Bloat in Big Dogs

Bloat is a term that makes a very serious disease seem much milder than it is. Bloat in big dogs is also known as gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV) complex. And if your dog is experiencing this you need to get them to a veterinarian or animal hospital immediately.

Bloat is a life-threatening emergency for a dog. You should never wait it out if your dog has bloat. They need veterinary attention immediately.

Unfortunately, large and giant breed dogs are much more likely to experience bloat than small dogs.

Symptoms of GDV in Large Dogs

According to the PDSA – a veterinarian charity based in the UK – symptoms of bloat in large dogs include.

  • A tummy that is swollen
  • Dry heaving, but not actually bringing anything up
  • Drooling a lot more than normal
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Pale gums
  • Dog collapsing

What Causes Bloat in Big Dogs

According to the AKC, there isn’t a perfect answer to the cause of bloat in big dogs. Veterinarians know that two things happen to cause GDV or bloat:

  1. Air builds up in the stomach – this is the dilation part of GDV
  2. The stomach twists – this is the volvulus part of GDV

Beyond these two things, vets don’t know a ton about bloat and what causes it, although there are a few steps you can take to help minimize the chances of bloat.

Why Dogs That Have Bloat Experience Collapse

When a dog has bloat, its stomach gets filled with gas, and then the stomach presses down on the veins that carry blood to the dog’s heart, which can cause collapse.

This can create shock in the dog and can also cause tissue death throughout the stomach. If the stomach of the dog continues to swell up then the stomach wall can rupture.

How Common is Bloat in Large Breed Dogs

About 1 in 20 dogs will get bloat in their lifetimes, but for giant breed dogs that weigh over 100 pounds, the risk increases to 1 in 5 or more. Great Danes have the highest risk of bloat with 42% of the breed experiencing bloat in their lifetime unless preventative surgery is undertaken.

Because larger dogs are more prone to bloat, if you have a large or giant breed dog then you need to make sure you understand the symptoms so that you can get them to the animal hospital immediately if they seem like they have GDV.

What Breeds Are Most Likely to Get Bloat

While any dog can experience bloat, including tiny Yorkies, the three breeds that get bloat most often are:

  1. Great Danes
  2. St. Bernards
  3. Weimaraners

Other breeds that are more likely to get GDV include Irish Setters, Standard Poodles, Gordon Setters, Basset Hounds, Old English Sheepdogs, and Doberman Pinchers.

Tall dogs are more likely to get bloat than dogs that are wide in build.

Survival Rate for Gastric Dilation-Volvulus or Bloat in Large Dogs

The survival rate for bloat is about 70% – 90% with prompt veterinary intervention. That means that 10% to 30% of dogs that get bloat will die from it.

If a dog has heart problems its survival rate will drop and if part of the stomach or spleen has to be removed the survival rate will also drop.

Bloat is not something you ever want to see in your dog, but knowing what to look for can help you take action and give your dog the best chance of surviving this disease.

What Increases The Risk of Bloat?

Many things can increase the risk of bloat in your dog. These include:

  • Rapid eating, especially if followed quickly by vigorous exercise.
  • Feeding only one time per day
  • A genetic history of bloat in the mother, father, or sibling
  • Being underweight or overly thin
  • Being aggressive toward other animals or people
  • Males are more likely to experience bloat than females
  • Being over 7 years old
  • Eating dry food that’s been moistened – check the label for citric acid as this can be the culprit

Bloat in dogs can be prevented by:

You can decrease the chance of bloat in dogs by:

  • Having your dog eat twice a day instead of once a day
  • Make your dog wait an hour after eating before vigorous play or exercise
  • Adding canned dog food to their diet
  • A dog that is relaxed and easygoing is less likely to experience bloat.
  • Choosing a dog food that has lamb meal, chick by-product meal, fish meal, or bone meal listed within the first four items on the ingredient list.

There is also a surgery used called gastropexy in breeds that are at high risk for GDV. This is a preventative surgery and is usually performed at the time of neuter or spay, although it can be performed later if needed.

Gastropexy will usually prevent the twisting of the bowel, but will not prevent the bloat. It does however make incidences of bloating less dangerous and more survivable. It also helps to lower the recurrence of bloat, which can be as high as 75% without surgery.

How Bloat is Treated

If you suspect that your dog has bloat, then you need to make sure you take them to the vet immediately. Don’t wait until the next day. Take them to wherever there are openings right away!

You must get the pressure that has built up in the stomach and the organs relieved as quickly as you can. Often a vet will first attempt to insert a stomach tube, but if the stomach has been twisted this isn’t always possible. Instead, they may take the immediate action of alleviating the pressure in the belly by using a needle and catheter.

Your dog will also be treated for shock. Typically this involves IV medicines to stabilize your dog. Once your dog is stabilized it will need surgery.

Surgery is done to move the twisted stomach back to its regular position. The vet may also suture the stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent the recurrence of the twisting.

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