little-dogs-can-bloat-tooBloat. For many dog owners, the word “bloat” is like a stab of fear to their belly. Rightfully so! Bloat in dogs can be fatal. Bloat is the common term for gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) The ASPCA says, “When bloat occurs, the dog’s stomach fills with air, fluid and/or food. The enlarged stomach puts pressure on other organs, can cause difficulty breathing, and eventually may decrease blood supply to a dog’s vital organs. This condition can cause rapid clinical signs and death in several hours. Even with immediate treatment, approximately 25% to 40% of dogs die from this medical emergency.” Oh my! Many pet owners aren’t even aware of what the symptoms of bloat are, or if their dog – because of his or her breed or breed mix – may be prone to bloat. (If you’re familiar with colic in horses, it is very similar.) So what causes bloat, and what can you do to reduce the risk that your dog will bloat? Read on…

My dog Max, because of his size (large), age (over 7), breed mix (deep chested), temperament (fearful/anxious) is a high bloat risk. I’ve had two bloat scares with him — neither time did I see his stomach swell, and both times it did not progress to bloat, thank goodness! He was exhibiting many of the classic symptoms: retching with nothing coming out, restlessness, drooling, and looking at his stomach like it was bothering him. We rushed him to the vet, and thankfully he burped on the way! Xrays confirmed he had a lot of gas in his stomach, but it didn’t progress to the swelling and twisting that is bloat.

What are the symptoms of bloat?

The symptoms of bloat can be so subtle, they can be hard to miss! If your dog’s stomach, behind his ribs, looks swollen – that is one clear sign, but not always present. Drs. Foster and Smith say, “The most obvious signs are abdominal distention (swollen belly) and nonproductive vomiting (animal appears to be vomiting, but nothing comes up) and retching. Other signs include restlessness, abdominal pain, and rapid shallow breathing. Profuse salivation may indicate severe pain. If the dog’s condition continues to deteriorate, especially if volvulus has occurred, the dog may go into shock and become pale, have a weak pulse, a rapid heart rate, and eventually collapse. A dog with gastric dilatation without volvulus can show all of these signs, but the more severe signs are likely to occur in dogs with both dilatation and volvulus.”

Wendy C. Brooks, DVM, DipABVP at The Pet Health Library lists the following:

Factors Increasing the Risk of Bloat

  • Feeding only one meal a day
  • Having closely related family members with a history of bloat
  • Eating rapidly
  • Being thin or underweight
  • Moistening dry foods (particularly if citric acid is listed as a preservative)
  • Feeding from an elevated bowl
  • Restricting water before and after meals
  • Feeding a dry diet with animal fat listed in the first four ingredients
  • Fearful or anxious temperament
  • History of aggression towards people or other dogs
  • Male dogs are more likely to bloat than females
  • Older dogs (7 – 12 years) were the highest risk group

You can take the opposite of many of those and figure out what you can do in some of the factors to reduce the risk of bloat, such as feeding multiple smaller meals each day, slowing down how fast your dogs eats if he’s a fast eater, keeping him at a healthy weight, and feed canned/wet food diet from a bowl on the floor, and always give him access to water.

We hope this article helps you on your path to educating your self to be the best pet parent you can be!