The Crazy and Dangerous Truth About Bloat in Dogs #doghealth

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When I get bloated, it’s uncomfortable, sometimes smelly, but it doesn’t kill me!  Last year, I was under the impression that raised dog food dishes were ergonomically great for our dogs and helped prevent bloat, a health condition that can be deadly to our dogs.  Then a fellow blogger, Dee of 5 Old Dogs, shared a post stating that raised dog food dishes actually contribute to bloat.

But we have 2 and were going to buy 2 more.

What is Bloat in Dogs?

Bloat refers to a condition when our dog’s stomach bloats with gas and fluid, then twists around and can require surgery to fix, because the twisting leads to an obstruction that prevents the release of gas (through belching) and fluids (through vomiting), our dog’s tummy swells, leading to a host of other problems and can lead to death if not caught in time.  Isn’t that awful?

When does Bloat in Dogs Occur?

During my research, I learned that bloat in dogs comes on suddenly in healthy, active dogs, when combined with vigorous exercise and eating and/or drinking (before or after the exercise).  This reminded me of a woman I met who was the fur mom to a German Shepherd.  She would discourage people from feeding her dog treats at the park, because the food, when combined with lots of drinking and enthusiastic play can lead to a twisted stomach – at the time, I had no idea that this was also referred to as bloat.

Dogs most susceptible to bloat are the deep-chested breeds like:  Bloodhound, Boxer, Collie, Great Dane, German Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, Irish Setter, Irish Wolfhound, Labrador Retriever, Old English Sheepdog, St. Bernard, Standard Poodle and Weimaraner.

Among mid-sized dogs, the Chinese Shar-Pei and Basset Hounds have the highest frequency and small dogs are rarely affected, with the exception of Dachshunds, which is a deep-chested breed.

How Do We Identify Bloat in Dogs?

Not all dogs present the common signs of bloat, some of which are listed below.  You can find more information on Pet WebMD: http://pets.webmd.com/dogs/gastric-volvulus-bloat-dogs-life-threatening-emergency

  • Restlessness and Pacing
  • Drooling
  • Gagging, Inability to Vomit
  • Enlarged Belly, Thumping on the Belly Produces a Hollow Sound

It’s important to do exams at home so that you know what’s normal with your dog.  I do them while I’m petting and grooming them; feeling along their body, checking their teeth, gums, and ears, making note of what’s “normal” and what’s new.

If you suspect bloat in your dog, go to the emergency vet immediately!  Emergency surgery may be required.  I’m astounded at how serious this condition is for dogs.  When humans discuss being bloated, it’s after we ate too much at a barbeque.

 

How Do We Prevent Bloat in Dogs?

Thank you, Dr. Alinovi for these tips!

  • Feed multiple times a day, spaced apart so they don’t gulp down their food quickly, because they’re so hungry
  • Don’t feed dogs from a raised bowl!*
  • Feed your dog premium dog food; avoid kibble that lists “fat” as one of the first 4 ingredients
  • Don’t feed your dog foods that are preserved with citric acid
  • Don’t allow your dog to drink a large amount of water at once
  • Don’t engage in a heavy play session or long run when your dog has a full stomach

If you have a food gulper, try feeding your dog from a Kong or another food dispensing toy.  There’s a food dish, Brake Fast that helps slow down eating.  And check out products made to help your dog drink water slowly.

“The pretty elevated bowls make beautiful flower planters but don’t reduce risk of bloating in deep chested dogs.” ~Cathy Alinovi, DVM

*I do know dog owners who feed from elevated bowls, because their dogs are too tall for bowls on the floor or because elevated bowls have helped their dogs eat more slowly.  Given this contradiction, I recommend that you defer to the judgement of a trusted veterinarian.  

We’ve decided to switch back to dog dishes on the floor for our dogs.

 

Please share your experience with elevated dog dishes and bloat in the comments below to help other dog owners.

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25 Comments

  1. Bloat is a terrible thing! My mom worked with her vet friend in Germany where she had to assist with 2 severe bloat cases. It is so painful for the dog and once it happens it is more likely to happen again. Both dogs required surgery and the stomach was stitched a bit to help prevent it from twisting again but the one dog died of a repeat bloat case 2 days later (a beautiful Irish Setter) the other dog did not survive the first case. Believe me mom said that when the stomach was opened up it was the worst smelling thing she has ever smelled. Very, very tragic and also preventable. If every dog owner saw a dog suffer with bloat, they would do anything to prevent it from happening! Mom is very careful that we rest at least an hour after eating and we eat twice a day. It can happen in small dogs too but is not very common.
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  2. Bloat is truly an awful thing. A good friend of mine has his very healthy lab die quite suddenly and quickly from this. As I deal with rescue dogs they are very happy to eat faster than you can get the food in the bowl!

    Some good advice here but if you are concerned with gulping food or eating to fast and elevated bowl won’t help nearly as much as one that has be designed to slow them down. These bowls have one (or a few) humps in the middle so the dog must work harder to get the food and can’t simply take huge bites and swallow it all up fast.
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  3. Bloat is such important and scary topic. The most important thing about bloat is to know the signs. The quicker you recognize the signs of bloat the better chance your dog has of surviving. It is horrible to watch a dog suffer from bloat. I’ve seen it happen and it’s one of those things I would never like to see again.
    In regards to feeders. I really don’t think anyone has solid proof of which way is better and to suggest that one way could prevent bloat over the other is misleading without solid proof. The same goes for the concept that some people say not to add water to a dogs food because it could increase the risk of bloat. They use to say to to do it now they say don’t. Again, no solid proof to back this up. Studies have gone back and forth for years and I’m sure will continue to do so. I personally have always fed in elevated feeders without any issues.
    Great article Kimberly!

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  4. We saw a lot of large dogs experience bloat at the animal hospital years ago and it was absolutely awful. For the dogs that made it through the surgery, recovery was long and slow.
    Huffle has an elevated bowl because he has back problems but he used to eat a few bites at a time, spaced minutes or even hours apart so we didn’t worry about it.
    He fell in love with his new food this month so if he starts gulping it down too quickly, I’ll use one of the quick and easy modifications we used to recommend: add a large and clean rock about half the size of the bowl to create an island in the bowl that he has to eat around.
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  5. Super important article, thanks for sharing! This is a potentially disastrous threat to dogs that can happen to anybody making it something every dog owner should be aware of. Thanks again for discussing this topic!
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  6. I’ve know a couple of people who have lost their dogs to this horrific condition. Because I have deep-chested dogs I’m very cautious about when they eat in conjunction with when they’ve exercised. I go by the one hour before and two hour after rule. I also keep a copy of the signs of bloat in the folder with their medical records.

    We feed raw and I’ve heard (although I don’t remember where I heard this) that raw feeding is less likely to cause bloat then kibble. But I could be wrong.

    It’s a scary and serious disease and this is so important to educate people about it. As two of the people I know who lost their dogs never knew about the condition. One was a lab and one was a boxer and both dogs had the bloat for a while before going to the vet. In the labs case, they paid $2,500 for surgery and the dog died three days later. In the Boxer’s case, she was nine or ten years old and they opted to euthanize because they didn’t want to put her through it. Either way, it sucked.
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    • Ahhh, that’s just heart breaking. I could just hug them for hours. I know that feeling. We paid nearly $3000 and our puppy died from parvo. I don’t regret the money, but the heartache was almost too much.

      I’m really fascinated by the raw food diet and have been doing loads of research for an upcoming raw food diet week. I hope you return to share your experience.

      Kimberly
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  7. I have been concerned about bloat ever since a friend lost her second dog to it a few years ago. He was only 8. It was so sad. My dogs are the fastest eaters you will ever see. I don’t think they even chew. We’ve tried separating them and they still ate fast. After reading your blog post my husband did some research, now we feed them mini meals twenty minutes apart. Two in the morning and three at night. We also wait a bit before filling their water bowl. Buck our golden loves it. He gets to eat three times how fun is that.
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  8. Bloat, or more accurately, particularly the torsion bit is crazy dangerous. It is probably the fastest dog killer there is.

    The issue with elevated dishes is clouded. There are some who believe they help preventing bloat, and there are some who believe the opposite. So I think I just wouldn’t go there. I think that feeding multiple smaller meals, finding ways of getting your dog eat slower, is a better plan.

    That said, since Jasmine’s neck injury we do have an elevated bowl–for drinking and her breakfasts only. Because she’s on home-cooked, gets multiple meals and eats fairly slowly, the potential risk should be quite low. As for her other meals, she is hand-fed.

    I am considering getting one of those dishes to get a dog eat slow for JD. The one I saw is quite funky, looks kind of like a porcupine sort of deal. JD too gets two smaller meals, we do not use elevated bowl for him either (except the drinking bowl, which I explained above)
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  9. Great article. Kimberly. Everyone who loves a dog needs to know about this dangerous health concern. And I love that you talk often about your hands-on approach with your own dogs: “It’s important to do exams at home so that you know what’s normal with your dog. I do them while I’m petting and grooming them; feeling along their body, checking their teeth, gums, and ears, making note of what’s “normal” and what’s new.” Knowing what’s “normal” with our dogs is huge.
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    • Thanks! I figure if I’m on the floor with them, I may as well be productive and they love the attention. It’s really helpful that we can catch things early (like a rash Rodrigo had last month) and explain clearly what’s up to our vet :)

      Thanks for stopping by and for being the inspiration for this article.
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  10. Great topic to share Kimberly. I read Dee’s post about bloat ahwhile back and wasn’t aware of the elevated dog bowl dishes contributing to bloat. Some dogs need the bowls if they have a condition called megaesophagus, but that’s the only time I’ve ever heard them being recommended. There is also a preventive surgery that can be done to high-risk breeds, typically when they are spayed or neutered called a “gastropexy”. It basically pins the stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent twisting.
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  11. Great post. I have heard of bloat and been warned against it because I have a German Shepherd, but the name doesn’t really do justice to what the problem is. I’ll be changing how and when I feed my dog. Thanks.

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    • I know, Adam – Bloat just sounds like they ate too much and they’re gassy. Someone at the dog park first told me about it, but she didn’t call it bloat. She mentioned that she had to be careful about treats and heavy play at the dog park and asked people not to feed her dog (a German Shepherd too) treats. I was stunned, because I had never heard of such a thing. I’ve learned a lot in the past couple of years.

      Kimberly
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  12. These are some great tips in how identify bloat in dogs. Thanks for raising awareness.

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