dog in the home, dog shows or changes in routine, may serve as a tipping point.

Dogs that gulp food fast are at higher risk, particularly if they exercise less than 60 minutes after a meal. Using elevated food bowls or feeding dry food that contains citric acid as a preservative may also contribute (risk increases if kibble containing citric acid is moistened), some experts say. For large breeds, Halligan says, bloat risk jumps 20% each year after age 5; for giant breeds, the risk goes up 20% each year after age 3. Studies have shown that more than 50% of dogs with bloat will bloat again within three months, Halligan says, and 76% of them will bloat again in their lifetime unless they have a surgery called a gastroplexy, in which the stomach is attached to the body wall.

Helping protect your dog from bloat requires avoiding the high-risk things, and feeding two or three times a day instead of once. Also, although Halligan knows of no studies identifying flea infestation as a possible contributor, gulping air (as dogs do when they’re chewing at fleas) is a risk, so she recommends rigorous preventive efforts. Many people with predisposed dog breeds take the step of having a preventive gastroplexy performed before a bloat episode. “If you have a dog in the top tier of breeds predisposed to this, like a Great Dane, it can definitely make sense to suture the stomach in place, ideally when the dog is neutered,” Halligan says.

Bloat is so painful that rushing a dog suffering of it immediately to the vet is crucial, even if you know you won’t spend the money to try to save it, so it can be euthanized. “Suffering through bloat,” she says, “is a miserable way for a dog to die.”

Have you ever lost your precious dog to bloat? Have you come close to losing them but were lucky enough to save them?

Yours in Health,
Sar Rooney BHSc., ND., DC., DASc., GDSc. (Hons) Zoology, MHATO, MATMS.
Canine Naturopath, Naturopathic Physician, Research Health Scientist, Zoologist 

Naturopathic Animal Services





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