Quite a few of my articles are anecdotal, and this one is as well. I had never owned a dog that got bloat until a few months ago, when my AmStaff Skye had her own bout of it. Bloat is known by several names: torsion, Gastric dilation-volvulus (or GDV) and simply bloat. Deep-chested dogs are more susceptible to bloat, but any dog could theoretically get it.
Some of the factors that have been shown to contribute to bloat are: eating only one meal per day, exercising immediately after a meal, eating their food too fast, drinking lots of water right after a meal, gulping their food too quickly or eating from elevated bowls. Bloat can even be brought on by a stressful event for your dog, or if they have a temperament that is fearful. Even a dog’s age can be a factor.
What happens is that a dog’s stomach becomes distended with fluid and/or gas, and the stomach turns out of its normal position. The blood circulation to the stomach becomes impaired by the distention, and return of blood to the heart can be compromised by a compression of the larger vessels. If returning blood to the heart is compromised in this manner, further damage to several of the dog’s organs can occur, which can become a life threatening issue very quickly.
When Skye had her issue with bloat, I noticed that her abdomen began to swell like a balloon. She was trying to cough up something (like a cat with a hairball) and had no success. She also kept gulping water, as if that would help the situation. The color of her gums, tongue and ears became very pale. She was lethargic and started drooling, which she never does. She also became restless, began pacing and could not find a comfortable place. In short, I could tell she was miserable. Some of the other symptoms an owner may observe are rapid heartbeat, depression, weakness, difficulty or rapid breathing, and the dog may collapse.
What Skye had done was get into the cat litter box and help herself to some “kitty hors d’oeuvres.” I use a wheat-based cat litter and after she ate it, it began to ferment in her stomach. Of course, it happened on a Saturday night and we don’t have an emergency clinic in our town, though the vet would have met me at his office if I had asked him to. As soon as I noticed she was having a problem, I called the vet. He told me that they call it a “garbage gut,” and it can happen when a dog gets into something they are not used to eating, as it may react with the acid in their stomach.
I was very lucky because her stomach never torsioned, but I was scared to death for her. What the vet suggested was to go to the local discount store and get a gas reliever. He told me to give her one dose, and another dose in two hour increments if needed. I was so worried; I packed Skye into my truck and took her with me. After getting the anti-gas medicine, I gave her one as soon as I got out to the truck. What followed were several hours of “green fog” in our house, but I am happy to say it solved the problem, and I got a taller gate that Skye couldn’t climb over to get to the litter boxes.
Some of the breeds that can be susceptible to bloat are Saint Bernard, Standard Poodle, Golden and Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherd, Wolfhound, Great Dane, Doberman Pinscher, English Sheepdog, Boxer, Bull Mastiff, Mastiff, Akita, Sight hounds, and Irish Setter. You can find a more complete list of susceptible dog breeds online.
I would never suggest that you just go get a gas reliever (because I am not a veterinarian), and your situation could be more serious than mine. I would, however, suggest that if this situation happens to you, call your vet as soon as possible or get your dog to an emergency clinic. Time is of the essence if you suspect your dog has bloat. You can also help by keeping any foods for other pets, any garbage containers and litter boxes out of reach of your own dog. By being vigilant on your own, your dog may never have to suffer like my poor girl did.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently
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