One is ”gastric dilatation” for the dilation of the stomach and sometimes the bowels caused by excessive gas. The other is “volvulus” for the twisting of the stomach, which cuts off the blood supply and kills the tissues.
Vets refer to this as “GDV”, and a dog can die in a matter of hours. It is the number one killer of Danes. That is why I keep the phone number of a good emergency vet where I can see it easily and dial it fast. GDV is a terrifyingly fast killer and can be hard to recognize.
Here’s the grim stats, so let’s get them out of the way: An average of 4 out of 10 Danes will bloat, and of them 29% will die. Personality is a factor, as studies find a fearful dog is more likely to bloat than an easygoing dog, because of their higher stress and stronger reactions to it. Stress does affect gastric motility, among other things.
Older dogs are more prone to bloat, and males only slightly more likely. Rescuers take note: underweight dogs were significantly more likely to bloat than average or even overweight dogs. Perhaps because they scarf their food down, and eating fast increases risk.
Diet is still being analyzed in a large study, so I’m watching for the results and will edit this page when I get them read. Gas and belching increase the risk some 60%, so watch your dog’s diet for this, and if they cannot tolerate it, change it. Family history increases the risks as much as four-fold–that is why I keep begging you to have written and verifiable veterinary histories of both parental families! .
Because of the stress of boarding, sure any place you board your dog is knowledgeable about bloat and leave written instructions as to veterinary treatment by your vet or emergency vet. I won’t leave my dog somewhere that doesn’t have a person there and checking on him during the night.
The symptoms of GDV can be hard to pick up on in the early stages, but that is when the dog is most likely to survive if given immediate emergency care. If you see your dog just acting “funny”, go check it out. If they are panting or drooling for no reason, retching with nothing coming up, discolored gums, and the belly is distended and hard, then scoop and run. Please don’t wait, even if you’re not really sure. Better to be a little embarrassed than to wait until he or she cannot be saved.
If your friend does have bloat, a hard decision awaits you if you cannot afford the average $2000 the lifesaving surgery costs. It is expensive, and if the dog has been twisted for too long, you may lose them anyway, and still have to pay the bill. Another reason not to wait…
Prevention as always is the best cure. The problem is, no one knows why some dogs bloat and some dogs don’t. You can have the dog’s stomach surgically “tacked” so it won’t twist, but they can still bloat up. And as for a cause, you can find at least three opinions for every 2 “experts” you ask. So common sense has to kick in for a little clarity.
If you and I eat a meal so big it could founder a goat, we don’t feel good and it takes a long time for our stomachs to return to normal. You should feed your Dane twice a day, not one big meal, and not leaving food out all the time. Some people even feed three times a day, but that’s too much of a disruption to my day. And withold food for a couple hours before and after exercise. I don’t send my boys or myself to bed right after eating–2 hours and the food is mostly out of the stomach.
Some foods give me gas, and it doesn’t take long to figure out which ones. If your Dane is passing deadly green fogs through the house, consider what he is eating. He may not be able to digest it well, and you can switch to a food for sensitive tummies to see if it helps. How they don’t manage to make their own eyes water, I’ll never know…
Also, drinking lots of cold water after heavy exercise gives me a tummy ache and sometimes a case of the burps. So don’t give your Dane water as soon as he returns home from a marathon Marmaduke session. Let him cool down and stop breathing hard before giving him water. And never let him just drink and drink and drink. Less amounts more often is a good idea.
I like to use a raised feeder, not so much for bloat, but so my boys don’t have to crouch down on arthritic old joints to eat. You can buy them at petstores, or just convert a couple of cheap plant stands. I don’t want to bend over to eat from a plate on the floor, and considering a Dane is roughly as tall as I am sitting down, I figure a little generosity here doesn’t hurt anything. Either raised or not, put a large rubber backed mat down under the bowls, because they do slobber…alot.
Lowering the risks:
1. Don’t breed a dog if a first-degree relative has suffered an episode of bloat.
2. Consider a prophylactic gastropexy (tacking the stomach) for dogs that fit the high-risk profile. (Note: Prophylactic gastropexy should be performed only if the dog already is neutered or will be neutered at the time of gastropexy.) Breeders who prevent high-risk dogs from bloating by opting for this surgery, but then continue to breed the dogs pass on the risks, only they are now masked to potential puppy buyers.
3. Owners who have dogs that eat rapidly should do anything they can to slow the speed of eating. Owners in the study suggested all sorts of methods, some of which were quite effective. The most common and most effective strategy was to place a large object that the dog had to eat around in the food bowl. The object that worked best, although it sounds a little unusual, was a heavy chain with big links. Unlike a rock, which the dog can push out of the way, a heavy link chain forces the dog to eat under and around it.
4. Owners of anxious or fearful dogs should consider behaviour modification. A growing number of animal behaviourists and veterinarians know how to intervene with these dogs. In some severe instances, drug therapy also may be warranted.
5. Feed smaller, multiple meals instead of one large meal per day.