Bloat, clinically known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is a life threatening condition that can develop in puppies and adult dogs alike. What may first appear as a full or gaseous stomach can quickly turn into a life or death battle for your puppy. Understanding what bloat is and knowing the symptoms could just save your puppy’s life.
What is bloat?
Bloat is when your puppy’s stomach rapidly expands with gas and fluid before rotating on itself, twisting off both ends of the stomach. The gas and fluids then start to ferment within the closed off stomach. As pressure builds up and blood supply to the stomach is cut off, a portion or all of the stomach may die.
This series of events triggers a cascade of other medical problems, which can lead to death in a matter of hours if left untreated. Unfortunately, even with emergency treatment, up to 50% of dogs whose stomach has already twisted will die.
Certain breeds are more likely to develop bloat in their lifetime than others. If your puppy is one of these breeds, keep a close eye on him and watch for early signs of bloat. Typically, those breeds more susceptible to bloat are large chested and include the following:
- Great Danes
- Standard Poodles
- German Shepherds
- Irish Wolfhounds
- Doberman Pinschers
- Old English Sheepdog
- Rhodesian Ridgeback
- Labrador Retriever
- St Bernard
- Great Pyrenees
- Basset Hound
Symptoms of Bloat in Puppies
Unfortunately, bloat develops rapidly and progresses quickly. Though the condition is most common in middle aged or older dogs, your puppy is still at risk. When symptoms first appear, your puppy may have just eaten a large meal, drank a large amount of water, or been exercising vigorously before or after eating. The timing of the first symptoms may give the appearance of indigestion, making it difficult for owners to know otherwise before it is too late.
Fortunately, there are a few early warning signs of bloat which you can use to help save your puppy’s life.
- Your puppy is drooling more than usual.
- Your puppy is trying to vomit, but is unable to throw up.
- Your puppy has a tight or swollen stomach.
- Your puppy is tired, but restless.
- Your puppy appears to be uncomfortable or in pain and may groan, whine, or grunt, especially if his stomach is touched or pressed.
As the condition progresses, your puppy may go into shock with pale gums and tongue, rapid heart rate, weak pulse, problems breathing, and collapse. If you have any suspicion that your puppy is experiencing bloat, take him to the nearest veterinary hospital immediately. If the stomach has already twisted, emergency surgery will be the only option to treat your puppy’s condition.
Preventing Puppy Bloat
As with most medical conditions, preventing bloat is much preferred to treating it. Currently, there is no clinically proven cause for bloat, but there are a few things you can do to help prevent your puppy from developing bloat.
- Avoid one large meal: Instead, feed your puppy smaller meals twice a day.
- Slow him down: If you puppy is a fast eater, slow him down. Try using a Slow Feeding Bowl or putting a large, heavy object in his bowl so he has to go around it to eat.
- Lower his bowls: Raised bowls can cause indigestion in some dogs which could lead to bloat if left uncorrected.
- Limit water: Do not let your puppy drink too much water at one time. Remove the bowl if necessary to limit his intake.
- Decrease exercise around mealtime: As mealtime approaches and for some time after, do not let your puppy partake in vigorous exercise.
If your puppy is an at-risk breed for bloat, has a history of stomach problems, or has a close family member that had bloat, you may also consider preventative surgery. Gastropexy is a surgical procedure during which the side of a dog’s stomach is stitched to the abdominal wall to prevent the stomach from twisting.
A preventative Gastropexy is performed on a healthy dog before he has a bloat incident and is not an emergency procedure. Recent medical developments now allow the surgery to be completed laparoscopically which is minimally invasive. If you believe your puppy is a candidate, talk to your vet.