WHAT IS BLOAT?
Bloat, also known by terms such as gastric dilation / volvolus or GDV, is a condition which can occur in any dog. If the condition is left untreated, it is potentially fatal. There are few firm facts surrounding bloat, why it occurs and how to prevent it, but there are certain factors which put some dogs at a higher risk than others of developing bloat.
In some cases of bloat, a dog may display indications of discomfort, similar to his having excess gas. You may notice your dog salivating, pacing, whining, and trying to vomit. There are products available to assist in breaking up gas in the stomach.
If the condition does not resolve itself, the stomach may continue to swell and even burst. Excessive swelling in turn puts pressure on other vital organs, reducing blood flow and sometimes resulting in death. Emergency medical treatment is essential under such circumstances.
In the most extreme of cases, the dog’s stomach twists, either partially or completely, causing major problems with circulation and all parts of the digestive system. If the dog does not receive immediate medical care he will probably suffer from a heart attack. Even then, there is no guarantee that surgery will be successful.
Bloat cannot be prevented or treated with a course of antibiotics or a routine vaccine. Since insufficient information is available as to the causes of bloat, it is vital that dog owners are aware of the symptoms so that they can assist their dog should the need arise.
Factors Contributing To Bloat In Cockapoos
1) Breed: Studies have shown that larger breeds of dog with a small waist and a deep chest tend to have a higher risk of bloat. This would include such breeds as the Great Dane, Weimaraner, Saint Bernard, Irish Setter, and the Standard Poodle. This list is not exhaustive, because any dog may suffer from bloat. Cockapoo owners need to be aware that since the Cockapoo dog is a hybrid poodle and cocker spaniel, bloat can occur with some frequency in the breed.
2) Eating Habits: Another factor which may increase a tendency to bloat would be having only one large meal during the day, and that meal being of dry food. To reduce the danger of this risk factor, feed your dog two or three smaller meals throughout the day. Consider how your dog eats. If he tends to gulp his food down very quickly, he will also be swallowing a large amount of air, which in turn can cause discomfort.
If you feed your dog mainly dry food, which is widely suggested for its beneficial effect on a dog’s dental hygiene, do not give him a large drink of water immediately after his meal. The dry food in the stomach will swell and expand with the addition of a large volume of water. This will also cause discomfort, since the stomach may be distended to a size larger than intended. In addition, significant amounts of water may dilute your dog’s natural digestive juices, so that they are less effective.
A Note On Elevated Food Bowls & Citric Acid: The jury is still out on whether a dog should eat from a raised bowl or one close to the ground. A few years ago, everyone was told that studies show that raised bowls are easier on a dog’s digestive system. Now they are being told the reverse. You must use your own judgement here, but until more solid information is available, I would recommend simply feeding your dog at a level he feels comfortable eating from. Not too high, but a few inches off the floor isn’t likely to hurt anything either way. Luckily, this issue is a minor one for Cockapoos, as we don’t need to raise bowls a foot off the ground for dogs that are usually quite compact.
Meanwhile, a recent study has pointed out, somewhat controversially, citric acid in dry food as a possible contributor to bloat. It is a matter of interpretation, and many dog owners and experts disagree on the matter. If the issue concerns you, it is a simple thing to make sure your dog’s dry kibble doesn’t containcitric acid (not other acids, such as ascorbic acid, which are not implicated in the study.) the presence of citric acid will be clearly listed in the ingredients on your dog food package. To read more on this, simply Google “citric acid” and “bloat.”
3) Exercise After Eating: Most dogs enjoy playing, but vigorous exercise after eating is not always good for the stomach and may be a factor in the stomach twisting. Limit post-meal exercise to a gentle walk around the park, which is more likely to promote healthy digestion.
4) Stress: Dogs can suffer from stress, especially as a result of a change in routine, encountering a new dog in the home, or sometimes from boarding. Be aware of your dog’s temperament and watch for signs of anxiety or nervousness, since these too may be factors which contribute to bloat.
5) Age: While not a definitive factor, age has a bearing on the development of bloat. Dogs between the ages of four and seven appear to be the most at risk of developing bloat. Additionally, the symptoms tend to occur during the hours of two and six in the morning, which tends to be around seven to ten hours after a dog usually eats dinner. It is also the time during which the owner will probably be asleep.
As a Cockapoo owner you are now aware of the risk factors, and if your dog fits into some or all of those high risk categories, you will want to take reasonable steps to minimize the chances of your dog experiencing bloat.
1) Changing Feeding Habits: Change your dog’s eating and drinking habits so that he has no fewer than two, and preferably at least three, smaller meals each day. Water immediately after meals should be limited, as is strenuous exercise. As a rule of thumb, try to withhold water for at least half an hour after mealtimes and strenuous exercise for at least an hour. You may also wish to consider the nutritional value of your dog’s food. If appropriate, consider switching to a premium or organic food.
Be aware that dry dog food swells with the addition of water. As an experiment, put a portion of your dog’s dry food into a bowl, add water and leave it overnight. In the morning the food will have swollen, and if it appears to have expanded overly much, rising high up like a cake in a pan, you may find it appropriate to switch foods.
A Note On Adding Water: Alternatively, some suggest mixing some canned food with the dry food at feeding times, or adding water to the dry food before giving it to your dog. I am not so sure that this would help anything, since unless you wait until the food is mostly expanded from the water it may have the same effect as drinking water right after eating. My recommendation would be that, unless your dog has trouble with dry food due to medical issues, you feed dry kibble to your dog dry.
2) Keep Anti-Gas Medicine On Hand: It is possible that your dog may experience the uncomfortable symptoms of bloat, but may successfully relieve his condition by burping or vomiting. Alternatively, you may be able to assist his relief by using an appropriate gas relieving product. Our vet suggested simethicone, which is the active ingredient in Gas-X. Make sure to get tablets that contain no additives that may be harmful to your dog.
3) Try A Digestive Health Tablet: Probiotics and digestive enzymes have been handy for many owners whose dogs were once prone to gas. Our own Cockapoo has had far less gas, stomach upsets, and more normalized bowel movements since we began giving him digestive health tablets.
Our Cockapoo is quite large, at 30 pounds, but he is muscular and fit. We give him half a tablet per day, which is only half the recommended dose for his size, and it has worked wonders.
4) Be Prepared: If your dog has experienced these symptoms on one occasion, he will most likely have them again in the future. Be aware of the risks and recognise your dog’s symptoms. Bearing in mind that many instances of bloat occur during the early hours, your being prepared should include knowing the location of your nearest emergency clinic. Seeking emergency medical assistance immediately will give your dog the best chance of survival and recovery.