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Bloat in Dogs
Some of you may know the symptoms and what to do if your dog gets bloat. Some of you may not even know what it is. It can kill your dog if not acted on immediately
Here is a good site that offers advice as well as symptoms and what to do. You should keep this on your refrigerator, especially if your dog's breed is on the list near the bottom and learn the signs.
BLOAT, an article by Jo Jeweler, MD
Most dog owners have heard about bloat and how dangerous it is. You may have heard about the symptoms to look for- but do you understand what, EXACTLY, you are looking for? What does restless REALLY mean? How do you know if your dog is bloated? Could YOU recognize the signs in your dog? If you thought your dog was bloating, would you know what to do? The causes of bloat are as mysterious and varied as the symptoms. Do you understand the various and often conflicting information regarding this dangerous medical emergency?
Bloat (gastric dilation) is a potentially fatal occurrence, often occurring with torsion (volvulus). The stomach fills with gas or air, then often flips, twisting on itself. Bloat & torsion are often called GDV (gastric dilation and volvulus.) Damage to the stomach can occur in minutes. Torsion may involve only the stomach, the spleen only, or both organs. It is important to remember that a dog can have either bloat or torsion- OR both& they don’t always come together. A dog can have torsion which causes bloat, torsion only, bloat which leads to torsion, or bloat alone. Damage to the spleen, kidneys, liver, intestines, and heart are possible, as is death. The odds of survival for an otherwise healthy dog with bloat and torsion can be as low as 30%.
Older dogs may be more at risk than younger dogs, especially if they have a mass or other illness, but even very young puppies can bloat. Even dogs as young as a few weeks! Any dog could bloat, and it is not only giant breeds like Great Danes or Newfoundland’s that are prone to bloating. Any deep chested dog is at risk. Breeds like Poodles, Boxers and even Labradors bloat.
The causes of bloat are not fully understood, but many factors play a part in it. Stress seems to be a major factor. As a dog owner, you must be attuned to your dog for his or her personal stress indicators. For example, when my Irish Wolfhound, Dylan was stressed, he drew his third eyelid over his eyes. A stressed dog may pant excessively, which also can lead to aerophagia, (swallowing air) another cause of bloat. Some dogs are excessively clingy or needy when stressed. Frequent yawning is also a sign of stress. Sweaty feet, in a dog that is not hot, is another sign of stress. Knowing what causes stress in your dog, and as much as possible, preventing it, is critical.
Many people believe feeding certain types of foods can lead to an increase risk of bloat. For instance, it is generally recommended that you not feed food with citric acid as a preservative. Many people feel that feeding the dog in raised feeders leads to bloat. There are probably as many who believe raised feeders help prevent bloat. Discuss this with your breeder and vet. Some people feel that feeding dry kibble can lead to bloat, but there is some evidence that dogs fed a raw diet are more likely to bloat. This may be because more large breed dog owners feed raw diets, than small breed owners do. Dried beets, beet pulp or beet powder have been proven to cause foaming in the stomach, which can lead to excessive gas build up. Owners of bloat-prone breeds are usually advised to feed multiple small meals each day, rather than one large one. Eating too much or eating inappropriate things can also cause bloat or torsion. When Dylan bloated, it was because he had overeaten.
No matter what you feed your dog, she should not exercise heavily within an hour after eating. Wait until she has stopped panting after playing before you feed, too. Recent studies indicate that exercise BEFORE eating is good- at least 30 minutes before food. But don’t feed before exercise.
If you feed kibble, do a simple experiment before your dogs next meal time. Put a normal serving of food in a bowl. Add the amount of water you think your dog probably drinks with each meal, and let it sit. See how much water the kibble absorbs, and how much it expands, and how long it takes. If it absorbs a lot, or expands a lot, or if your dog drinks a lot of water with a meal, cut that meal in half & feed it to him at different times. Remember, the swollen food has a limited space to occupy!
A violent illness with vomiting can cause the stomach to begin swinging like a pendulum, leading to torsion, causing bloat. When my Irish Wolfhound, Limerick, bloated, it was secondary to a stomach upset. He began vomiting, which apparently caused the stomach to swing like a pendulum, until it finally flipped all the way over. Pain (which is stressful) can also cause bloat and torsion. Talk to your vet about the risks of bloat after surgeries.
We are told to watch for panting, restlessness, a distended abdomen and muddy gums as danger signs.
So, what exactly IS restlessness? Some dogs may lie calmly as long as 20 minutes at a time, before getting up to move to another position. Dylan lay for as long as one-half hour before rolling over, and he never got up to pace. He was most comfortable lying flat on his side. Many dogs will not lie down, but some find the pressure more comfortable. Some may feel (and display) pain when they move, and therefore be content to lie still. Dylan was happiest lying still, which is why I waited so long to take him to the vets. I mistakenly thought if he was comfortable lying down, he wasn’t bloating. Other than panting, the only sign of distress was when he rolled over, he would cry.
Many breeds have such large rib cages that their entire stomach is within the ribcage- unless she swallowed a basketball; you might not see or feel any distention in your dog. The lower abdomen (the soft part we all like to scratch when they roll on their backs) may not show any signs of bloating, excessive firmness or distention. Sometimes, you may hear a distinct hollow sound if you thump on their ribs or tummy, like a bass drum. Only an X-Ray can accurately diagnose bloat or torsion. On an X-Ray, the torsed stomach looks like a double bubble- almost like a twisted infinity symbol.
Muddy gums are hard to describe, but once you’ve seen them, you never forget. Imagine mixing blue (lack of oxygen) with the pretty, healthy pink of your dog’s gums- that’s muddy. When you press on healthy gums, they should go white for a second, then immediately turn pink again- muddy gums remain dark. If your dog has muddy gums, get him to the vet IMMEDIATELY! You might have only minutes to save his life. If your dog has dark gums, look at his tongue. A blue, grey, purple or dark red tinge is a danger sign.
Contrary to popular belief, bloat alone CAN kill your dog. And bloat alone is common. Your dog can also have torsion without bloat. And, again, disproving popular theory, your dog may be bloated or even experiencing torsion, and still be burping. When Limerick bloated, he was constantly burping (in the vets face, in fact)!
Your dog may display other unusual signs, such as repeated retching but not vomiting; looking at, biting or chewing at his flanks, side or stomach, or constant pacing. Excessive drooling, or standing in strange postures can also be signals. Some dogs will hold their heads very high, while others drop them as low as they can. Some dogs may lie in positions they have never assumed before, or in strange places. I know of one dog who felt best lying on cold concrete while he was bloating.
If you notice unusual behavior, it is best to go to the vet to check, than take a chance with your dog’s life! If your dog has been alone, or has been acting off for a while, don’t take the time to call the vet, see if you should come in, get dressed and organized. Give the dog simethicone. Throw on a robe, grab your wallet & dog and rush to the vet. Call them on the way to tell them you are bringing in a potential bloat. If the emergency clinic is more than 10 minutes away, talk to your regular vet if you have a nervous dog, a bloat-prone breed, a dog with a family member who bloated, or an ill dog, about how to treat bloat yourself.
Normally, in a case of GDV, you have minutes - not hours. If you THINK its bloat, it is always safer to get to the vets, and find out you are mistaken. I keep simethicone (Gas-x) tablets everywhere- in each car, in my purse, in 2 rooms in the house & in the dog bag& at the first sign of possible bloat; I give my dog 2 pills. I then IMMEDIATELY head for the nearest vet. Talk to your vet about the proper dose and use of simethicone for your dog. But remember, simethicone is not a cure, only a delaying tactic. It may give you enough time to get to help before your dog’s situation is critical. But it still doesn’t allow you to dawdle- give it & GO! (Simethicone is safe for just about any dog, any age, in any health, but check with your vet first!)
There are new methods of tacking(gastropexy) the stomach to the abdomen wall to prevent torsion, but don’t be misled into thinking this will prevent bloat. A tacked dog can still bloat. Tacking lessens the likelihood of torsion, but does not prevent it. Gastropexy can now be done via 3 small incisions on the dog’s side, or via tiny scopes. Tacking involves drawing stitches from the outer wall of the stomach to the wall of the abdomen. The stitches cause scar tissue to form, which is what actually hold the stomach in place. The stitches eventually dissolve. Many vets recommend keeping a dog which has been recently tacked calm for as long as 6 weeks.
When your dog has been diagnosed with bloat, your vet will often try to insert a tube down his throat into his stomach to release the gas. Sometimes a needle inserted in the abdomen is used. There is also an acupressure point on the inner thigh that can help relieve the built up gas. If your dog also has torsion, surgery will be required. A long incision on the dog’s stomach will allow the vet to unflip the stomach or spleen, and usually tack them into place.
After bloat, your vet may check for damage to the liver, spleen, kidneys or heart. Damage to the stomach or other organs is common and may lead to life-long after- effects. Arrhythmia is not uncommon after GDV, and can be fatal, but often goes away after a day or so. DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation) a severe side effect, is also possible. If your dog had surgery, he will have a large incision and need to remain calm for a few weeks. When Dylan had GDV and surgery, the vet kept him for a full week, to make sure there was no damage to his heart, and that he was eating and eliminating normally. He seemed uncomfortable for about eight weeks afterwards. He had a long incision, with significant bruising around it. There was some oozing for the first few days, but that cleared up quickly. Be prepared for an ugly sight if your dog has had surgery!
Bloat can be terrifying & dangerous, but with a bit of knowledge and a lot of caution and vigilance, you can hopefully save your dog’s life. Jo Jeweler