Sunday, April 26, 2009

That Bloated Feeling

Did you know?
I grew up with large breed dogs (Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Greyhound), but until I started working for an animal ER I knew nothing about "bloat" in dogs. Turns out it is a very serious condition that needs immediate medical attention for the affected dog to survive.

Let me tell you why!
There are two kinds of bloat. GASTRIC DILATATION, an excess build-up of food and gas causes the stomach to rapidly expand or dilate; and GASTRIC DILATATION VOLVULUS (GDV), after expanding the stomach actually turns along its long axis and thereby twists the esophagus and small intestine closed so there is no passage of stomach contents or gas in or out of the stomach. Both conditions are very painful, but the GDV is life threatening to your dog. Veterinarians and scientists are still trying to pinpoint the cause of bloat. However, from a study conducted in 2004, Purdue University researchers site the following five risk factors to keep an eye on.
  • Large chest. The deep chested boys and girls are more susceptible - like Irish setters, Rottweilers, Great Danes, Mastiffs, collies, standard poodles.
  • Raised food dishes. Turns out it is better to keep the dish on the floor.
  • Genetics. If the mom or dad in the blood line had a bloat then its offspring might as well.
  • Age. Geriatric dogs are more likely to get GDV.
  • Gulping. Dogs that devour their food or water all in one swallow often ingest a lot of air at the same time.
The symptoms of bloat or GDV can be similar to other illnesses. The two tip offs are when your dog's abdomen looks like someone put an inflated balloon in his stomach and/or if your dog is retching - trying to vomit without success. Other signs include excessive drooling, restlessness or pacing, fast heart rate, indications of abdominal pain - whining or groaning when pressure is applied to the belly, cold and pale gums, biting at stomach, and labored breathing.

The only solution for GDV is surgery. The surgeon will untwist the stomach, release the trapped gases, and inspect the tissue and organs to ensure the blood flow has returned to all the vital areas. The surgeon will also perform a gastropexy that secures the stomach to the abdomen wall and decreases the risk of the stomach twisting again should the dog experience another bloat.

The moral of the story...know your dog and get "Lucky" to the animal ER right away if you suspect a bloat.

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