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What Exactly Is "Bloat" in a Dog?

If your dog suffers from bloating, or gastric dilation, it means that his stomach has been filled up with gas and air but it remains in position. Gastric dilation volvulus (GDV) on the other hand, is when the bloated stomach twist around itself, which can later on squeeze off the blood supply resulting in significant damages to the other internal organs. GDV is a fatal condition in dogs.

It is important that dog owners are aware which breeds are prone to this disorder and what are the symptoms that  they should look out for. If you suspect your dog to have GDV, then your dog should be brought to your vet immediately.

Symptoms of GDV

  • Belly that suddenly grew very large with air
  • Belching
  • Retching
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty in moving around
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid decline in the dog's condition
  • Shallow, rapid breathing
  • Pale gums

If your dog is suffering from a simple bloat with no twisting action, he should be able to relieve the gas and air pressure by belching. However, if your dog is suffering from GDV, it is impossible for him to expel the gas and air from his stomach because the entry and exit passages are blocked which was caused by the twisting action.

It is hard to tell whether your dog is suffering from a simple bloat or a much worse condition like GDV. If your dog can be seen with the symptoms that were listed above, go immediately to your vet or to an emergency animal hospital. Since GDV is associated with high mortality rate, you have to act fast to avoid your dog from getting the worst result, namely death.

Risk Factors

Some of the cause of bloating and GDV are still unknown, so it's important that as a pet owner, you know what you can do in order to prevent your dog from developing it.

The most common breeds that are usually diagnosed with these conditions include:

  • Great Dane
  • Saint Bernard
  • Basset Hound
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Weimaraner
  • Irish Setter
  • Shorthaired Pointer
  • Gordon Setter
  • Standard Poodle
  • Newfoundland
  • German Shepherd  

Underweight and older dogs also have a high risk to develop bloating and GDV, while dogs with a happy personality tend to have a lower risk.

Dogs that seem to inhale their food and swallow a lot of air while eating are also at higher risk for GDV.

Other dietary habits that are considered to be risk factors for dogs to develop GDV include:

  • Eating just once a day
  • Eating large amounts at each meal
  • Exercising after eating a meal
  • Drinking large quantities of water right after eating
  • Being in a stressful situation right after eating
  • Other risk factors to consider include increased gastrin concentration, decreased stomach motility and gastric emptying, and removal of the spleen.

Tips On How To Prevent GDV In A High-Risk Dog

  • Feed a diet that is species-appropriate. Avoid grains and other fermentable carbohydrates. Feed your dog two to three small meals every day rather than one large meal daily.
  • Don't exercise your dog right after or an hour after he finished eating.
  • Don't feed foods that are hard or impossible to digest such as bones, dental chews, toys, and other foreign objects.
  • Avoid your dog from being stressed. Daily exercise needs to be done every day especially for large dogs, however, it should not be done right after meals as previously mentioned.

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