Next to severe trauma, “canine bloat” is probably the most acute health emergency any dog owner is likely to encounter. The death rate for even the mildest cases of bloat is at least 30%, with much a much higher likely of death in the very severe cases.
The technical name for Canine Bloat is Acute Gastric Dilatation – Vovulus Complex. Simply put, the stomach blows up with gas and becomes very much of a balloon. In the process of inflating the stomach rotates, thus shutting off both the inlet and the outlet. As a result, the dog can neither vomit nor pass food or gas into the intestine. The pressure created by the ballooning of the stomach shuts off the blood flow to the heart, liver, spleen, and other organs. It also severely retards breathing by placing pressure on the diaphragm. The above can all happen within 3-4 hours.
Although canine bloat is almost always a problem limited to large, deep chested dogs such as Irish Setters, or Wolf hounds, small breeds of dogs can on rare occasions fall victim to this lethal disorder. Two out of three bloat victims are males which have been fed a large meal of dry dog food about 1 hour before the attack. The patient who begins to bloat will typically become restless and uncomfortable. He may attempt to vomit but usually nothing comes out. The dogs condition will deteriorate rapidly if untreated such that in 3 to four hours it is obvious the animal is in serious trouble. His abdomen becomes severe tense, tender, and distended.
The cause of canine bloat is still unknown. It is theorized that a large meal of dry food hanging in the stomach produces a pendulum affect which flips the stomach over if the dog is extremely active after this large meal. These dogs may possibly swallow too much air while drinking water after a large meal. A problem with the nerve supply to the stomach may also play a role in the development of this emergency.
Based on our limited understanding of this disorder veterinarians recommend that owners of deep chested large breed dogs feed their pets 2 to 3 times a day and raise the water bowl in order to make drinking easier. Avoiding vigorous activity after eating is certainly a good idea.
If your perfectly healthy pet suddenly becomes distressed and develops a distended abdomen soon after eating, call your doctor immediately and waste no time getting the dog to the veterinary hospital.