Bloat is a condition that occurs in dogs when large amounts of food, water or air fill their stomachs and digestion becomes impaired. When a dog bloats, the stomach enlarges and compresses other organs, including the heart and lungs. Shortness of breath, poor circulation and tissue necrosis may occur.
In severe cases, the stomach may twist, creating an immediate life-threatening condition. This condition is known as gastric torsion when the stomach turns less than 180 degrees, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) when the twist is more than 180 degrees. The term bloat is used to describe everything from mild cases to the imminently fatal cases in which gastric torsion or volvulus is present.
Understanding possible causes of bloat can help dog owners prevent this life-threatening emergency.
Know the possible causes of bloat: Dogs that eat only one large meal per day, gulp large amounts of water quickly, eat rapidly and eat a diet of dry food are at risk. Vigorous exercising after meals increases the risk of canine bloat with volvulus. Dogs that are active, have high energy, or stress easily are more prone to this dangerous problem. In addition, certain breeds are more at risk. While almost any dog can experience bloat, large breeds that have deep chest walls, such as Great Danes, Dobermans, greyhounds and boxers, are especially at risk.
Adjust your dog's daily feeding routine. When you provide food at times when your dog is not likely to romp or play, you decrease the risk of bloat. For example, if your dog wakes up ready to go for a run or to play with another pet, try making feeding time later in the morning after your dog has calmed down.
Divide your dog's ration into two or three meals per day instead of one. Dogs that eat one meal daily have the tendency to eat quickly and eat more. A feeding schedule that includes smaller portions in the morning and in the evening will reduce your dog's risk of developing bloat.
Add canned dog food to your dog's diet. Most dry dog food contains high levels of grain, which is more likely to produce gas in your dog's digestive system. This can cause the stomach to fill more rapidly. Canned food has a higher meat content, which is less likely to result in gas.
Choose a high-quality dry dog food that lists meat content first in the ingredients. If the first listed ingredients are grains, do not feed that dog food.
Monitor your dog's water intake. If you provide fresh water 24 hours a day, your dog is less likely to gulp when drinking.
Wait to walk or exercise your dog at least an hour before and after meals.
Never feed your dog immediately after vigorous exercise, and never exercise your dog vigorously after a meal.
If your dog has symptoms of bloat, seek veterinarian attention immediately. Never wait to see if your dog begins to feel better. In severe cases of bloat, a dog will require surgical intervention. Without immediate treatment, he will die within minutes or hours of the time you notice the symptoms.
Know the symptoms of bloat so you can seek immediate emergency veterinarian attention if necessary. Gagging, retching, the inability to vomit, lethargy, a swollen abdomen, inability to stand, pale gums, a fast heartbeat and labored breathing are signs that you need to seek immediate emergency medical care for your dog.
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