Dog bloat is formally known as Gastric Dilatation Volvulus. It’s the second leading cause of death in dogs, but many owners don’t even know the signs to look for. Bloat is a buildup of gases in the digestive system caused by swallowing air, stress, or an internal twisting. Once symptoms occur, it can quickly lead to death.
The number one sign of bloating in dogs is unsuccessful attempts to vomit. They can repeat this anywhere from every five to thirty minutes. The dog will have a vomiting reflex but only produce light foam. The dog may appear restless or anxious; whining, pacing, or trying to hide. They may ignore their normal routine. For example, the dog may insist on going out during the night when they normally sleep.
Many dogs with bloat will have strange behaviors such as licking the air. They may hunch up, drink more than normal, or attempt to eat foreign debris like stones and sticks. If you place your ear against their stomach, you won’t hear the typical gurgling digestive noises.
Once a dog is actually experiencing bloat there are definite symptoms you’ll notice. At the beginning stages they will appear fatigued and very reserved. Eventually, they will begin to cough and gag with heavy drooling. A foamy mucous may appear around the mouth, while the gums will appear very pale. They will either stand with their legs spread apart or curl up in a ball due to pain. They will avoid laying on their stomachs due to the pain. Put your ear up to their stomach. If you don’t hear a gurgling noise signifying digestion, it indicates bloat.
As the bloating progresses, they won’t be able to defecate. Breathing will range from heavy panting to shallow breaths, but the membrane of the mouth will feel cold. The dog’s heart rate will increase, and they eventually collapse.
There are precautionary measures that can be taken to help your dog avoid bloating. Meal time is crucial. Reduce their stress when eating. Make this a peaceful time of day. Avoid exercise for one hour before, until one hour after feedings. Discourage rapid eating by giving them several smaller meals instead of one large serving. Remove water during feedings as it will dilute the digestive acids needed to break down food. When food isn’t breaking down properly, the gasses that cause bloat are formed.
If switching food, do it gradually. Feed a mix of wet and dry foods. Choose dry foods with bone meal product or rendered meat as one of the first four ingredients. Make sure that fat is not listed within the first four ingredients. It should be high in protein with an adequate fiber content of three percent. The dry food should contain at least 30% protein.
One tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or Aloe Vera gel can be given after meals to aid digestion. Prozyme, an enzyme product, can be added to food as well as herbs that reduce gas. Avoid additives such as alfalfa, brewer’s yeast, and soybean products.
Keep a product with Simethicome on hand. This would be Mylanta Gas, Gas X, or a similar product. Give it once bloating occurs to slow down the gasses, giving you more time to get to the vet. Don’t let your dog be a victim. Know the symptoms of bloat. If you even suspect that your dog has bloat it is safer to visit an animal emergency hospital immediately.
Information credit to Central Animal Emergency Clinic, a Vancouver pet hospital.