Puppies, like human babies, naturally have cute round bellies. Some puppy potbellies aren't cute though, and are a sign of an emergency situation for your pooch. Many pet owners have never heard of bloat, or don't realize how serious the condition is for their dog. Bloat is a condition where the dog's stomach fills with air and actually twists. The stomach is distended beyond the normal puppy potbelly size. The puppy will usually pace around in obvious discomfort and can eventually go into shock. In serious cases, death can occur within hours.
How Does Puppy Bloat Occur?
Dog bloat seems to occur as a result of a dog gulping down food and water, not pausing for breaths. Why some puppies get bloat, and others don't, isn't really clear. Some dog breeds just seem more likely to get bloat. These include larger, high-strung, and anxious breeds. For some reason, dog breeds that have deep, narrow chests also seem more prone to the condition than others.
When the puppy's tummy twists, the food or liquid that was eaten becomes trapped inside. No matter what the dog tries to do, it cannot get the contents out by natural means through the mouth or intestine. It may attempt to throw up, but nothing comes out. Fortunately, if medical treatment is undertaken quickly, the dog should recover. Treatment may include placing a tube in the dog's stomach to release the gas and contents. In severe cases, surgery is often required.
How Can Bloat Be Prevented?
Bloat is not entirely avoidable, but there are measures you can take to make the condition less likely. Most dogs that get bloat eat and drink rapidly. There are several tricks you can take to make it difficult for your animal to gulp down water and food.
Try these smart, cheap, and easy ideas:
- Provide food and water multiple times per day, in small portions.
- Take a handful of dog food kibble and spread it across the kitchen floor. This causes the dog to have to pause between small bites while it looks for food.
- Place a large rock in your dog's bowl and put the dog food around the rock. Your dog will have to slowly eat around the rock to get the food.
- Portion your dog's meal into muffin tins. Put only a small amount in each tin so the dog has to slowly eat out of each compartment.
- If you have more than one dog, feed them in separate rooms to reduce competition for food.
- Feed your dog a high quality dog food that has as few grains as possible. This will cause less gas build-up.
- Only allow small bits of water for an hour after eating. Limit exercise.
- Minimize your dog's stress by ensuring it gets plenty of exercise during the day so that it's calm when eating.
There are dog bowl "puzzles" that can be purchased that help slow down your dog's mealtime. The food is hidden in the bowl behind chambers, or in a maze form. This causes the dog to eat slower as it takes time retrieving the food from the chambers. Some dogs may outgrow the habit of eating too quickly, and others never will change.
If a dog experiences bloat, it's a veterinary emergency. Some cases of puppy bloat may resolve on their own. However, some severe cases can cut off circulation to the vein leading to the heart. This can result in death in a few hours. If your dog shows signs of bloat, seek treatment from an emergency vet like one from River View Veterinary Service LLC as soon as possible.