I had a dog that got "bloat" which is a stomach that twists internally. It can be fatal if not treated by a veterinarian immediately. This is what happened that day. It was a day like any other in the summer of 2007. I got home early (around 7;30p.m.) and was greeted by my dog with her same happy attitude that she always had. She was a happy, healthy Labrador retriever of about 3 years old at the time. I loved coming home to her. I poured her dinner from the kibble bag and went to check the mailbox. She always ate her food like it was a race so she was gobbling up her food when I went to check the mail. Something odd caught my attention when I came back and looked at my dog. She seemed uncomfortable and really BIG. All of a sudden she had bloated in size to that of a fully pregnant dog. I was shocked.
What was happening? HOW did that happen. I was stunned for a second. Then, after shaking the confusion out of my head, I realized that she was in real trouble. I just didn't know what it was but she was clearly struggling and uncomfortable. She was panting and pacing. She couldn't sit or lie down without shifting around. So, I called the Vet. They were closed but the recording listed an emergency vet office. I called the emergency dog clinic and described the very strange symptoms: Huge belly (like watermelon size), panting, whale eyes, obvious discomfort, pacing, and reddish gums (shock). I was instructed to hang up and rush her to the clinic. She was 90 lbs and I was home alone with her. I hoped she could walk. Luckily, she could - but barely. When I arrived, we we taken to the back immediately and I was asked to wait outside. I was told that she had Gastric-Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) -more commonly known as bloat. What was this? I had never heard of this before. Basically, it is when the stomach twists and can cut off circulation and kill the animal very painfully and relatively quickly. They inserted a tube down her throat and into her stomach and hoped it would help her stomach untwist. Now we were hoping for the best. Surgery during the night might be needed if the tubing didn't work. They told me that the bill could be $3500 and she might not survive. Did I still want to proceed? I had a commission check in my purse for that exact amount. Yup. I wanted to take a chance and try to save her. So, I went home with a lot of anxiety and questions. I started trying to figure out what I did wrong. Here is what I discovered are the things that put your dog at risk for bloat:
Nikki did not have all of these. She did have #1, 2, 3, 4, and 6. She could have had #7 and 8 without my knowledge.
I was lucky. The tube that they used to untwist her stomach worked. They did not need to do surgery. They warned me that once a dog has bloat, they are prone to have a repeat episode. Nikki never had another episode of bloat. We were very fortunate. I could afford her care at the time and she recovered. Many people cannot afford the vet bill and dogs die from this. Most vets offer financing plans; but if you can't qualify for one of these and don't have a few thousand dollars in savings, it can be really devastating.
If you have a large breed dog with a deep chest, there are some precautions that are advised to help prevent this terrible medical emergency. Slow feeder bowl are a must for dogs that gobble up their food. They look like a maze in a bowl. I will link to an example on my resources and gear page. Don't let them drink too quickly either for the same reason. Keep your dog calm after meals. Don't take them out for exercise right after a meal and especially don't encourage them to roll around on their backs. Don't send your large dogs out to the backyard after a meal where they can chase squirrels and birds away from your watchful eyes. If you let them outside right after a meal, go with them. If they get bloat, you need to be able to rush them to a doctor immediately. If they are alone, they could have trouble and you might not notice it in time if they are outside alone. Even in the mildest cases of bloat, dogs can die if not treated immediately. Some veterinarians recommend dogs that are predisposed to this have preventative surgery that attaches their stomach in a way so that it cannot twist again. This surgery is called gastropexy.