Bloat: Identifying Risk Factors and Preventive Measures - Page 2

Helping You Get the Most From Your Hunting Dogs

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Time of Bloat Occurrences
According to Dr. Bataller, the time of day appears to have an influence on the occurrence of bloat. Among the dogs in his study, few incidents occurred during the morning hours. Incidents of bloat increased throughout the day and peaked at late evening. In discussing his study, Dr. Batallar added that he hopes owners of dogs at risk for developing bloat and dogs who have experienced bloat will consult with their veterinarian concerning the merits of gastropexy, a preventive surgical procedure.

Research Disproves Old Diet Theories
Historically, some researchers theorized that cereal-based dry dog foods, and soybean meal in particular, might be involved in the cause of GDV due to the fermentation of food by bacteria in the stomach. The theory was that fermentation would be followed by release of large quantities of gaseous products such as carbon dioxide, methane and hydrogen. However, considerable research has shown this is not true.

A study conducted at the University of Minnesota examined the gas accumulated in the stomachs of dogs with bloat. This study showed that the source of gas was swallowed atmospheric air rather than fermentation, as the original proponents had suggested. Several other studies have indicated that atmospheric air is the main source of gas in the digestive system of normal animals. Additional support for this research is the fact that fermentation occurs primarily in the intestine, not in the stomach. Consequently, it cannot contribute to bloat.

Studies at the University of Florida have failed to demonstrate any effect of diet on gastric function in large breed dogs, suggesting that diet is probably not a cause of the disease.

Other Research Perspectives
Some researchers feel that the basis for bloat may be a disorder of motility of the stomach or the control of motility. They theorize such a defect might predispose to delayed or abnormal emptying of the stomach after eating, chronic overstretching of the stomach, alterations in supportive structures, excessive swallowing of air and eventually dilatation and volvulus.

The Journal of Small Animal Practice (1990, Volume 31) published a paper by C. F. Burrows,, University of Florida, College of Veterinary Medicine, stating that "current thinking suggests that the final common pathway in the development of GVD may be an inhibition of gastric motility and emptying. This could come about through a primary disruption of normal gastric electrical patterns or through the effect of extraneous stressful events that disrupt gastric motility."

Bloat affects primarily large and giant breed dogs, presumably because of their anatomy or conformation. This factor has led some researchers to suggest that the stomach in deep-chested dogs has excessive room to move about or twist. It is also suggested that the stomach anatomy or function is different in large breed dogs. Heredity may play a role by influencing the dog's anatomy.

Although many important clues exist as to the causes of bloat, research must continue to achieve a complete understanding of this disease.

Warning Signs of Bloat
Bloat can strike an apparently healthy dog without warning. For this reason, a dog owner should be aware of the following warning signs of bloat:
  • A sudden display of discomfort is the first warning. The dog may whine, pace, sit and get up again in an unsuccessful attempt to be comfortable.
  • Frequent attempts to vomit produce no result.
  • The abdominal pain and distention become more evident.
  • The dog may not be able to get up.
  • Signs of shock become evident: pale gums, rapid heartbeat and irregular, shallow breathing.

    Bloat is life threatening and emergency treatment must be obtained immediately. Do not wait for signs to progress before seeking veterinary care.

    As a safeguard, whenever a dog shows signs of illness, prompt veterinary treatment is recommended.

    Preventive Measures
    While no measures can guarantee to prevent bloat, the following strategies have been suggested to help reduce the risk:
  • Feeding should not be preceded or followed by exercise.
  • In a multi-pet household, feed dogs individually in a quiet place. This may help calm dogs who gulp their food or feel they have to protect it while eating.
  • Feeding two or more small meals a day is recommended.
  • Avoid sudden dietary changes. If it is necessary to change a dog's diet, it should be done gradually over a seven to ten day period.
  • Feed only a high quality dog food. Avoid feeding table scraps or supplements of any kind. Prevent access to other sources of food such as garbage cans.
  • Dogs who habitually gulp their food may benefit by mixing dry food with water. This increases the volume and helps to slow them down.
  • Keep the dog as quiet as possible before and after eating.
  • Do not allow a dog to drink water immediately after exercise or undue excitement.
  • Try to avoid or alleviate situations stressful to the dog such as loud rock music or the excitement of large gatherings.
  • Disrupting a dog's regular routine should be avoided or minimized as much as possible.
  • When a dog is boarded, the kennel personnel should be instructed as to the diet to feed and how much to feed. The importance of not changing the dog's diet or feeding routine should be emphasized.

    In establishing a breeding program, consideration should be given to the possibility of hereditary predisposition to bloat as the result of body conformation or physiological control of the digestive function of the stomach.
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