Canine Bloat: Is Your Dog at Risk?

We just brought home our new great dane puppy about 2 months ago. She’s getting to the point now where she’s growing like a weed! I’m really concerned about the bloat that great danes get easily. She’s an extremely fast eater too! Do I need to get a bloat bowl and an elevated feeder because of her height or just bloat bowl or just the elevated feeder?? I’ve read many different views and opinions on both and I just don’t know what to do. Thanks! – ET, Ohio

Dear ET,

Congratulations on your new puppy! It sounds like you’re performing your due diligence when it comes to preventing bloat, a very common medical condition in Great Danes (and many deep-chested breeds of dog). Also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV, this serious, potentially life-threatening GI disease in dogs requires immediate veterinary attention and even then has a high mortality rate.

Because of genetics, diet, exercise and other factors, certain dogs are predisposed to gas build-up in the stomach which sometimes then twists, completely blocking anything going in or out as well as the area’s blood supply. I’m sure you’ve got the signs memorized: vomiting or retching, drooling, lethargy or the opposite, restlessness, abdominal pain or swelling.

There are both dietary and non-dietary risk factors for GDV in large and giant breed dogs. The bottom line is that the following factors all seem to increase the incidence of bloat in predisposed dogs, such as yours:

• Increased age (bloat is more common in middle-aged to older dogs)
• Increased thorax depth/width ratio (why deep-chested dogs are more at risk)
• A first degree relative that has had bloat
• Dogs with a faster speed of eating
• Dogs fed a larger volume of food per meal
• Ironically, a raised bowl or feeder!

So there are some things you can do to prevent bloat—feed small meals frequently in a bowl specifically designed to slow consumption—and some things you can’t do—change her conformation or the medical history of her brothers and sisters. Depending on her lifetime risk, you may want to have a conversation with your veterinarian about “prophylactic gastropexy,” or, tacking her stomach to her body wall now before she has an incident. The main thing is slowly eating and drinking small amounts at a time and not exercising too quickly after a meal. And enjoying your new puppy!

Lydia Gray, DVM MA, is the Staff Veterinarian for SmartPak. Prior to joining SmartPak, Dr. Gray served as the first-ever Director of Owner Education for the American Association of Equine Practitioners. She has authored numerous articles in publications such as The Horse, Horse Illustrated, Western Horseman and a variety of veterinary journals and magazines. Dr. Gray is also a frequent speaker at horse expos, veterinary conventions and other events. After graduating with honors from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine and receiving her Master's Degree in Interpersonal and Organizational Communication, she practiced at the Tremont Veterinary Clinic for several years. Dr. Gray is active in the American Veterinary Medical Association and Illinois State Veterinary Medical Association. She enjoys training and showing her Trakehner, Newman, in both combined driving and dressage, and is a USDF “L” Program Graduate (with distinction). Find Dr. Gray on Google+

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