A well-fed dog with a full tummy is a happy dog - or is it?
In human beings, having a bloated tummy isn’t that big of a deal. It might in fact be a sign of satisfaction after having a big meal. In dogs, however, bloat can be deadly, often causing death within hours - so preventing bloat in dogs is vital to keeping them happy and healthy. But what are some signs of bloat in dogs? What happens when a dog eats too much? Why is bloat such a killer disease?
Understanding Canine Bloat
Known as gastric dilatation-volvulus, bloat occurs when your dog’s stomach fills up with gas, causing the stomach to twist in your dog’s belly. This often cuts off blood supply to the digestive system and even stops gas and food from leaving. In certain cases, even the spleen becomes twisted and loses circulation. This could end up blocking some essential veins that transport blood to the heart.
In even more severe cases, a bloated stomach can result in breathing issues and a whole list of other metabolic problems such as widespread inflammation and blood clotting abnormalities.
Not only is bloat dangerous and can kill in hours - it is immeasurably painful for your pup. So why exactly does it happen?
What Causes Bloat in Dogs?
It’s hard to know exactly what causes bloat in your dog, and urban legends have been long passed around about hot or cold food, big bits and small bits of dog kibble, too much food, exercise or stress, being the cause of it. In reality, there are many different factors at play.
Bloat is partially related to a dog’s breed - large and giant breeds of dogs that possess deep chests and a narrow waist such as the Rottweiler or Standard Poodle, will have a predisposition to it. Of course, even small dogs like Chihuahuas can get bloat - so it’s not entirely safe for dogs not in the list of genetically predisposed dogs.
Having a littermate who has bloat also increases the risk, much like how humans are more susceptible to certain diseases if family members have contracted it before.
The age of your pup also matters as older dogs have a higher risk of getting bloat. Recent studies found older dogs of 7-12 years of age had the highest risk of contracting the disease. Other studies have also noted that male dogs are more likely to bloat than female ones.
Day to Day Care
Some studies have found that dogs that had eaten non-edible “foreign” objects would be predisposed to bloat as well - something that can be avoided by taking extra care when feeding your pup and avoiding free-feeding so you can monitor your dog’s eating habits. Dogs that eat too quickly are therefore at higher risk of contracting bloat. Keeping their dry food in a Stefanplast food bin is also a good way to keep the nasty critters and mould out - maintaining freshness for extended periods!
Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs
With that said, bloat is still a relatively rare disorder - but it doesn’t hurt to look out for it.
If your pup shows any of the symptoms below, bring them to a vet immediately:
- has a hard and swollen belly
- Is retching yet unable to vomit
- Drooling more than usual
- Experiences pain in the abdomen when touched
- Is generally distressed, panting and being restless
Speed is paramount here as mere minutes can decide your pet’s fate. When your dog gets to the vet, they’ll confirm if your dog has bloat and will pump your dog’s stomach to release the build of gas in the stomach. In some cases, the vet will be able to untwist your dog’s gut at this point - but not always.
Regardless, the vet will get your pup back to a stable condition, with intravenous fluids and painkillers and only after that, when your dog is more stable, will they go back in for surgery to repair the damage in your dog’s stomach.
Dogs that have experienced bloat will usually have a higher risk of further attacks - so vets will often also try to fix the stomach to the body wall to prevent twisting.
Canine Bloat Preventive Measures
You might now be thinking - what can I do to prevent bloat in my dog?
If you have a dog who is at risk of contracting bloat, whether it’s due to environmental factors or genetic, it’s important to discuss the problem of bloat with your veterinarian. While there are preventive surgery methods, they aren’t often required and should be a last resort - especially since unnecessary surgery could harm your pup further.
This surgery can be done with minimal invasive techniques and can be cost-effective.
It’s also important to try to feed your pup in more than one portion a day, and use feeding toys or a go-slow bowl likeAll For Paws’ Slow Feeding Dog Bowl to ensure your dog isn’t eating too fast. For pups that need a little more exercise, it might be useful to bring home aKONG Wobbler Interactive Toy that will have your pet exercising and playing with it. For pets whose kibble is the right size, KONG’s Toy can also be used to dispense kibble, allowing your dog to eat at a slower rate.
Bloat is something that many pet parents worry about. It’s dangerous and even fatal, and it all boils down to how fast you can get your dog to emergency care. It’s tough but most dogs will go through life without suffering from bloat, but nevertheless, make sure to speak with a professional to sort out what preventive measures you can take to avoid going through this tough situation, especially if your dog is at risk of contracting it.
Tammi writes articles about anything from data analytics to animal health, and loves doing the occasional craft. But most importantly, she loves hanging out and doing photo-shoots with her dog.