Yes, it's 5 letters but as any pet owner can tell you it's a horrible word. It's a horrible thing.
But even knowledgeable owners often don't understand it. Heck, veterinarians, even the professors and researchers at vet schools, are still baffled by certain aspects. But there is a lot to know and know it you should for in the case of bloat minutes matter.
So, what is it? What causes it? How do you recognize it? What do you do if you suspect? What will happen next? And, most important, how do you prevent bloat?
Bloat is the layperson's term for Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV). It is a situation where pet's stomach thinks it is Simone Biles and twists anywhere from 180 to 360 degrees. As a result, food is blocked, gasses and fluids build up and the stomach swells. The swollen stomach can press on pup's heart, diaphragm and lungs causing problems in all those departments, it can rupture or it can start to develop gangrene.
Cause? The medical term is GOK. God only knows.
How do you recognize bloat? Bloat, as you can imagine, is painful. And pup or kitty feels that the food is stuck. They become anxious, often drool and pace. They will try to vomit but since their stomach is rotated on its axis nothing can come up. Next they will often stretch with their front down and rear up as trying to let the gasses escape but, again, that rotated stomach won't let a thing out.
You can very gently touch pup or kitty's tummy and feel if it is, well, bloated and very hard. As symptoms continue your pet may go into shock - collapse, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, pale gums.
If you even suspect, phone your veterinarian or, in off hours, your emergency vet (this is not something that can wait) and let the office know you are on the way with suspected bloat. Better to raise an alarm and be wrong in your lay diagnosis than, well, you know.
The vet will do blood work and x-rays, perhaps an ultrasound to test your suspicions. Then depending on how severe the turn is and how long it has been in place the team may be able to relieve pressure and buy time with a tube down pet's throat or a wide bore needle through their abdomen into their turned around tummy. All under heavy pain killers for your pet. And some for you, if you need. But, in almost all cases surgery will be necessary to put everything where it is supposed to be.
Your vet may ask you if you want to do a gastropexy. The answer is Yes. This is a quick stitch of two anchoring the stomach to the body wall. This reduces recurrence by over 90%, although for some reason doesn't totally eliminate it.
Prognosis post op depends, as always, on may factors. How rotated was the stomach and for how long? What is the age and general health of the pet? Generally, treated quickly and properly, the recovery rate is excellent.
Preventing bloat is an uncertain proposition since vets aren't certain what causes it. But they have figured out the factors that increase the risk, so please avoid:
- Eating quickly. If you have a rapid eater, use a food bowl that is divided into small compartments.
- Eating one large meal a day.
- Heavy exercise after a heavy meal.
- Eating or drinking to excess
- Stress (hey, just like us)
- Raised food platforms (this advice has recently changed; now vets recommend against them)
Larger, barrel chested breeds such as Akitas, Boxers, Bassets, German Shepherds and others are at greater risk. Great Danes run a one in three risk of developing bloat. Many vets recommend a preventive gastropexy at time of spaying. And doing one laproscopically for a male dog.
So, gentle reader, that's a quick overview of bloat. May you never face it but now you know the signs and will get you pup or kitty to the vet as fast as your feet or wheels will let you.