Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation, is a condition in dogs that can kill the dog in a matter of hours. Unlike in human where the person simply sits down and relaxes for a little while after feeling bloated and it will go away, when there is a bloat in a dog, it could literally kill your dog. When a dog is suffering from bloat, it means that its stomach is distended. This is sometimes followed by the stomach getting twisted. If the stomach gets twisted, the food substances in the stomach will get trapped while the gas volume continues to increase.
This is dangerous in that as the gas volume continues to increase, it can literally press against blood veins and arteries inhibiting the flow of blood. If this is not stopped on time, the dog will get less blood in its brain causing the brain to shut down and the dog to go into shock. With consistent swelling, the spleen will get affected resulting in it being dislodged from its normal position. This has been known to both twist the spleen and stop the flow of blood completely. With increased gas pressure and lack of blood flow on the stomach walls, the areas that tighten in the stomach pack up and die.
Everything that was just described in the first paragraph can happen in a matter of minutes depending on the severity of the bloating. So what are the signs and symptoms one should look for in a dog so as to quickly detect if the dog is having a bloat? The signs are many. This is coupled with the fact that the symptoms can vary in different dogs. For example, five dogs may be having a bloat in the same compound and all the symptoms would look different from each other.
Some of the more common symptoms in a bloat are panting, pacing forwards and backwards, agitation, drooling, foaming at the mouth, difficulty walking, anxiety, discomfort, retching, inability to lie on its side, stomach distension and restlessness. The stomach in this case usually appears abnormally huge in size -more like when a dog has swallowed a basket ball or two- and is hard to the touch. Other obvious symptoms are pale gums bordering on grey or ash, weak pulse rate and a fast heart beat. If you notice symptoms of bloat in your dog you must consult your vet immediately. If the pressure is not released it can, as already described, be fatal for your dog.
The causes of bloating in a dog can be prevented. Some of the preventive methods are making your dog eat calmly; not by gulping or snorting its food, and avoid stress as much as possible. Whether the stress is in the form of boarding stress or stress of travel it could potentially be harmful around meal time. Avoid giving your dog too much bread and by not mixing soy with its diet – while this has not been proven yet; some breeders and dog owners have noticed their dog developing bloat after a meal mixed with soy. Keeping your dog calm immediately after eating is also an excellent way to prevent bloat from occurring. It is challenging as many dogs including mine get very excited around meal time and that translates into playful excitement after the meal as well.
There are few products on the market today that are specifically designed to slow your dog’s eating. Most notably is the Brake-Fast bowl which has three columns in the bowl area to prevent your dog from taking large mouthfuls of food at the same time.