When you think of bloat the first thing that comes to mind is probably a stomach ache. You might feel gassy or uncomfortably full. There are all sorts of over the counter medications you can take to get relief and it’s not usually a big deal.
That isn’t the case for your dog.
Bloat is a medical emergency for your dog and requires immediate vet treatment or it will be fatal.
The medical term for bloat is gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV). It occurs when the stomach fills with food, gas, or fluid, and then twists over on itself.
As the stomach fills and pressure increases, blood flow is cut off from the hind end of the body. Blood from the hind legs and abdomen can’t flow back to the heart as circulation is cut off.
It also cuts off blood flow to the pancreas which creates toxic compounds when it is deprived of oxygen. Due to this, a dog can make it through treatment and still have complications or even die, because one of the compounds targets the heart.
It only takes a couple hours for complications and death to occur, so it’s important to be vigilant. It’s every dog owner’s worst nightmare.
We know this all sounds scary and it is a very serious issue, but we’re here to guide you along.
We’re going to go over symptoms, causes, and most importantly prevention.
Symptoms of Bloat
There are a lot of symptoms to look out for, so you may feel like you’re overreacting, but this is certainly a case of better safe than sorry. It is better that your vet or the emergency clinic confirm that the symptoms were a false alarm, rather than something be wrong and you not call them.
You may notice that your dog’s abdomen looks distended or larger than usual. It may also feel hard when pressed on from the pressure of the stomach building up.
Sometimes, normal stomach upset will present with this symptom as well, but bloat is much more extreme. Whereas the stomach will feel distended but soft with gastrointestinal upset, bloat will feel hard with little give.
Lack of Appetite
Your dog that normally begs for food and gets excited for anything even slightly edible will probably become disinterested in food of any sort. They’re stomach hurts and they’re most likely nauseous.
You don’t want to eat on an upset stomach and neither do they.
Your dog can’t tell you when they’re nauseous, but there are some signs that you can look out for.
Dry heaving: Your dog’s stomach is going to try and relieve the pain and extra pressure, but with the stomach twisted there’s no way for anything to come up.
Lip licking: Just like when you feel like you might vomit, your dog’s mouth may become dry and they feel the need to lick their lips.
Salivation: In preparation for vomiting, the body sometimes produces extra saliva. Most of us have experienced this uncomfortable feeling before needing to throw up.
Have you ever been in terrible pain? You can’t get comfortable and sitting still feels impossible. You probably get up to pace or move around a lot.
Your dog will do the same. Especially because they won’t be able to lay down or sit without putting extra pressure on their abdomen.
Your dog will probably be much more grouchy than usual, because they don’t feel well.
They may even whine if you try to press on their stomach. It hurts that badly at the moment even though they normally love their belly rubs.
What Causes Bloat
There are a few factors that can make your dog more likely to suffer from bloat. Some of it is genetic and some of it has to do with eating habits.
Deep Chested and Tall Dogs
Large and extra large breeds that are taller than they are wide are more susceptible to bloat. Great Danes, German Shepherds, Dobermans, and Weimaraners all fall on this list, but they are by no means the only ones.
Unfortunately, professionals aren’t sure why these types of dogs are more susceptible to bloat, but they know that they are so they require some extra care.
Eating too Quickly
Since this medical complication is caused by excess air, food, or liquid in the stomach, eating too quickly can make it more likely to happen.
Dogs that eat quickly swallow a lot of air along with their food. Those big mouthfuls of kibble come with an equally large amount of air.
Exercising Too Soon After Meals
Running and playing right after a meal can make it easier for your dog’s stomach to flip over on itself. This is because their stomach is very full and the weight gets moved around.
How to Prevent Bloat
You should be cautious and mindful of bloat, but you don’t need to stress. Although bloat is not always preventable, there are plenty of things you can do at home to help prevent it from happening and many dogs never experience bloat.
Feed Small, Frequent Meals
Instead of feeding one or two large meals a day, aim for three to four smaller ones. This prevents the stomach from becoming overly full, so that twisting is less likely to occur.
Feeding your dog more frequently may also help them to slow down while eating, because they won’t feel as hungry.
Have you ever gone all day without eating and then really pigged out at dinner time? Your dog will do the same thing if they’re only getting one meal a day.
Even changing over from one large meal to two smaller ones can make bloat less likely.
Combination of Wet and Dry Food
Feeding both wet and dry food will help keep your dog hydrated. A hydrated dog is much less likely to gulp a lot of water after eating.
A stomach full of a lot of food and water is much more likely to cause bloat than one that isn’t as full.
Slow Feeder Bowls
Sometimes no matter what you do, your dog is just a fast eater.
You’ve tried smaller meals or hand feeding or whatever else and it just doesn’t seem to work. Luckily, there are items on the market to help with these situations!
Our Fenrir Puzzle Bowl is a slow feeder designed to slow even the fastest eaters.
It’s designed so that your dog has to take their time picking and pawing their food from the dish. It also prevents them from taking large bites and swallowing air with their meal.
Wait for Play Time
You should wait at least an hour after meal times to take your dog out to walk or play. It will give them time to partially digest their meal.
It can be easy to say that you’re “just going for a walk” but things happen. Dogs get excited and want to play or jump.
It’s better to have an hour of quiet time before play just to be safe.
We hope this article has helped you to understand bloat better. It can be a scary and concerning thing, but we’ve armed you with the know-how to do what you can to help prevent it.
By knowing the signs and how to adjust your dog’s eating schedule, you have all you need to go forward confidently. Don’t be afraid to talk to your vet either! They’re a wealth of knowledge.
Do you have any other slow feeder tips? Have you tried out Fenrir Puzzle Bowl?
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