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BLOAT AND GASTRIC TORSION
Barbara J. Andrews, AKC Hall Of Fame Breeder, Publisher, TheDogPlace
Simple tips to prevent bloat, first-aid to relieve bloat before it becomes deadly gastric torsion, symptoms of gastric torsion, causes and high-risk dog foods information.
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) commonly called bloat (Photos above AND VIDEO BELOW), occurs when food ferments, air is trapped and the stomach becomes distended. If the dog can burp or pass the gas rectally, he avoids deadly gastric torsion, i.e. a twisted stomach. Strenuous exercise after eating or gulping water before or during strenuous exercise can set off a chain reaction leading to a fatal episode of gastric torsion. If you are here because you suspect your dog is bloating, skip below to Emergency First-Aid For Bloat.
If you are smiling, thinking your dog has no problem passing gas, keep reading because if your dog frequently belches, vomits or passes excessive gas, you need to make dietary changes.
As you've probably noticed, grains and some vegetables are "gassy" but your digestive system is vertical, therefore you easily burp. Your dog's stomach is suspended horizontally so it isn't as easy for dogs to belch to relieve the gas.
Carnivores may nibble certain grasses when they need to vomit but carnivores do not eat grains. Meat does not produce gas and by definition carnivores are flesh eaters.
They don't think it out. Nature/Instinct tells them wheat, corn, soybeans are not food. Grain ferments in a carnivore's stomach. That gassy buildup can lead to gastric torsion wherein the horizontally suspended stomach twists and without surgery the dog will suffer excruciating pain and death.
Why Is Gastric Torsion So Deadly?
The dog's stomach is suspended like a hammock so unlike humans where a build up of gas can pass up (belch) or down to be expelled, a dog has more difficulty passing gas.
When gassy foods or excessive water consumption distends the dog's stomach, it can lead to "bloat". If the gas is not readily released, increasing pressure will cause the stomach to twist (torsion), at which time it becomes impossible to pass the gaseous buildup. Gastric torsion is always fatal unless there is surgical intervention.
Is bloat or gastric torsion breed-related? Somewhat. There is higher incidence in large breed dogs, those with excessive skin, one that is “out of condition” or elderly or any dog that gulps a lot of water.
TIP: to slow down "gulpers" put large biologically safe stones (such as chunks of crystal or marble) in his water bowl.
Emergency First Aid For Bloat
You may want to try emergency measures before leaving for the vet because depending on traffic, distance, and the dog's condition when discovered, you may arrive too late.
I have no degrees but my strong advice is to go to the drug store TODAY and pick up one of the over-the-counter rapid gas reducers such as Gas X. It's cheap, easily available and most of all, it works quickly. The simethicone breaks up the bubbles if given at the first sign of bloat. Administer according to directions and based on the size of the dog.
If unsure, ask your vet. Surely they make an expensive veterinary prescription that will work as well as Gas X...
First Aid for bloat is to relieve the gas and prevent Gastric Torsion. Stand the dog upright and burp just as you would a baby. If you have someone to help hold him in upright position, so much the better. Depending of the dog's size, place his front feet up on a footstool, chair, your chest, whatever is reasonably comfortable for him. Using the same force you would use on a human, “burp” him starting low on both sides of the belly, using both hands. Work your way up the rib cage. If he belches in your face, thank God and keep burping him.
You may have to let him down for a minute to relieve pressure on his back legs but continue to burp the dog until he seems comfortable, no more gas is passing, and his stomach looks normal.
If he does not belch and/or pass gas, either the gas-relief tablet isn’t working, you are not burping properly, or the stomach has twisted. It doesn't matter why, if his stomach is still distended and he is distressed, rush him to the vet. If possible, have someone call ahead or use your cell phone. This is an emergency situation and any vet should be prepared to take him straight in to surgery.
Watch Bloat Video And Learn These Symptoms Of Bloat
In the beginning, (Akita Suffering From Bloat Video in display below) there develops a combination of symptoms which include obvious discomfort, restlessness, a “worried” expression, wanting to go out but after the first urination or bowel movement, it becomes obvious he has been unable to relieve or ease the pain. We chose the video below because it is excellent, live, and the dog survived.
Bloat symptoms progress to aimless pacing and/or panting which will become rapid and shallow. (watch video, link below) By the time you notice his stomach has visibly increased in size, he could be in serious trouble. He will swallow, salivate, and try to vomit but vomiting will be futile if the stomach has already twisted. With gastric torsion, his gums will be pale, heart rate becomes rapid and he will progress into shock.
At this point, there is NO FIRST-AID, get him to the vet immediately! The only hope to save him from a gruesome death is surgical intervention.
The expression is unforgettable. Some call it a glassy-eyed look but other owners describe it as a "helpless, stricken" look, as though the dog somehow knows he is dying. It isn't the pained look a dog gets from a broken leg. I hope you never see that desperate, fatalistic expression.
What Causes Bloat?
Exercise on a full stomach is disaster in the making. Carnivores chase, catch, eat, and then sleep during digestion. They never exert after eating a big meal. Nature and Common Sense prevents gastric torsion!
Carnivores eat meat. They may nibble grass or herbs and they ingest some vegetation in their prey's stomach but they never eat corn, soy beans, etc. Some foods contain saponins, a plant or marine-derived "sudsy" substance which we're told "may aid digestion and/or nutrient absorption." Saponins should NOT be in any brand of dog food. Read labels. Better yet, feed your dog as nature intended. And yes, that included table scraps of meat and yellow or green veggies.
When the dog's stomach becomes distended, it puts pressure on other organs, including the diaphragm. As he becomes more uncomfortable, the dog swallows repeatedly, adding more air and saliva to the stomach. He begins to drink more water which adds more weight and hastens the twisting of the ever-enlarging stomach. When the stomach rotates, it effectively shuts off the blood supply. The tissues begin to die and the end is near because unless surgery is done very quickly. Even with fairly prompt treatment, there is an average 35% death rate. NOTE: dogs are more susceptible to bloat on hot days due to gulping water, see Heatstroke
Is There A Size Or Breed Predisposition For Bloat?
Bloating with gastric torsion occurs more often in large and/or loose-skinned breeds but twisted stomachs can also affect small breeds. Male dogs are more likely to bloat and there is speculation that an excessive skin-to-frame relationship can precipitate calcium and other chemical imbalances that can cause bloat.
Dogs that are fed only once a day, particularly if given foods containing corn, soy or other gas producing grains, are more likely to bloat. In the wild, wolves, coyotes, and big cats can gorge until they appear “about to burst” with no ill effects because they eat meat and sleep for hours during digestion.
According to Purdue University Vet School, breeds such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Akitas, and Bloodhounds are more susceptible to gastric torsion. Age, condition, certain behavior patterns, and physical features can also increase the odds of bloat. Active breeds with a deep chest and tucked up stomach such as Weimaraners, Irish and Gordon Setters and Standard Poodles are considered at risk. Basset Hounds have minimal tuck-up but are at equal risk due to the long suspension system for the stomach and their excessive skin.
How Can I Prevent Gastric Torsion?
One of the most common mistakes leading to bloat involves exercise with a full stomach. Never attempt a mating during the heat of the day. Never use a stud dog when he's just been fed. A stud dog with a belly full of food or water is not at his best anyway but more important, the likelihood of gastric torsion during "the mating dance" is increased for dogs. Remember...
Exercise before or after large amounts of food or water can cause bloat, leading to gastric torsion and death.
Dogs that have bloated and survived need special diets. To prevent a first occurrence of bloat...
Feed smaller meals, twice a day.
Feed more meat, chicken, fish, with cooked carrots or green beans...
Avoid all grain-based gas-producing "dog food"
Chew-bones promote air swallowing. Real meat "knuckle" or shank bones do not. A hungry dog gulps or "wolfs down" his food. This is normal but if your dog seems to swallow air while ingesting dry kibble, put LARGE washable pebbles or decorative rocks in his food or water bowl. Anything to slow him down.
The presence of another dog may also cause him to eat too fast. Feed him separately. To prevent bloat you must feed what and WHEN carnivores eat! Meat-eaters eat after the chase. Then they lay down and sleep during digestion. Never feed and then take your dog for a run...
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