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Bloat is a fairly common thing that happens in veterinary practice. Bloat by itself is an emergency, but it is what can happen next that is the true emergency. So we call it something called GDV, which stands for Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus. So gastric dilatation is bloat, it is where your stomach, which is basically like a balloon, fills up with air and causes your animal's abdomen to be distended and uncomfortable.

This can happen in any dog but is more likely to happen in a deep barrel-chested dog, so German Shepherds, for example, Great Danes, Weimaraners, anything that has that body shape, where there is space for the stomach to then bloat up, that is where it could happen.

We normally find it happening if an animal has exercised too close to eating, and this can happen either way, so if it has eaten before it exercises or after it exercises, it can still happen. And the reason that happens is because if you have been exercising, you will still be breathing a little bit faster, panting a little bit, so you will be taking more air in when you are eating. So that air, combined with the food, and your stomach is trying to do its thing and break down the food, will result in a production of more production of gas in the stomach.

What can then happen is if your stomach is dilated, bloated, it can then twist. Like a balloon would float, the stomach can do the same thing. When that happens, that is when it becomes a true emergency. So what will happen is, with the twisting, all the blood vessels supplying the stomach will also twist, and then you start to reduce the amount of blood that is supplying that stomach lining, well, the stomach in general. You then could lead to the death of the stomach, so what we would call necrosis of the tissue, and that is when you either have surgery or your dog, unfortunately, will not make it.

So bloat is an emergency and it is always best to get your dog checked out by your vet because it could lead on to this twisting of the stomach, which can be fatal.

In order to reduce the risk of the GDV, the bloat happening in your dog, you want to make sure that you are not exercising them within half an hour, an hour of feeding them. You also want to split, ideally split your dog's meals into two meals a day, rather than just the one, so then they are having less food in each meal. You also, if they are quick eaters, you would ideally use bowls that would slow down their eating, because the faster they eat, the faster they are getting that air in as well.

There is some controversy over the height of feeding bowls. Some people believe that feeding at height will increase the chance of getting air into the stomach and for the bloat to happen. My thoughts are that if you are feeding at neck height, so your dog is not having to reach up to their food bowl, then there is not any greater risk of that happening. But if you are unsure, discuss that with your vet and see what the advice is regarding where to feed them.

The other thing you want to do is see if there is any history within that litter of the dogs that you have, any history of GDV happening, because there is a little bit of a, not a genetic component, but it does tend to happen in the same line, so it is worth knowing if there is any familial history of it happening.

In a dog with bloat, the first signs that you may see are unproductive vomiting, so your dog may be trying to vomit and may not bring anything up at all. If they do bring anything up, it tends to be like white foam, but if your stomach is already twisted, then the chances are that nothing will come up at all, but they still will try to bring something up.

They also become quite restless, pacing, because it is very uncomfortable. The most noticeable thing is that their abdomen will bloat up. If you are not sure or you are concerned about this, get a tape measure and measure around dog's abdomen and monitor it that way, and if it is increasing in size, then you know you need to get seen quite quickly. It will lead on to respiratory breathing difficulties, especially if the stomach is twisted, you are going to start symptoms of shock that have been discussed previously. If that is the case, there is just no time to waste, you need to get to your vet really quickly.