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petplan pet insurance presents: the latest dish on bloat

  • Jules
  • Posted by Jules Benson on
    Chief Veterinary Medical Officer of Petplan

Table manners aside, your dog’s urgent eating style simply won’t do. Gulping down breakfast is not only a choking risk, but, in some cases, can increase the risk of a life-threatening condition called gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV).  Also known as the dreaded “bloat,” GDV is a true canine emergency, often requiring surgery to correct.

Bloat occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with air and compresses the diaphragm and abdominal veins causing a restriction of blood flow to the heart.  The air-filled stomach can easily rotate, cutting off the dog’s blood supply to the stomach. Without emergency treatment, it’s only a matter of time before the stomach tissue dies. By learning to recognize the signs of canine bloat and responding immediately, you can help prevent the devastating consequences of this condition.

Here are some common questions often asked about bloat:

Who gets bloat?
All dogs are susceptible to GDV (bloat). However, large breed dogs with deep chests are much more likely than smaller breeds to get GDV. Male dogs over the age of seven are twice as likely to get GDV than females. Dogs that eat too fast and exercise vigorously soon afterwards, and/or eat just once-a-day are also at an increased risk.

Going for a walk after a meal helps alleviate my dog’s gas. But is it safe?
There have been links made about large-breed or barrel-chested dogs bloating after vigorous exercise shortly after eating. However, the key here is that the exercise is generally vigorous and unchecked (running, jumping, rolling, etc). Gentle walks after a meal can aid your dog’s digestion and alleviate some of his or her ghastly gaseousness. If your dog is a lunatic off the leash, it’s important that these walks be on the leash and that the level of exercise is mild to moderate to avoid any potential problems with GDV.

What are the symptoms of bloat?

Bloated, distended belly
Dry heaving
Shallow breathing
Weak pulse
Rapid heart rate

Can I prevent bloat?
Actually, yes. Many veterinarians recommend that large-breed dogs undergo an additional operation called a gastropexy at the time of spay or neuter. A gastropexy is basically a surgical procedure that attaches a dog’s stomach to their body wall and eliminates the possibility of the stomach rotating. (This procedure is also routinely performed any time a pet has surgical treatment for bloat and prevents further episodes.)

If your big or deep-chested dog hasn’t had a gastropexy and your veterinarian doesn’t feel that a separate procedure is desirable, you can help still protect against it by making sure to feed your dog two to three times each day, and limit water and exercise one hour before and after eating.

In the event that your dog does “bloat,” time is absolutely critical. Being familiar with the signs of GDV noted above and getting your pet to the vet as soon as possible really can make all the difference.

So, you know what to look for, you know what to do, now how do you pay for it? Since many emergency and specialty clinics charge more than $6,000 for GDV critical care, surgery and after-care, Petplan clients are always glad they thought ahead.
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Dr. Ernie Ward, Jr.Veterinary Advisory Board of Petplan
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