Gastric Dilation-Volvulus or better (barely) known as Bloat and Gastric Torsion is when a dogs stomach bloats then "flips" leading to death if not immediately treated.
What is it?
Bloat is exactly what it sounds like, the dogs stomach swells from trapped gases. Torsion or Volvulus is when the stomach rotates, which can cause tissue death and a cutting off of oxygen to organs. It can cause the stomach to rupture and the spleen to twist with the stomach.
What causes it?
They don't know.
They (Veterinarians) do believe that there can be factors that make a dog more prone to it: genetics, breed, and eating habits.
Dogs genetically prone to gastrointestinal tract problems or a first relative of theirs that has had a torsion will place them at a higher risk for developing gastric torsion.
Large and X-Large breeds that are deep chested are at the highest risk such as: German Shepherds, Great Danes, Doberman, Poodle, Boxer, etc.
Dogs that gobble their food down are notorious for developing "food bloat" from gorging themselves.
What are the symptoms?
The more obvious symptoms are:
visible abdominal swelling
dry heaving or vomiting
depressed or anxious behaviour
What can I do to stop it?
There are steps you can take at home to decrease the risk:
Feed multiple meals a day instead of only once a day
Leave the bowls on the floor, don't use elevated raisers
No exercise an hour before or an hour after feeding
If you have a fast eater, feed them with a slow feeder bowl
Have fresh water always available but don't allow them to gulp it
Feed a mix of dry with wet food (feeding all dry food has been linked to many cases)
Keep them on a diet of reduced carbs, 30% high protein, 3% crude fiber, rendered meat meal with bone product as a main ingredient in kibble while avoiding alfalfa, soybeans, and brewers yeast (foods that swell)
There is also an elective surgical procedure called gastropexy where they will tack the stomach to the abdominal wall to stop torsion from happening. It does not stop bloat, but it is torsion that is the most dangerous. It can be done through either surgical incision or endoscopy.
How do I treat it?
There is no home remedy. You go immediately to the Vets office, time is running out! You can administer GAS-X to help alleviate the bloat while on your way to seek treatment.
Make yourself aware of gastric torsion, do your research, spread the word as it's one of the leading killers of dogs yet many are so unaware of it and the little steps that can be taken to help avoid it. In my pack, the dogs know that they have to "rest their bellies" for an hour before and after they eat. I feed them twice a day with a mix of wet and dry food, they always have fresh water, and I ditched the bowl raisers. In their emergency kit is a box of GAS-X pills (yes, human fart pills) on-hand if needed.
Celebrate your gassy dog, it's a sign the belly is working!
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