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It has been one year since both of my best friends died. ~Kris (Belladaze)

Loyal Teddy, my retriever/border collie passed quietly at age 16.

Sweet huge Ali, my 12 year old mastiff/lab mix, suffered a horrible (but quick) death 10 evenings later after a head-over-heels tumble during a routine evening garden wild bunny chase. Ali’s stomach flipped (gastric dilatation-volvulus ‘GDV’) then her heart failed just before the surgery began.

Talented animal artist, Nancy J. Bailey has allowed me to share her special canine art tribute video with you. (Nancy and her horse Cliffy are both artists. You can watch videos of  Cliffy while he dances and paints with watercolors by looking at my August 14 th blog – click horses is the category cloud on the right.)

Dog bloat and Canine bloat, also known as torsion or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is a life-threatening condition that is the number one cause of death for certain large and giant breed dogs. Years ago I lost a great dane this way when he was six, so when I saw Ali fall over herself as she flipped directions following the rabbit – well, I knew we were in for a night of pure hell. I have written this post in hopes that you are spared from ever experiencing such a situation.

Every dog parent needs to know the signs of canine bloat and to react immediately, or else it can quickly lead to the pet’s death.

According to the American Red Cross Dog First Aid Safety Series Volume 2, “Gastric dilation, or bloat, is when the dog’s stomach overfills with air or food. Torsion, or volvulus, is a worsening of this condition in which the stomach turns around upon itself, often misplacing the spleen with it. This cuts off the blood supply to both organs and prevents blood from returning to the heart.”

It is gruesome pain when the stomach twists and its entrance and exit are blocked off. Built up gas  in the stomach is unable to escape. As the gas compresses nearby blood vessels, blood supply to the affected organs is decreased. This lack of blood flow can lead to tissue death in organs such as the stomach and spleen. Toxins are released into the bloodstream, leading to shock.

Dog bloat is not only caused by a head-over-heels fall. Keep these suggestions in mind too:

Risk Factors/Causes of Dog Bloat

Although the exact cause of bloat-torsion is usually unknown, the following risk factors are thought to contribute to this condition:

  • Eating too much food at one meal
  • Eating too fast or gulping food
  • Eating only dry food
  • Exercising to soon before or after eating
  • Age (older dogs are more at risk)
  • Breed (deep chested breeds are more at risk)
  • Weight (lean dogs are at higher risk than overweight dogs – perhaps due to activity)
  • Temperament (aggressive or nervous dogs are also at a higher risk)
  • Stress

Rather than feeding your dog once a day veterinarians recommend dividing your dogs meals into several servings of equal size per day. Do not feed your dog from elevated bowls, as this has been shown to greatly increase the risk of bloat. Also, include some canned food in your dog’s diet. If you have a dog that seems to attack food, you can also purchase a special “bloat bowl” that has been designed to slow the dogs eating down. Also, try to wait at least two hours before or after eating to exercise your dog. I have always owned dogs so I was surprised to recently learn from my vet that Labs as a breed are known to overeat and rush their food, which is exactly what my mixed Lab did.

Not all owners will know the exact cause of how a bloat scenario begins so here is a list of the signs dog owners must always be watching for:

Signs and Symptoms of Dog Bloat

  • Heavy drooling or salivation, usually within a couple of hours of eating a meal (dogs with bloat drool because they cannot swallow)
  • Restlessness or pacing
  • Retching and attempting to vomit, but nothing comes up (dogs with bloat cannot belch or vomit)
  • Swollen, distended belly (caused by the pressure from the trapped stomach gases)
  • Heavy panting, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Sudden collapse
  • Shock

If your dog shows signs of any of these symptoms, do no delay rushing your best friend to the closest veteinary clinic. Learn where 24 hour clinics in your area are before the need to use them ever arises!

Call the clinic when you are on your way to alert them that you are bringing in a dog with canine bloat.

This is a suggestive list of Breeds Most Likely to Develop Dog Bloat

Large breed dogs with deep, narrow chests are at the greatest risk of developing bloat but some smaller breeds are also on this list from  www.dog-first-aid-101.com/dog-bloat (this must not be a complete list since mastiffs are not also noted here):

  • Airedale Terrier
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Basset Hound
  • Boxer
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever
  • Collie
  • Dachshund
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • English Springer Spangle
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Great Dane
  • Gordon Setter
  • Irish Setter
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Miniature Poodle
  • Newfoundland
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Rottweiler
  • Samoyed
  • St. Bernard
  • Standard Poodle
  • Weimaraner

Treatment opinions have greatly improved since I lost my dane all those years ago. Had I known it was available I could have had a preventative procedure done for my mastiff/lab where her stomach would have been ‘tacked’ to her interior sidewall. Ask your vet about  preventative gastropexy for breeds that are at a high risk for bloat. It can be performed during spaying or neutering, or at any other time. It can spare your dogs life and give peace of mind knowing neither of you need to face such a horrible death from bloating.

Nancy J Bailey is an author, playwright, and animal artist. Her book ‘Clifford of Drummond Island’ is the true story about a Morgan horse who has a tremndous sense of humor. It is available from Amazon.com. Video of her horse Cliffy are also on my site (archive August 14, 2009). Cliffy is an artist too – he paints with watercolor and he knows some very smooth dance techniques! Watch Cliffy and Nancy dance and paint together by clicking the calendar on the right. They were featured in my August 14th 2009 post.