Bloat (Gastric Torsion)
Bloat is a LIFE THREATENING condition which requires IMMEDIATE medical attention or the dog WILL DIE. Bloat, also referred to as stomach torsion, is a two stage condition. In the first stage, the stomach swells with gastric gases produced by water and/or food ingested. In the second stage the stomach flips over (torsion), cutting off blood supply and quickly leading to necrosis (tissue death). A dog that shows any of the symptoms common to bloat should be taken to a vet IMMEDIATELY. IT IS BETTER TO MAKE MANY FALSE TRIPS TO THE VET THAN TO MISS BLOAT THE ONE TIME IT MATTERS. Time is critical; minutes can mean the difference between life and death. The longer the dog is in the stages of bloat the less likely he/she will survive. Knowing and recognizing the symptoms of bloat could save your dog’s life!
SYMPTOMS OF BLOAT: (see video of an Akita bloating):
- Extreme agitation
- Pacing accompanied by the inability to sit or lay down comfortably
- Gaging or attempts to vomit, but nothing coming up, except ropy, slimy saliva
Swelling between the rib cage and the hips; it could start in the lower rib cage. (In early stages swelling may not be visible, insist on an x-ray for early diagnosis. Once swelling is visible, time is limited. This is an emergency!)
- Heavy panting, often accompanied with labored and loud breathing
- Head and tail hanging down, with a roached-up back
- WATCH FOR UNUSUAL OR UNCHARACTERISTIC BEHAVIOR FOR YOUR DOG (A normally active dog becoming listless; a normally hungry dog whose refusing food; a laid-back dog who is restless, pacing, looks uncomfortable, with a pain rictus on his/her face)
HIGH RISK FACTORS FOF BLOAT:
- Genetics: if a parent or sibling has bloated
- Disposition: nervous or anxious dogs
- Age: elderly dogs (over age 8) are more likely to bloat
- History: a dog that has bloated before is far more likely to bloat again
DIAGNOSIS OF BLOAT:
An x-ray will confirm bloat, the extent (or stage of bloat), the surgical possibilities and likelyhood of survival. Sometimes in the early stages, no swelling is visible. If your dog bloats and is deflated by means other than surgery, ask about having the stomach tacked as soon as possible (your dog's age and health allowing) to prevent future torsion. Tacking a stomach will not prevent a future bloat. Many times a dog that has bloated once will do so again.
PREVENTION: The causes of bloat are unknown, therefore, there is no sure way to prevent it but these suggestions may help:
- Feed two smaller meals twice daily, instead of one large meal
- Don’t feed gas-producing foods (beans, cabbage, onions, etc.)
- Don’t let your dog exercise strenuously one hour prior to eating. A good rule of thumb: if he is panting from exertion or heat, do not feed until he stops panting
- Don’t let your dog exercise strenuously one-two hours after eating
- If your dog has been out in the heat, or exercising strenuously, don’t let him gulp quantities of water. Give him small amounts of water periodically until he is no longer panting
- Don’t let him roll on his back after eating or drinking. If he is being fed a dog food that swells in water, wet the food and let it absorb all the water before feeding
- Don’t change his diet suddenly. Changes in diet should occur slowly and over an extended period of tim
If you have never seen bloat, it is easy to miss, especially in the earliest stages. Even those who have experienced a bloating dog before often miss the symptoms. We hope this video, which shows a dog in the early to mid-stages of bloat, will help you recognize the symptoms and possibly save your dog's life if he bloats. The foster family was kind enough to grant ARMAC permission to present the video as an educational tool in the fight to save dogs from a condition that kills so many. We can tell you from personal experience that until you actually witness, first hand, a dog bloating it is very difficult to recognize what is happening. This video is priceless for its educational value.
The dog in the video, Roscoe, had just arrived at his foster home. He had been found wandering at large by a kind hearted person who took him to her vet and proceeded to try and find a place for him. The weather was warm and pleasant at the time. Neither the foster family nor the person who was delivering Roscoe to them, had ever actually witnessed a dog bloating. However, everyone present had been educated on the symptoms. The foster family started taping Roscoe the minute he arrived and unknown to them at the time, they just happened to have filmed a bloating event. Luckily, for Roscoe, his foster family recognized that something was wrong, acted quickly and took him immediately to a vet. Their quick action prevented Roscoe from going into stage 2, full gastric torsion. The vet was able to deflate Roscoe, but because of his advanced age, surgical stomach stapling was not an option.
Torsion occurs when the stomach flips over, cutting off the blood supply causing stomach tissue to start dying. Torsion requires very expensive surgery, and even if your dog survives the surgery, they may not survive the aftermath when the toxins from the dying tissue are released into the body when the stomach is untwisted, causing heart arrhythmias and sepsis.
PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE take your dog to the vet if you even suspect he may be bloating, remember swelling is not always apparent, especially in the early stages; your dog may just look "fatter". The vet can take an x-ray to determine if your dog is in the early stages and treat him immediately. If the vet refuses to take an x-ray, INSIST upon it. This is YOUR dog. YOU know him very well and if the vet still refuses to take an x-ray, go elsewhere. The earlier it is caught, the better your dog's chances of living.
Video of a dog in the stages of bloat
Roscoe bloated again a few months later and this time did not survive. At least his last months were happy ones.