Bloat is a life-threatening emergency that affects dogs in the prime of life.
Anatomy of Bloat
Bloat can occur in any dog at any age, but typically occurs in middle-aged to older dogs. Large-breed dogs with deep chests are anatomically predisposed. These breeds include the Great Dane, German Shepherd Dog, St. Bernard, Labrador retriever, Irish wolfhound, Great Pyrenees, Boxer, Weimaraner, Old English sheepdog, Irish setter, Collie, Bloodhound, and Standard Poodle. Chinese Shar-Pei and Basset Hounds have the highest incidence among midsize dogs. Small dogs are rarely affected, with the exception of Dachshunds, who are also deep-chested.
Bloat develops suddenly, usually in a healthy, active dog. The dog may have just eaten a large meal, exercised vigorously before or after eating, or drank a large amount of water immediately after eating.
Signs of Bloat
The classic signs of bloat are restlessness and pacing, salivation, retching, unproductive attempts to vomit, and enlargement of the abdomen. The dog may whine or groan when you press on his belly. Thumping the abdomen produces a hollow sound.
Unfortunately, not all cases of bloat present with typical signs. In early bloat the dog may not appear distended, but the abdomen usually feels slightly tight. The dog appears lethargic, obviously uncomfortable, walks in a stiff-legged fashion, hangs his head, but may not look extremely anxious or distressed. Early on it is not possible to distinguish dilatation from volvulus.
Late signs (those of impending shock) include pale gums and tongue, delayed capillary refill time, rapidheart rate, weak pulse, rapid and labored breathing, weakness, and collapse.
If the dog is able to belch or vomit, quite likely the problem is not due to a volvulus, but this can only be determined by veterinary examination.
In all cases where there is the slightest suspicion of bloat, take your dog to a veterinary hospital immediately. Time is of the essence.
Dogs who respond to nonsurgical treatment have a 70 percent chance of having another episode of bloat. Some of these episodes can be prevented by following these practices:
Divide the day's ration into two equal meals, spaced well apart.
Do not feed your dog from a raised food bowl.
Avoid feeding dry dog food that has fat among the first four ingredients listed on the label.
Avoid foods that contain citric acid.
Never let your dog drink a large amount of water all at once.
Avoid strenuous exercise on a full stomach.