Health Issues

BLOAT: Life Threatening Canine EMERGENCY

BLOAT is the second leading killer of dogs. Cancer is the first. BLOAT is a canine medical emergency. BLOAT can occur in two forms: gastric dilatation (swelling of the stomach from gas); or, gastric dilatation with volvulus, i. e., torsion, which occurs when the stomach twists on its axis. Often, both forms of bloat occur in a single episode with the second form quickly following the first. When this happens, BLOAT is fatal in minutes. BLOAT is also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV.
Tragically, the majority of dog owners have never heard of BLOAT. Typically, an owner awakens in the morning or returns home from work and finds dead his/her, otherwise healthy, dog. As dog owners rarely have an autopsy performed, the cause of death is never determined, and the owner never learns about BLOAT. Most canine diseases (e. g., cancer, hip dysplasia, etc.) progress over weeks, months or even years, not minutes. The dog owner has the opportunity to notice that his/her dog is not feeling well and has time to take the dog to the vet to begin a course of treatment. Along with the treatment the owner learns about the disease.
With BLOAT, the disease progresses in minutes or, at most hours. The only treatment is emergency medical attention. In its two advanced forms, the only treatment is surgery. Symptoms of BLOAT may include:

• excessive salivation/drooling
• extreme restlessness/pacing
• unproductive attempts to vomit/defecate
• evidence of abdominal pain (whining and tenderness in the stomach area)
• abdominal distension
• rapid breathing/panting
• cold/pale mouth membranes
• collapse

The following factors have been identified as “non-dietary risk factors”* for BLOAT:
1. Using a raised food bowl - 110% risk increase associated with using a raised food bowl
2. Speed of eating (1-10 scale) – 15% risk increase for each unit increase in speed of eating (for dogs weighing from 49 to 100 pounds)
3. Age in years – 20% risk increase for each year increase in age
4. Chest depth/width ratio (1.0 to 2.4) – 170% risk increase for each unit increase in chest depth/width ratio
5. First degree relative with BLOAT – 63% risk increase associated with having a first degree relative with BLOAT (First degree relative is defined as a sire, dam, litter mate or offspring.)
*Published in November 2000: Glickman LT, Glickman NW, Schellenberg DB, et al. Non-dietary risk factors for gastric dilatation-volvulus in large and giant breed dogs. J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000; 217:1492-1499.
In addition to the risk factors listed above, many veterinarians believe that stress also causes BLOAT. Dog owners can’t do anything about a dog’s age (risk factor 3), a dog’s anatomical structure (risk factor 4) or a dog’s genetics (risk factor 5). Owners can, however, do something about risk factors 1 and 2.

Risk Factor 1 – Using a raised food bowl: Many manufacturers and pet suppliers are making claims that the raised feeder or dog bowl aids a dog’s digestion and prevents bloat. We have found no scientific research to support these claims. The Glickman et al study found that use of a raised feeder actually increases the risk of bloat by 110%. This risk factor can be eliminated by not feeding dog from a raised food bowl. Dr. Glickman’s data showed that “approximately 20% and 50% of cases of GDV among the large and giant breed dogs, respectively, were attributed to having a raised food bowl.” (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:1492-1499).
Risk Factor 2 – Speed of Eating: If a dog is a “greedy” eater and weighs between 49 and 100 pounds, then steps should be taken to slow down how fast the dog eats. When a dog gulps food, the dog ingests air with the food. Air ingestion causes gas that may, in turn, cause the dog to bloat. As the research data indicated that speed of eating was a risk factor for large breeds only, we asked Dr. Glickman for his thoughts concerning slowing the speed of eating in giant breeds. He stated that slowing eating rate would not be harmful to giant breed dogs.
FINAL NOTE: It should be noted that Dr. Glickman’s study was confined only to large and giant breed dogs. However, according to Dr. Glickman any breed of dog can bloat.

For further information on bloat and links to other bloat sites visit:

For detailed information on bloat and How to Avoid it visit:

Results Of 5 Year Bloat Study By Lawrence Glickman, VMD
Non-Dietary Risk Factors

The 5 year bloat study, funded by the AKC Canine Health Foundation and several Parent Clubs, including the WCA, has been completed. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the study I will give you a brief summary of the purpose and aims of the study and the findings.

Objective: To identify non-dietary risk factors for gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) in large breed and giant breed dogs.

Animals: 1637 dogs over 6 months of age of the following breeds were enrolled in the study: Akita, Bloodhound, Collie, Great Dane, Irish Setter, Irish Wolfhound, Newfoundland, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard, Standard Poodle and Weimaraner.

Procedure: Dogs of varying ages that did not have previous history of GDV were recruited at dog shows. The dog’s length and height and the depth and width of its thorax and abdomen were measured. Extensive information concerning the dog’s medical history, genetic background, personality and diet was obtained from the owners. Owners were contacted by mail and telephone at approximately 1 year intervals to determine the status of the dog.

The following is a synopsis of the findings. Many of these findings are contrary to methods of prevention which have been favored in the past.

Factors which were found to increase the risk of bloat.
1. Increased Age
2. Having a first degree relative who has bloated (offspring 4X the risk, siblings 3X the risk & parents 1.5X the risk)
3. Deep, narrow thorax/abdomen
4. Underweight
5. Feeding only once daily
6. Fearful, easily upset dogs
7. Raising food bowl
8. Rapid eaters

Factors which did NOT appear to influence risk of bloat.
1. Moistening food
2. Exercise before or after mealtime
3. Change of weather
4. Stress
5. Unrestricted access to water before or after mealtime.

The one factor that was consistently associated with a lower risk of bloat was having a personality that the owner described as “Happy”.

Increased Age
There is a 20% increase in risk for each year increase in age.

Having a First Degree Relative with Bloat
This turned out to be one of the strongest predictors. Dogs with such a relative had a 3 and 4 fold increased risk of developing bloat. A first degree relative was defined as either a parent, sibling or offspring.

Deep Narrow Thorax/Abdomen
Dogs which were broader in body type had a lower incidence of bloat. Dr. Glickman postulates that the deeper and narrower the abdomen, the greater the room for the stomach ligaments to stretch down of lengthen as part of the aging process.

Underweight Dogs
Dr. Glickman felt that these underweight dogs may have problems with their gastrointestinal tract which prevents them from gaining weight and that would predispose them to bloat.

Feeding Only Once Daily
Several studies, including this one, showed that as the number of meals increased per day, the risk of bloat decreased.

Fearful, Easily Upset Dogs
Personality turned out to be a major predictor. According to Glickman, it is not the amount of stress in a dog’s life that is significant, but the way in which the dog handles the stress. “When animals are placed under stress, there are certain stress hormonal and neural responses. Some of these responses affect gastric motility. A fearful dog may have a very different response physiologically to stress than a happy, easygoing dog. We think those physiological responses may contribute to the rotation of the stomach because of the motility. This is the second or third time we have demonstrated temperament, particularly easygoingness or fearfulness is related to the risk of bloat”.

Raising Food Bowl
The study revealed that the higher the bowl, the higher the risk. Dr. Glickman feels the elevation may be causing an increased incidence of swallowing air which could account for the higher risk.

Rapid Eaters
Since bloat does not usually occur immediately after eating, Dr. Glickman has no explanation for this. He did find that the faster the dog ate, the greater the risk for bloat

Dr. Glickmans Recommendations For Lowering The Risk Of Bloat

1. Don’t breed a dog if a first degree relative has suffered an episode of bloat.
2. Consider a prophylactic gastroplexy for dogs that fit the high risk profile.
3. Owners of anxious or fearful dogs should consider behavior modification and consult a behaviorist. In some instances drug therapy is warranted.
4. Feed smaller, multiple meals instead of one large meal per day.
5. Do NOT elevate food bowl.
6. Owners who have dogs that eat rapidly should do anything to slow the speed of eating. The most common and effective way was to place a large object in the food bowl that the dog had to eat around. A suggestion was a heavy link chain which forces the dog to eat under and around it.