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Canine Bloat

Canine bloat is a distressing condition also known as gastric dilatation-torsion. Gas accumulates rapidly in the dog's stomach causing it to swell and sometimes twist. It can involve the spleen. Emergency action is vital since the dog may die within hours.

Understanding the possible causes is the first step in preventing bloat. The problem most often developes in large-breed, deep chested dogs like Dobermans, Saint Bernards and Golden Retrievers. Scientists do not know the exact cause of dilatation-torsion but believe it may be related to the angle of the stomach in relation to the backbone, making it difficult for gas to escape. Further, large dogs tend to gulp their food and water, swallowing large amounts of air in the process. The excessive saliva produced by some large dogs also may react with stomach acids to produce abnormal amounts of gas.

The incidence of gastric dilatation seems higher in dogs fed only once a day compared to those fed two or three times daily. Strenuous exercise immediately after feeding also seems to trigger the problem.

Whatever the cause, excess gas builds up in the stomach, causing it to expand and twist beyond normal limits. Within a short time the twisting cuts off the blood supply to the stomach, causing the stomach tissue cells to die and further blocking the escape of gas. The dog's condition deteriorates rapidly until the stomach almost literally explodes.

Treatment for gastric dilatation can be expensive -- and often unsuccessful in saving the dog's life. The best course is prevention. If you feed Fido just one meal a day, do not let her exercise after eating. It would be better to feed her at least twice a day.

Be alert to early signs of bloat such as short, rapid breathing, heavy salivating and grunting when breathing or moving about. As the condition worsens, the stomach area becomes tight and swollen and normally pink gums become pale or bluish colored.

At the first sign of trouble, call a veterinarian. Usually emergency surgery is required.

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