Deep-chested dogs are susceptible to gastric torsion; the dreaded "bloat"

Bloat, Torsion, Gastric dilatation-volvulus, Call it what you like, is a serious, life-threatening condition of large breed dogs. While the diagnosis is simple, the changes in the dog's body make treatment complicated, expensive, and not always successful. Our experience here is that if the dog has fully distended gut before intervention the likelihood is the animal will die so it is imperative to act quickly.

A typical scenario starts with a large, deep-chested dog, usually fed once daily, although we have had torsion when dogs are fed twice. Typical breeds affected are Akita, Deerhound, Great Dane, German Shepherd, St. Bernard, Irish Wolfhound, and Irish Setter. Doberman Pinschers, Weimaraners, Bloodhounds, other similar breeds, and large, deep-chested mixed breeds are also affected.

If the dog has the habit of bolting food, gulping air, or drinking large amounts of water immediately after eating to this feeding schedule and body type and/or has vigorous exercise after a full meal, you have the recipe for bloat. Of course, the fact that not all bloats happen in just the same way and the thought that some bloodlines are more at risk than others further complicates.

A dog beginning with torsion appears uncomfortable, may give a little whimper, or try to vomit. Abdominal distention, salivating, and retching are the hallmark signs of bloat. Other signs may include restlessness, depression, lethargy, or a rapid heart rate. Owners just sense something is wrong usually well before the gas builds up and if you phone ahead to warn the vet it will help as they can get things ready. This is really a true emergency and speed is of the essence, you have to get veterinary attention as quickly as you can. Do not attempt home treatment.

Initial diagnosis may include x-rays, an ECG, and blood tests, but treatment will probably be started before the test results are in. Our vet’s first line of action is to treat shock with IV fluids and steroids. Antibiotics and anti-arrhythmic may also be started now. Then he will attempt to decompress the stomach by passing a stomach tube. If this is successful, a gastric leverage may be instituted to wash out accumulated food, gastric juices, or other stomach contents.

Once the dog's condition is stabilized, surgery to correct the stomach twist, remove any unhealthy tissue, and anchor the stomach in place is performed. The gastroplexy, or anchoring surgery, is an important procedure to prevent recurrence, and many variations exist. Your veterinarian will do the procedure he feels comfortable with and which has the best success rate

I will leave complete vets treatment here rather vague as this has not been written with any intention of saying how your vet should deal with it. Rather some general information which may help you catches the condition early and save the dog. We try not to get too paranoid about it and have blown a few myths out of the window.

Some say stress can bring on bloat, well the first bloat we had was a 9 year old bitch on Christmas day who had not been fed a large meal as she has been treated with bits of this and bits of that all day, it was Christmas. Asleep on her bed in the hall she started to whimper, she curled up tight and luckily Mick heard her (I had gone to bed) and we raced to the vet, she died post operatively from shock. 10 years later and being bloat free we started to relax when one of our favourite hounds was found in the morning like a balloon. We tried to save him but in hindsight I wish we had just let him go as he died in agony.

One thing we know is if you spot the condition early you have a good chance of saving the hound. - we have CCV cameras on all the dogs who live outside - it gives us piece of mind that if anything happens we will know and we have got used to the monitor being on all night in our room.


Clearly, prevention of bloat is preferable to treatment. In susceptible breeds, feed two or three meals daily and discourage rapid eating, if you have a dog that grabs food feed on a tray so the dog cannot gulp the food down. Do not allow exercise for two hours after a meal, we usually feed late and no exercise until morning. . While for years we had been told to feed on an elevated feeding post - guidelines are now to feed on the floor.

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