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Bloat - A Medical Emergency

Gastric bloat is one of the true emergency conditions that can affect a dog. This life-threatening condition, also called gastric dilatation, involves over-distention of the stomach with gas, fluid or food.

Often bloat is closely followed by gastric torsion, a twisting of the stomach, explains Anne Ray, DVM, at Laurel Park Animal Hospital. Bloat and/or torsion's deadly effects include impaired circulation due to compression of blood vessels, shock, and toxemia. In a very short time, the condition leads to necrosis of the stomach wall and permanent damage to the heart, kidneys and liver.

Symptoms:

This deadly condition gives the owner little time to act. The symptoms include excessive salivation, non-productive retching, distended belly, unusual restlessness, depression, lethargy, anorexia, weakness, or a rapid heart rate. Any of these symptoms, even those mild at first, require immediate attention of a vet.

Call your vet or emergency clinic, then take your dog in immediately. Emergency surgery may be necessary.

Once a dog is affected by bloat, the condition may recur, so Dr. Ray recommends considering surgery to tack the stomach, preventing its twisting in the future.

Risk factors and risk behaviors include:

* Larger, deep chested dogs. Bloat is most often seen in dogs such as Great Danes, retrievers and setters. However, this condition has affected dogs of other breeds and sizes, as well as in pups who have been allowed to eat too fast. * Age (the risk increases as a dog ages) * Gulping large amounts of food or water * Gulping air when eating * Exercising heavily after eating * Accumulation of gas in the stomach

Preventing bloat:

There are steps you can take to prevent bloat.

* Feed two or three times a day instead of one large meal, especially if your dog is big or is a gobbler.

* Use a dry food that does not expand when wet; premium foods are much less likely to expand. To test your food, drop some kibble in a cup of water.

* Don't let your dog engage in vigorous exercise within 90 minutes after a meal. (Some recommend avoiding heavy exercise right before a meal as well.)

* Don't feed your pet when he's excited, agitated or nervous -- for example when you have a lot of guests. Many dogs will gulp down their food in these situations, according to the November 2000 issue of "Unleashed," the PCF Dog Forum. Instead, calm your dog and feed him at quiet times of the day.

* Don't let dog over-eat.

* One trick to slow down hasty eaters is to put enough water in the bowl so that the kibble floats, making it harder for the dog to pick up the pieces of kibble.

Here is a list of some local emergency hospitals:

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Last Updated: October 20, 2014 (LET) PawSupport