Myths about Gastric Torsion (aka Bloat)

You may not be surprised that cancer is the leading cause of death in dogs, but if you are like most dog owners, you may have never even heard of the second leading cause:  gastric torsion.  This emergency disorder occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with air, fluid, or food, and then twists or flips on its short axis, cutting off blood supply to and from the stomach and resulting in tissue death.  After the stomach has flipped, gases in the stomach will continue to expand which can place pressure on arteries, veins, and organs.

Bloat, as gastric torsion is commonly referred as, is the precursor condition, before the stomach has flipped.  Both instances are emergency situations that require immediate medical attention.  Listed below are a few myths and the corresponding facts you should know about bloat.  

Myth #1:  Only deep chested dogs are affected
Fact: 
Although dogs with small waists and deep chests (such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, and German Shorthaired Pointers) seem to be disproportionately affected by gastric torsion, any breed of dog can succumb to the disorder.

Myth #2:  By the time your dog shows symptoms, it is too late
Fact: 
Although the signs can be subtle, you should never lose hope that your dog can be saved.  Early symptoms include an extremely distended stomach that feels hard to the touch, as well as obvious pain.  As bloat progresses, the dog may unsuccessfully try to vomit.  Stringy foam may be purged, or nothing at all.  Placing an ear to the dog’s stomach will reveal no digestive sounds, which is a telltale sign that immediate help is needed.  As a rule of thumb, dogs may live 12 – 18 hours after symptoms appear, but the sooner that help is sought, the better.

Myth #3:  Rubbing pressure points on a dog’s knee can relieve symptoms of bloat
Fact: 
There is no medical evidence that suggests this is the case.  Anecdotally, some pet owners have suggested that rubbing the area of a dog’s “kneecap” on the hind leg can improve gastrointestinal tract motility and cause the release of gas.  This treatment should never be given in lieu of going to the vet, but is perfectly advisable to be performed on the way to the clinic.

Myth #4:  There is no way to prevent bloat
Fact: 
Although bloat is not completely understood by veterinarians, there are a number of ways to mitigate the chances of developing the disorder.  The first is to always ensure dogs are eating their meals slowly.  Dog bowls, such as Interactive Dog Toys, encourage pups to eat their food slowly, which reduces the likelihood that excess air can become trapped in the stomach.  Never feed a dog that is panting excessively, such as when excited or immediately after exercise.  Additionally, do not allow a dog to drink large amounts of water in one sitting, or while panting heavily.  Also, never feed your dog one large meal per day; rather, break your dog’s feeding schedule up into 2 – 4 small meals to reduce the amount of material that is in the stomach at one time.