CHENNAI : Canine bloat, or more technically, gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), is the main killer of dogs, especially of deep-chested giant and large breeds. Bloat is a medical and surgical emergency. As the stomach fills with air, pressure builds, stopping blood from the hind legs and abdomen from returning to the heart. Blood pools at the back end of the body, reducing the working blood volume and sending the dog into shock.
As the stomach flips, it drags the spleen and pancreas along with it, cutting off the blood flow. The oxygen-starved pancreas produces some very toxic hormones which targets the heart and stops it cold. Even in the mildest case of bloat, which is extremely rare, dogs die without treatment. A few indicators are:
An enlargement of the dog’s abdomen
An affected dog will feel pain and might whine if you press on his belly
Without treatment, in about an hour or two, your dog will likely go into shock. The heart rate will rise and the pulse will get weaker, leading to death. Veterinarians start by treating the shock. Once the dog is stable, he’s taken into surgery. One procedure is to deflate the stomach and turn it back to its correct position. Second, because up to 90 per cent of affected dogs will have this condition again, the stomach is tacked to the abdominal wall (a procedure called a gastropexy) to prevent it from twisting.
Vets are still not sure what causes bloat. Risk of bloat is correlated to chest conformation. Dogs with a deep, narrow chest — very tall, rather than wide — suffer the most often from bloat. Great Danes, St Bernard’s, German shepherds, Irish setters, Dobermans. In dogs with deeper abdomens, the stretching of the gastric ligaments over time may allow the stomach to descend relative to the esophagus, thus increasing the gastro esophageal angle, and this may promote bloat. Males are twice as likely to bloat as females. If a dog has relatives (parents, siblings, or offspring) who have suffered from bloat, there is a higher chance he will develop bloat.
Certain dietary ingredients have been blamed over the years, but the data is inconclusive. However, foods containing soybean meal or having oils or fats in the first four ingredients in kibbles increase the risk manifold. Dogs fed only once a day are twice as likely to bloat as those fed two meals a day. The rate of eating is also a contributor. Fast eaters have five times the risk than dogs that are slow eaters.
Using bowls with fingers (or centre posts) slows dogs down physically, but it’s also important to address the anxiety that comes with feeding around other dogs, because that can be a risk factor. Stressed dogs and those that are hyperactive are more likely to bloat. Separating dogs at feeding times may help reduce anxiety and stress surrounding food.
We can’t prevent all cases of bloat, but by implementing some of the above techniques, you may be able to reduce your dog’s risk. If your dog shows signs of bloat, take him to a veterinarian immediately. Every minute counts.(The writer is an animal lover)