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Myths and Facts About Bloat in Dogs

Bloat is a term that many dog owners are familiar with, but few truly understand. If you have ever seen or read Marley and Me, you know what a serious condition it can be. As with many medical conditions, however, there is a lot of myth surrounding bloat in dogs. So how do you know what to believe and what to ignore? Read on to separate the bloat fiction from the facts.

The Facts About Bloat

Before you can separate out the myths about bloat in dogs, you first have to understand what bloat even is.

Bloat refers to a condition more properly called gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV). During a GDV episode, the stomach inflates with air. This is a true bloat, however when people refer to bloat, they are most often referring to when this process goes a little further.

During a true GDV episode, the air filled stomach floats like a balloon and twists on itself. This traps the gas and fluid inside the stomach and cuts off blood supply to the organ.

There is a lot we do know about bloat and GDV in dogs. This includes:

  • Often times dogs who bloat suffer from septicemia due to lack of blood flow to the stomach.
  • The spleen, which is intimately attached to the stomach, can also be damaged during a GDV episode.
  • Feeding small, frequent meals appears to decrease the risk of bloat.
  • Dogs who have a more anxious personality or are under stress seem to be more prone to bloating.
  • Pets who are at higher risk can have a preventative procedure called a gastropexy performed. This procedure tacs the stomach down so that while it may fill with air, it is unable to rotate.

There is some information out there about bloat that is not considered hard fact, but does appear to have some validity. This includes the opinions that certain things such as feeding only dry dog food, exercising shortly before a meal, and feeding from elevated dog dishes can increase the risk of bloat. Many think that anecdotally these observations may be true, however there is little hard science to support them.

The Myths Surrounding Bloat

Because we don’t always know exactly why bloat happens, there is a lot of speculation, rumors, and lore surrounding the condition. We do know that a few of these just simply aren’t true, though.

Some of the more common bloat myths out there include:

  • Only big dogs like Great Danes bloat. While certain breeds have a higher likelihood of bloating (think deep chested dogs like Danes, German Shepherds, Setters, and Bassett Hounds), absolutely any dog can suffer from bloat.
  • Drinking ice water can lead to bloat. This internet myth from a few years ago has been shown to have absolutely no scientific basis.
  • Bloat is not an emergency. This is absolutely not true, in fact, bloat is one of the ultimate veterinary emergencies. If you suspect your pet may be bloating, it is essential that you bring him or her in without hesitation so that we can stabilize your pet and get him or her into surgery right away.
  • Bloat is easily treated. Unfortunately, even with prompt and appropriate care, only about 25-50% of dogs survive a true GDV episode.

Being familiar with what bloat in dogs is and understanding why it is a serious condition is important for all dog owners. If your dog appears to have an enlarged belly, is restless, retching unproductively, or appears distressed in any way, don’t hesitate to call us. It can mean the difference between life and death.

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