Large and giant-breed dogs, especially older dogs, are susceptible to gastric dilatation/volvulus syndrome, a twisted stomach condition otherwise known as bloat. The condition occurs when a dog eats too much too quickly and the stomach fills with gas, forcing the stomach to twist, cutting off the blood supply. Immediate medical attention is necessary to prevent death.
When the stomach twists on itself, it prevents anything from entering or leaving, yet the food digestion process continues and the stomach starts to expand or bloat. According to Michigan State University's veterinary website, the process can quickly lead to fluid loss and an imbalance of minerals in the bloodstream, compromising organ systems.
Large dogs with narrow chests are at greater risk for bloat than smaller dogs, although no dog is completely immune. High-risk breeds include Irish setters, Great Danes, German shepherds and standard poodles. Saint Bernards, sheepdogs and basset hounds are also at risk. Dogs who are underweight tend to be more prone to bloat.
A dog experiencing bloat will most likely begin to exhibit symptoms immediately after eating. The twisted stomach can be painful and may present as a swollen abdomen. You dog may belch, attempt to throw up, become restless and, in some instances, show signs of shock or lose consciousness. Gastric dilatation/volvulus syndrome can begin to cause serious complications in as little as 20 minutes.
Immediate veterinary care is necessary to ensure recovery. Most veterinary care includes surgical repositioning of the stomach to resume blood flow. Complications can occur if blood flow is restricted for an extended period of time and other organs, particularly the heart, are compromised. According to the University of Florida Small Animal Hospital website, dogs treated immediately have an 80 percent survival rate.
Feed your dog, especially if it is a large or giant breed, several small deals a day rather than one single large meal. Discourage exercise right after eating. Consider using a dog bowl that has a raised center, which can slow eating and reduce the potential for bloat occurrence. If you dog has been surgically treated for bloat, your vet may have performed a procedure called gastropexy, which can prevent the condition from recurring. According to Healthy Pet’s Dr. Karen Becker, the chances for bloat can be reduced through a diet containing no grains or other fermentable carbohydrates.