July/August 2011 Issue
By: Peter Dobias DVM
Did you know that dogs that are fed processed foods are about five times as likely to suffer from stomach bloat and torsion than dogs fed raw or cooked food? There are many other factors that can help prevent this serious life threatening emergency naturally.
The general consensus is that GDV (Gastric Dilation Volvulus) affects mainly larger breeds and it is caused by twisting of the stomach and gas formation.
Some time ago, I decided to observe the patterns of dogs with a history of stomach problems as well as those who were lucky enough to survive this life threatening condition. After years of observation and clinical practice, I’ve developed these simple steps to help your dog avoid bloat.
AVOID GRAIN-BASED PET FOOD AND IDEALLY ANY KIBBLE
The digestive tract of the dog is ideal for digesting protein. Unlike humans, the dog’s gut has a very acidic pH, making it well equipped to resist pathogenic bacteria but not to digest grains. I have never seen wild canines grazing in a field of grain, and it is not a natural food choice for most carnivores.
If you feed your dog processed food, you may be increasing his risk of bloat. Most commercial foods are highly processed and when your dog eats kibble, it turns into porridge. The stomach doesn’t need to work very hard to digest it, and over time, its wall muscles become weak.
A weak stomach is much more prone to dilation and gas build-up which happens especially with carbohydrate rich foods. In my opinion, kibbles, especially grain-based formulas, are one of the main sources of stomach bloat.
FEED THE RIGHT RAW BONES
Feeding your dog poultry, lamb or other small to medium size raw bones makes the stomach wall and muscles stronger which will prevent distention. Any gas build-up is much easier to burp out or move downwards into the intestinal tract when the stomach wall muscles are strong.
Feeding bones is, from my point of view, one of the most important steps in preventing GDV.
BE CAREFUL ABOUT FEEDING FRUIT WITH PROTEIN
If you feed your dog fruit, it should never be fed together with the protein meal, because they digest very differently. Fruit digests in the stomach quickly and it will ferment if it remains too long.
To prevent bloat, feed fruit at least one hour or longer before a meal and at least four hours after meals.
The general consensus is that dogs should not exercise after eating. This applies to dogs fed both raw and processed food. When the stomach is full, it is more likely to flip and twist with sudden movement, jumps or turns, creating torsion. Never exercise your dog vigorously within three to four hours of feeding.
PROVIDE THE RIGHT NUTRIENTS
Vitamin and especially mineral deficits may have a negative effect on muscle function and digestion, which can lead to GDV. It is important to make sure that your dog’s diet is not lacking in essential nutrients.
ENSURE GOOD SPINAL ENERGY FLOW
I like to compare the body’s energy network to a watering system where the spine provides the main water or energy supply and the branches lead to various garden beds or the organs.
If you constrict a hose, the water will not flow and the carrots will not grow. The body is not much different – if one of the spinal muscle segments becomes impinged or blocked, it will affect the organs related to that segment. One can recognize these blocks by a spinal exam or a hand scan and energy flow changes will be noticeable.
Through years of observation, I created a surprisingly reliable body map of relationships of spinal segments and organs. In the process I have found a very close connection between the stomach and spinal point at the thoracic lumbar junction, the transition between the last thoracic and the first lumbar vertebrae.
I have also noticed that dogs that are prone to stomach problems show congestion, inflammation and sensitivity exactly at the thoracic-lumbar junction.
When I discussed this with several emergency vets, they didn’t seem to be aware of the connection between this spinal segment and GDV until I asked if they saw any signs of vertebral degeneration, arthritis or spondylosis in this region of the spine when they took X-rays of bloated dogs. Indeed, they confirmed that those changes are frequently present in dogs with bloat which only confirmed what I thought. Back injuries are likely a predisposing factor to GDV.
If you want to prevent stomach bloat, you definitely have pay attention to your dog’s spine. A regular monthly assessment and treatment of your large dog’s spine is one of the most important factors in GDV prevention.
The modalities I find especially helpful are physiotherapy, chiropractic, massage, intramuscular needle stimulation (IMS) and acupuncture.
The spine and the flow of energy in the whole body can be clearly influenced by the level of exercise a dog enjoys. A low fitness level can create energy stagnation, but this problem is not as frequent as over-exertion and burn out.
Many people continually throw balls and toys for their dogs and do not know that the dog’s body is designed only for short periods of sprinting and not for 20 or more non-stop minutes which leads to injuries.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT BLOAT
Remember that simple panting is not a sign of a bloat. Panting is the canine way of sweating and is considered normal if your dog looks comfortable. If you see signs of severe distress – the gums are pale, there are signs of hypersalivation and the stomach is distended – rush your dog to the nearest vet or emergency clinic immediately.
If safe, light sedation and a stomach tube will be done first, followed by X-rays and very possibly an emergency surgery. On the way to the hospital, I recommend giving a homeopathic Nux vomica 200C or Carbo vegetalis 200C.
PREVENTIVE SURGERY – GASTROPEXY
Gastropexy is a preventive procedure where the stomach wall is attached to the rib cage to prevent the stomach from flipping. I must say that I am not comfortable with attaching the stomach and restricting its natural movement and function. Any surgical intervention affects the body’s energy channels and the unnatural stapling of the stomach to the rib cage decreases its mobility.
On the basis of my practical experience and observation, I believe that the best way to prevent GDV is to feed natural non-processed food, feed raw bones, provide the right nutrients, feed fruit separately from the protein meals and ensure that the spinal energy flow is good.
Dr. Peter Dobias has been in veterinary practice since 1988. In 2008, he decided to sell his thriving holistic veterinary practice in Vancouver, BC, Canada to dedicate his future years to disease prevention and transforming the face of veterinary care to less invasive and more natural treatment methods. He believes that we can create a healthy and long life, naturally. For more information, questions and articles visit www.peterdobias.com