The signs of bloat may be extremely subtle: restlessness, pacing, looking at abdomen, drooling, belching or retching, irregular heartbeat, and a slightly distended abdomen. Often the distention is not detectable without x-rays.
not waste time:
One third of the dogs affected die. It is estimated that 30,000 dogs are affected each year.
Bloat causes the dog's stomach to become severely and painfully distended (often not visible without x-rays). This often progresses to torsion, where the stomach twists inside the abdominal cavity, cutting off circulation as well as trapping food in the stomach. This can cause toxins to build up and destroy the stomach tissue (gastric necrosis). The stomach may rupture due to the increased pressure, releasing the food into the abdominal cavity and causing peritonitis.
Bloat can affect other organs as well. The twisted stomach may compress the major vein carrying blood back to the heart. Heartbeat can become irregular, and other organs may not receive enough blood to keep functioning.
For reasons not entirely understood, bloat often occurs at night.
All ages, breeds, and sizes are vulnerable, but the larger, deep chested dogs seem to be the most at risk. The risk seems equal for both males and females.
When a dog experiences continued episodes of bloat, his vet will generally suggest surgery to staple or sew the stomach to the abdominal wall or the last rib to prevent it from torsing. This surgery is called gastropexy.
When you first start learning about greyhounds, one of the health issues that you'll hear about is bloat. Bloat is a life threatening condition that affects deep chested dogs, especially the larger breeds. It's similar to colic in horses, and just as deadly. The causes are not entirely understood, and you'll hear some conflicting information, but one thing that's certain is that bloat can be caused by feeding either too soon before or after exercise.
That's what happened with Zack. We'd been out playing fetch in the backyard. He came in the dog door to the downstairs; I came in through the dining room. My family has been warned not to feed the dogs for at least two hours after they run, but my husband didn't realize that Zack had just been out playing, and I didn't realize that he was getting ready to give everybody dinner.
About thirty minutes after the dogs had been fed, I saw the empty bag of Innova and realized what had happened. I knew that Zack would bloat. I also knew that I tend to overreact to stuff like this. I decided to wait and watch - like a hawk.
From 8:30 pm until 3:30 am, I monitored everything Zack did. He seemed a little stressed, but he is a bit of a stressy dog. He seemed a little uncomfortable. I pulled out all the books to reread about symptoms. His tummy looked a little swollen - or did it? I guess I expected something dramatic. All I saw was a little restlessness, maybe a bit of a tummy. Then he started to burp.
It's about 20 minutes to the emergency hospital. Bloat can kill a dog in a half an hour. Had I waited too long?
The tech took his leash as soon as we walked in the door. He was bright eyed and bouncy, as usual, and walked back to radiology wagging his tail. I wondered if I'd ever see that happy face again, and remembered how I'd lost my Wylie to hemangiosarcoma almost exactly a year before. I'd led the big, strapping, healthy greyhound with a bit of a swollen tummy into the emergency vet one Saturday night, and just after midnight on a Wednesday morning eighteen hellish days later, sat on the floor of that same vet's office with his head in my lap for the last time. I remembered taking Zack to donate blood as we fought to save Wylie's life. I sat there, filled with those memories and the guilt of allowing this to happen to Zack, and cried.
It took an eternity, but the vet finally came out with the x-rays. She said we were lucky. Zack had bloated, but his stomach hadn't flipped, or torsed, so he wouldn't need surgery. Most likely all they had to do was to get the food out of his stomach to relieve the pressure. He should be fine.
He came out of the treatment room a little green from the drugs they had given him to induce vomiting, but still wagging. The vet said I'd picked up on the symptoms early, and that I must know my dog pretty well. I wondered about the chances I'd taken not rushing him in as soon as I'd had that first inkling, but was too dazed to ask.
Once a dog has had bloat, the chances are that he will bloat again. We will have to be extremely careful with Zack. From now on, he will be fed at least two small meals a day, instead of one large one. Same for Tansy, our girl grey, and Wyllow, our whippet. No exercise two hours before or three hours after eating. We will probably go back to feeding raw food (see our BARF diet), something I'd stopped doing while we were in the midst of moving the clan from Virginia to Ohio. In checking with his regular vet, I found out that it's generally best to take a dog in as soon as you see any sign that might indicate bloat. Those signs may be extremely subtle: restlessness, drooling, belching, irregular heartbeat, and a slightly distended abdomen. She admitted that it's a tough call sometimes, even for her. I realized that I'd been a little too concerned with being right rather than being safe...
I am so grateful that I didn't lose Zack due to my decision to "wait and see."