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This article, and others that we personally agree with the content of, and feel are relevant to Australian dog owners, come from Exceptional Canine, and have  kindly been made available to us by them. 

Exceptional Canine is a community dog information service provided by IAMS/Eukanuba which has many well written and informative articles.

Exceptional Canine: Active Dog

Bloat Basics: What Dog Owners Need to Know

By Caroline Zambrano for Exceptional Canine

Bloat Basics: What Dog Owners Need to Know

Bloat, or Gastric Dilatation -Volvulus (GDV), is a life-threatening condition in dogs. It occurs when the stomach inflates with gas, food and fluid and then twists, interrupting blood flow and ultimately causing a painful death.

The cause of bloat is still a mystery, but it typically occurs in adult, large-breed dogs, such as Great Danes, German Shepherds and Retrievers, following a large meal that might have been ingested quickly or with excitement, says Dr. Sarah Goldsmid, a specialist small animal surgeon at Sydney's Animal Referral Hospital.

"Without appropriate treatment most dogs will die, but recognising the signs early and getting immediate veterinary treatment can be life saving," says Goldsmid. "GDV is a commonly recognised condition. In fact, veterinarians, particularly in emergency/ specialist hospitals, see several cases each week. But with appropriate and quick treatment, 85 percent of dogs have an excellent prognosis."

The important thing for dog owners to understand is that bloat develops suddenly and can happen to any dog, even those who are active and healthy. One minute your dog is playing in the backyard; the next, he's swollen like a balloon, very distressed and trying to vomit.

“It seems the stomach is dilated by air that is swallowed, rather than fermentation gas as we see in bloated cattle,” explains Goldsmid.

Signs of Bloat

Bloat is a painful condition that can show a number of the following signs:

  • Restlessness (i.e. pacing)
  • Rapid breathing
  • Panting
  • Retching (without actually vomiting)
  • Salivating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Tense abdominal swelling with a drum-like effect when flicked with a finger
  • Shock with pale gums and fast heart rate
  • Collapse

Because the stomach doesn't twist naturally, surgery is the only option to treat a dog suffering from GDV. Once untangled, the stomach is surgically fixed to the abdominal wall to prevent recurrent rotation. The stomach technically can still bloat again, but it can’t twist -- which is the life-threatening problem, says Goldsmid.

What You Can Do

To help prevent bloat, be observant during and after feeding your dog.

“If you have a large dog, you can reduce the risk of them developing a GDV by avoiding rapid gulping of food and water by giving smaller meals two or three times a day," says Goldsmid. "Also, avoid exercising your dog around the same time that they are fed.”

If you think your dog has bloat, act quickly. Goldsmid recommends preparing an action plan for after-hours emergencies and considering pet insurance to help soften the financial blow of emergency veterinary care.

"Unfortunately, surgery and post-operative intensive care can cost thousands of dollars,” says Goldsmid. “This can be a great shock to dog owners who are unprepared to make a decision quickly."

For more information or advice, speak to your local vet. 

Caroline Zambrano is a pet journalist with a passion for improving the welfare of animals and educating the public about proper pet care and ownership. She has edited and written for a number of pet publications and websites. She lives in Sydney with her husband, two young daughters and the memory of their beloved Dobermanns, Logan and Chase, to whom she dedicates her work.



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