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Don’t let bloat kill your dog! July 27, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in homesteading, pets, wit and wisdom.
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As owners of large-breed dogs, and having edited some cutting-edge pet-care books over the years, our friend Ben and Silence Dogood have long been aware of bloat and the threat it poses to large-breed dogs. But two things came together this morning that made our friend Ben decide to rant about it in hopes of saving a few lives: a pitiful article in this morning’s paper about a man who’d just lost his dog to bloat, and the arrival of a number of pet-specialty catalogues.

Bloat comes on suddenly and can kill a dog in an hour, but it’s also preventable. It afflicts large-breed dogs (like the Brazilian mastiff in the article) and livestock. It’s not a disease, but what might be called an eating disorder, when the stomach suddenly fills up with gas or fluid, then twists, shutting off the blood supply not only to itself but to other major organs. Lack of blood and oxygen begin to kill the organs in a matter of minutes, followed by the death of the animal if veterinary intervention isn’t sought immediately. Bloat is the second most frequent cause of premature death in large dog breeds—only cancer is a bigger threat—so it’s something large-breed owners like us need to take very seriously.

How can you tell if your dog has bloat? As the article says, “Dogs that develop bloat are visibly uncomfortable, often try to vomit but can’t, and are restless.” If your dog ever displays these symptoms, do not delay, get him to the vet ASAP, even if you have to go to an all-night emergency service. Every minute counts in the race to save his life.

Let’s back up a bit and talk about why dogs get bloat to begin with, then how you can keep your dog safe. Dogs who inhale their food, wolfing it down with a lot of air and basically overwhelming their stomachs, are at high risk. Dogs who eat within 30 minutes of vigorous exercise are at high risk. Nervous, excitable dogs who eat in a state of high tension are at high risk. Dogs who eat one huge meal a day rather than two or three smaller meals are at high risk, and it increases as they gulp down waves of water with their meal. And here’s the kicker: Dogs who eat from elevated dishes are at high risk.

At one time, it was thought that raising the dog’s dish would reduce the chances of getting bloat, but it’s since been found that the opposite is true: the higher the dish, the higher the risk. Our friend Ben is continuously alarmed to see raised dish setups still offered in every pet-care catalogue, and hopes that this state of affairs will soon change. If you have a large-breed dog and are currently using a raised-dish setup, stop immediately. Put your dog’s food and water dishes flat on the floor! Never, ever buy one of these setups, no matter what claims are made for it.

So okay, here’s how to protect your beloved dog from bloat: Feed her at least twice a day rather than once. Put his dishes flat on the floor. Wait at least a half-hour after a walk or any exercise before or after feeding. If your dog is excited or upset, wait until she’s calmed down to feed her. And if, like our first golden retriever, he eats so fast that the food seems to have vaporized before the bowl even hits the ground, put a rubber or nylon ball, ring, or other inedible, indestructible toy in the dish with the food so your dog has to eat around it, which will slow him down.

None of this is rocket science, and it can save your dog’s life. Make it an automatic part of your routine. We lost both our goldens to cancer, which was horrible enough. Our friend Ben can’t imagine the nightmare of watching a perfectly healthy, happy dog go from great to late in less than an hour. Fortunately, our black German shepherd puppy, Shiloh, is a delicate eater. But we’re taking no chances. If you own a large-breed dog, neither should you.



1. Victoria - July 27, 2009

Wow. Thanks. I just emailed this to my son. He has a large mix (mostly pit) who wolfs down his food. Although my son does keeps the food dish on the ground, and feeds him twice daily. I think he should be aware to watch for this. Bruno is VERY excited at meal times (when I was babysitting he would leap into the air when he saw his food dish).
Great article.

Thanks, Victoria! Our Annie was like that, too. Thank heavens she didn’t get bloat, but I’m sorry I didn’t know about putting the toy in her dish to slow her down!

2. deb - July 28, 2009

I want to back y’all up on this. Especially with the water. Do not allow a hot dog to drink too much water. If a big dog gets hot, it will drink too much water and possibly “twist a gut”. Great info.

Thanks, Deb! Our Shiloh is not just big, but black, so she gets hot very quickly. We cool her down by letting her play in the “puppy pool” or just by splashing some cool water over her back. Then we give her a cup of water in her portable dish. Once she’s air-dried off, we’ll bring her back inside so she can have more from her big water bowl.

3. Kelly - February 25, 2010

Another alternative to putting someting in the food bowl is to feed on a cookie sheet with a raised lip around the outside. The faster they try to eat, the more they slow themselves down because the food scatters. 🙂

Great tip, Kelly, thanks!!!

4. Emogene Hall - February 26, 2012

Hi There Ourfriendben,
Cool Post, Bloat, Torsion. Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). Call it what you will, this is a serious, life-threatening condition of large breed dogs. While the diagnosis is simple, the pathological changes in the dog’s body make treatment complicated, expensive, and not always successful.
Keep up the good work

Thanks, Emogene! It’s a scary prospect, especially for those of us with big dogs.

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