Have you ever heard that feeding from a raised bowl will help prevent bloat in dogs? What about adding water to your dog’s kibble? What if I told you these things can actually increase your dog’s risk of getting bloat? Bloat is a serious, life-threatening condition that always requires immediate attention. Knowing that, doesn’t it make sense to help protect your dog and prevent this painful and often fatal emergency?
What Is Bloat In Dogs?
Bloat in dogs, also known as gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV), is when the stomach fills with gas and twists (anywhere from 180 degrees to a full 360 degrees). When the stomach twists, both the entry to and exit from the stomach are closed off. And that means there’s no way for the air built up in your dog’s belly to get out. Not only that, if the air can’t get out, neither can the fluids, foods or gasses.
This is a problem for many reasons. Because there’s no way for the stuff in your dog’s stomach to escape, and those gases build up, his belly will start to bloat. This bloating puts pressure on his diaphragm and makes it hard for him to breathe. The pressure also cuts off return blood flow to the heart. At this point, shock sets in. All of this can happen in as little as 20 minutes.
As I said, it’s serious.
What Causes Bloat?
Vets aren’t certain what exactly causes bloat, but the general consensus is that a combination of things can trigger it, including poor diet, swallowing too much air, overeating and excessive drinking.
If you feed kibble, the food you’re feeding may cause bloat. A lack of whole, fresh, raw foods in your dog’s diet can have all kinds of consequences, and bloat could be one of them. How risky is that kibble? A study done by Purdue University found that eating dry foods that listed more than one corn ingredient among the first four label ingredient resulted in an increased risk of bloat. It also found a:
- 170% increase in risk for dogs who ate dry foods containing fat among the first four ingredients
- 320% increase in risk for dogs who ate dry foods containing citric acid that were also moistened prior to feeding by owners
A lack of proper vitamins and minerals is also a problem. When kibble is made, the process actually strips the food of all valuable vitamins and minerals. This means that to meet regulation standards, kibble manufacturers have to add those vitamins and minerals back in! Unfortunately, those manufacturers are doing this by adding “premixes” to the processed food. Where do these come from? Most come from China where production standards are really low and contamination is a risk. These premixes include synthetic vitamins and minerals, ones that are really hard (if not impossible) for your dog’s body to absorb.
Related: Synthetic Vitamins and Minerals in Dog Foods. Read more about the dangers here.
Take ascorbic acid for example. Ascorbic acid is an inferior form of vitamin C. Your dog produces vitamin C on his own, and rarely, if ever, will he need it added to his diet. Too much vitamin C in your dog’s body means he has to get rid of some of it, and this can cause stress on his internal organs. Think you can just check the bag of food to see where it was made? Think again. There’s no way to tell where those premixes come from without calling the company who sold the premix to the food manufacturer …
Genetics also seem to play a role. Bloat is more common in larger dogs, especially large, deep-chested breeds like the Great Dane, and for those with some family history of the condition.
Age can also be a factor … the older a dog gets the higher the likelihood of bloat. Males are also more at risk than females. Keep in mind that these are just factors that increase the risk. Just because you have a young, small-breed female doesn’t mean bloat isn’t going to happen. All dogs can suffer from this condition so it’s important to make changes that decrease the risk and always observe your dog or act quickly if you feel like she’s just not herself.
Preventing Bloat In Dogs
Bloat’s dangerous … … so how can you prevent it?
1. Start with a raw diet
Your dog’s digestive tract is ideally suited for protein. That means meat, not grains and starches. Processed foods (yes, kibble) contain carbohydrates that your dog just doesn’t need and that do nothing for his digestive system, as well as those premixes, synthetic vitamins and unidentifiable “meals.” Remember, diets featuring fat and rendered meat meal with bone in the first four ingredients increase your dog’s risk by 223% and dry foods with citric acid increase the risk by 320% … … A raw diet is better overall for your dog’s health, including for preventing bloat.
Related: Raw Feeding Primer: 10 Simple Rules To Get Started. This post makes it easy.
NOTE: This doesn’t mean table scraps. Foods that your dog may not be used to, or that are high in carbohydrates, could produce more gas, and too much gas can lead to bloat.
2. Feed raw meaty bones
If you feed a raw diet, you probably already know that raw bones are an important part of that diet. These provide lots of important nutrients and can be great for cleaning your dog’s teeth. What you may not know is that raw bones are also good for preventing bloat.
Related: Recreational bones For dogs can ease boredom and clean teeth. Find out which bones to give in this post.
The right bones will help strengthen the muscles in the stomach, which can aid in digestion and help your dog avoid the build-up of gasses in his stomach.
3. Consider how you feed
Many people advocate raised bowls for feeding to reduce the risk of bloat, especially for larger breeds dogs. However, there’s actually no evidence that proves elevated food bowls prevent bloat. In fact, there’s evidence that shows elevated food bowls can actually increase the risk of bloat. In this study, researchers found that in 20% of cases among large breed dogs and in 52% of cases among giant breed dogs, bloat was actually directly related to having a raised food bowl.
Your dog needs exercise. The type and amount differs depending on your dog, but most dogs need at least daily activity for both mental and physical well-being. But when you exercise is important too! Remember all those times your parents told you not to swim right after you ate? Apply that same thinking to when you give your dog exercise. To prevent bloat in dogs, it is best NOT to exercise your dog right after he eats. When his stomach is full, it’s more likely to flip and twist, which can cause problems with the digestive system. This includes vigorous game playing too – no wrestling or tug of war right after dinner.
Being prepared is smart in case bloat does happen. This is very important for breeds that are prone to bloat, like Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Weimaraners or Irish Setters. Have a homeopathic vet on hand that you can call if your dog does get bloat. They’ll be able to tell you which remedies to keep on hand. You can find one online at the Academy of Veterinary Homeopathy.
There are two homeopathic remedies that can help relieve bloat. You must still get your dog to the vet as soon as you can, but you can give one of these remedies to your dog in the car on the way to the vet. Sometimes these remedies will help and when you get to the vet your dog may not need emergency care … but if he does, then you’re in the right place.
- Carbo vegetabilis in a 30C or 200C potency
- Nux vomica in a 30C or 200C potency
You can buy these remedies at Vitamin Shoppe, Whole Foods, other health stores or online at amazon.com or smallflower.com. They’re great remedies to have in the house in case your dog bloats. To give them to your dog, tip a few pellets of either remedy into his cheek on the way to the vet. If you have other questions about homeopathic remedies for bloat, you can always ask them on the Dogs Naturally Facebook page.
Dogs with bloat will usually require emergency surgery. This surgery has two objectives: to assess the damage done to the stomach, spleen, and other organs, and to untwist the stomach so gases and bloods/fluids can pass through and leave your dog’s body. It is unavoidable in almost all cases.
Preventative Surgery: While some vets will also perform surgery preventatively to stop the stomach from twisting, keep in mind that no surgery can prevent bloat. During this surgery, your dog’s stomach is sewn to another part of the body, such as the rib cage. I believe it’s best to use the other advice above to prevent future bloat rather than tacking your dog’s stomach, especially since your dog may never get bloat. Needless to say, I don’t recommend this practice.
Preventing bloat in dogs is important, especially when the number of dogs who die from it is around 25%. Luckily, there are several things that you can do to decrease your dog’s risk (and boost his overall health at the same time). Your dog will be healthier as a result.