Don't Make These Mistakes

Learn the top 10 Mistakes dog owners make when training their dogs, and what you need to know to avoid them.

IMG_4121When she went outside to use the bathroom, she did not come back in.

I was sitting on the couch working on my computer and it took me a moment to register I was one dog short.

By the time I realized she hadn’t come back in, she had probably been in the yard for about 15 minutes. It wasn’t like her. She always came right back in. She had her cushy bed by the door and she never wanted to lay anywhere else.

I hopped up and sprinted to the door. Kira is a 13 year old great dane and if you know anything about the breed, you know that rarely do they make it past 9. Over the years, we’ve had our share of health scares, but my “Warrior Dane” has always managed to bounce back. As her age progresses and her body becomes more fragile however, I find myself becoming hyper-vigilant, taking any out-of-the-ordinary behavior very seriously.

I spotted the big dog laying down in the middle of the yard. “It’s just hot…” I reasoned, trying to slow my impending panic. “…She must have gone outside to cool off”.

As I approached, I instantly realized that wasn’t the case. My massive, 120 lb dog lay in the sphinx position in the middle of the yard, neck outstretched, a small string of drool hanging from her pursed lip. My heart sunk and bile rose up in my throat. This was bloat. I knew it instantly, and given the nature of the ailment, I knew I didn’t have much time.

When she was 5 years old, Kira suffered a from a severe case of GDV (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus), otherwise known as the dreaded bloat and torsion. Simply stated, her stomach filled with gas and as a result, it dilated causing the gas inside to become trapped. As pressure built, the stomach rotated in her abdomen, cutting off blood flow to her vital organs and launching her into critical condition within a very short amount of time.

Fortunately, we caught her condition early and rushed her to the vet for life-saving emergency surgery. We had dodged a bullet then, but just barely.

During her surgery, we had her stomach “tacked”, a procedure called gastropexy whereby the stomach lining, through the magic of modern science, is “stuck” to the sides of her abdomen, preventing future torsion from occurring. Remembering this, my hope surged.

“It can’t be that bad.” I desperately tried to convince myself, “The stomach tack will keep her safe.”  But the momentary surge of hope plummeted the moment she began to retch. 

She retched hard, coughing up a small amount of white foam, immediately afterwards collapsing to the ground, overcome with weakness as her blood supply began to restrict. She was dying, and I had to save her.

With all of my strength, I attempted to lift her weak and lifeless body. As she weighs about 20lbs less than I do, when she doesn’t want to get up (or can’t), there is not much I can do about it.

I coaxed and pleaded for her to help me, all to no avail. Standing over her, I picked up her front legs, straightening them out, only to have her fold them back underneath her enormous body when I tried to lift her rear. At this point, I had no choice. I had to call in backup. I needed help. I couldn’t do this on my own.

I messaged my friend who immediately headed over. As I anxiously awaited her arrival, knowing full well she was still about 45 minutes out, stress and worry overcame me. I paced the yard, occasionally laying in the grass next to my dog, and at times attempting again to lift her oversized body, hoping that this time I’d find the strength.

Finally, through a twist of fate, one of my Malinois grabbed the flashlight I was using to investigate my bloated dog’s condition and took off through the yard, light shining from her mouth as she proudly raced zoomies around us. As she made her second lap, she leaped clear over my dane, startling the previously listless dog and giving her the encouragement she needed to attempt to stand.

Breathing a sigh of relief, I helped her up and together, we struggled to make our way to the truck.

After only managing a few steps, I quickly realized that getting her up was only half the battle. The truck was still a good 50 yards away and once I got her there, I had no idea how I was going to lift her heavy body into the backseat.  

Frustrated tears streamed down my face and sweat soaked my shirt as I alternated between manually stepping her front feet forward, and pushing her rear to get her to walk. After what seemed like an eternity (but was actually only about 15 minutes), we made it out of the front door and found ourselves standing in front of the massive vehicle which at this point, closely resembled Mt. Everest.

This was one of the only moments in my life I cursed myself for buying a truck. The distance from the ground to the backseat was far and instantly, that familiar feeling of hopelessness swept over me as I convinced myself the task of loading her was impossible.  

I implored her to lift her front feet as she had always done in the past and she flatly refused. I pleaded in desperation, hoping that either she, or God would hear my cries and offer me some assistance. But assistance never came.

At this point, I was nervous. Her abdomen was swollen and painful, and I was scared I’d make things worse by hoisting her into the backseat. I needed a strategy.

After wallowing in my own despair for a brief moment, I summoned my resolve and laced my fingers under her deep chest. I lifted her front legs first, placing each one on the floor of the backseat, supporting her rear against my body as I did. Then, with one fluid movement, I lifted her hips and and pushed her into the truck. She resisted momentarily but by the grace of God, I was able to get her loaded and in moments, we were off to the vet with no time to spare.

Once at the vet, Kira was in fact diagnosed with “Bloat”. In this case, since her stomach had been “tacked” (or pexied), it hadn’t twisted yet. However, even with a “tacked” stomach, Kira could still torsion if the pexy broke loose. And although she hadn’t torsioned, the situation was still quite dangerous as her stomach and intestines swelled so severely, they pressed on her Vena Cava, a major vein that carries deoxygenated blood to the heart.

Immediate intervention was required with both stomach medication and IV fluids and even after, her condition was labeled critical.


 

What you need to know about bloat

Bloat can affect any dog, however large breed, deep chested dogs are most at risk. Bloat is commonly found in Great Danes, Shepherds, Dobermans, Labs and Basset Hounds. The cause of bloat is still unknown but the condition is quite common and the results can be devastating.

“Bloat” refers to the buildup of gas in the stomach. In response, the stomach dilates, effectively trapping its contents along with the excess gas inside. Gas production continues and the dilated stomach builds pressure.  As it swells, it begins to push on surrounding organs, causing symptoms such as difficulty breathing and coughing as well as other tell-tale and alarming signs.

In many cases, without immediate intervention, as pressure builds, the stomach rotates within the abdomen. This “torsion” is called “volvulus” and is rapid and deadly. When the stomach twists, blood flow is restricted and in many cases, as they lose oxygen and blood flow, the abdominal organs will begin to die. Surgical intervention is the only option to save a torsed dog.


 

What to Watch Out For

  • Restlessness – When your dog bloats, their stomach becomes extremely painful making it difficult for them to find a comfortable spot to lay down. Dogs suffering from the affliction will pace, try to lay down and then immediately get up, or change positions as they struggle to get comfortable. They will often eventually settle into the “Sphinx” position as they become too weak to stand but their stomach is too painful to lay any other way.
  • Retching/Unproductive Attempts at Vomiting – As pressure builds in the stomach, dogs will feel nauseous and will attempt to vomit. However, as the stomach dilates, trapping the gas and contents inside, these attempts are typically unproductive, resulting in the vomiting of foam or small amounts of clear fluid. Coughing is sometimes also present.
  • Drooling – As nausea sets in and the stomach gets uncomfortable, dogs suffering from bloat will begin salivating and strings of drool can often be seen hanging from their lips.
  • Standing with an Arched Back/Stretching – Remember, the bloating dog is very uncomfortable. In response they will attempt to stretch and will often stand with their rear legs spread slightly and their back arched.
  • Excessive Drinking – Dogs suffering from bloat tend to drink excessively in an attempt to soothe their painful stomach.
  • Swelling of the Abdomen – As gas builds, the abdomen will appear bloated and swollen, and is typically quite painful.
  • Blue/Grey/Purple or Pale Gums – As the stomach twists and circulation is cut off, dogs will reflect these changes in the color of their gums. Poor circulation will cause the gums to appear a muddy blue/grey color, indicating lack of oxygenation in the blood.

 

What to Do

If your dog is experiencing the symptoms above, you need to get to the vet immediately. Bloat is a veterinary emergency that can go from mild to deadly in a matter of moments.

If caught early enough, before the stomach torsions, medication and fluids can typically manage the bloat, preventing the need for surgery. If the bloat progresses without intervention, torsion can occur at which point surgical intervention is the only option.

I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking immediate medical care for your dog if you suspect he is bloating. Don’t try to treat at home. Don’t assume a “wait and see” approach. I am notoriously conservative with veterinarian intervention for most afflictions, however bloat is absolutely not one of them.


Preventing Bloat

IMG_4135Now, I’m no vet. But I do feel like I’m pretty well versed on the science of veterinary medicine. After training and caring for hundreds of dogs in my career, and after 4 direct experiences with bloat and GDV, I can tell you first hand this is a nasty condition that comes on fast.

From my experience, I very strongly believe there are a number of risk factors that can increase your dog’s chances of bloating.

  • Breed – Although bloat can happen in any breed of dog, the experts agree that large, deep and narrow chested dogs are most at risk. Breeds include Great Danes, Weimaraners, St. Bernards, Shepherds, Poodles, Rottweilers, Bloodhounds, Labradors, Boxers, Dobermans, Setters and Basset Hounds.
  • Underweight Dogs – It’s been my experience that thin dogs or dogs that were kept lean were most likely to develop bloat.
  • Dogs that Gorge – From my experience, dogs that gulp or gorge water and/or food are more likely to present with the affliction.
  • Dogs with Stomach Problems – Dogs with underlying stomach problems such as GERD, gastroenteritis, and IBD are at higher risk.
  • Anxious Dogs – Stress can play a major role. Overly anxious dogs, or dogs in a stressful situation can be more inclined to develop bloat.

Prevention of bloat is a sticky subject as there is absolutely a genetic component that can render tips and techniques for keeping the condition at bay completely useless. That being said, I’ve also witnessed a bloodhound who bloated from overeating and drinking, something that definitely could have been prevented had more caution been exercised in her feeding and care.

Here are the critical things I would recommend to MINIMIZE your chances of bloat:

  • Bowl Position – Experts are at odds as to whether you should feed from an elevated bowl or whether you should feed from a bowl on the ground. In my opinion and from past experience, this doesn’t matter. I’ve experienced bloat from both bowl positions and in fact, my dane bloated the first time when she was fed with her bowl on the floor and the second time when her bowl was elevated.
  • Water Intake – Water matters. In every single case I’ve experienced, excessive drinking drives the condition. While excessive drinking is absolutely a symptom of the affliction, and will continue even as the stomach torsions, I believe that drinking heavily will occur immediately before the onset of symptoms as well. Don’t allow dogs to drink excessively when rehydrating. Instead, offer small amounts of water often. If they aren’t gorging, water should be available always.
  • Overeating – Eating too much too fast can definitely initiate the affliction. Don’t feed large meals and don’t allow dogs to overeat. For dogs susceptible to bloat, it’s best to feed 2-3 small meals per day as opposed to one large meal. Dogs that gorge themselves are more likely to bloat.
  • Dry vs. Wet Food – I’ve also found that with dry kibble comes increased thirst. Since I believe strongly that excessive water intake can absolutely increase the risk of bloat, when feeding kibble, I make it a point to wet down my dog’s food, helping alleviate the desire to drink. More often than not however, I opt to feed a diet that doesn’t consist of dry kibble, but instead of cooked or raw meat and vegetables.
  • Exercise – Do you go for a run immediately after eating a meal? Would you take an hour long cardio class and immediately indulge in a big and heavy lunch? I probably would, but then again, I’m not the smartest when it comes to self care and I’d likely pay dearly for the indiscretion. Exercising on a full stomach isn’t advised for people and it isn’t advised for dogs. Restrict strenuous exercise immediately before and after feeding. You don’t need to lock your dog in a plastic bubble and be in a state of panic before and after meals, making sure your beloved pet is completely stationary. In fact, calm and relaxed movement is good for digestion. But don’t feed your dog after strenuous exercise (i.e. intense training, heavy play, or lots of running) and don’t immediately hit the pavement for a run after your dog’s eaten a big meal.

No method is fool proof so your best bet is to know the signs and symptoms and have a plan if you are faced with an emergency.


 

If I could give you one piece of advice after my experiences with bloat its this: aside from some obvious precautions, you probably can’t prevent it. Instead, know the risk factors, signs and symptoms and seek medical intervention immediately if you suspect your dog is afflicted. Time is of the essence and the less the condition has advanced, the better the chance treatment will be successful.

Oh, and if you have a large dog, are not a bodybuilder, and you live alone, get a sling so you don’t have to go through the agony of manhandling your sick dog into your vehicle. Trust me….its worth it.

Kira is back home with me now. Some other developments have her stabilized but in critical condition. Stay tuned for more of her story, as I will share with you our experiences as we journey through this battle together.

 

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Meagan Karnes
Meagan Karnes

Meagan has been training dogs professionally since 2002, most recently working with private security, military and law enforcement to provide K9s for high level applications. She owns both The Collared Scholar, an online dog training academy, and 690 Security Services, a company that trains and deploys Executive Security and Protection K9s to private customers. She recently partnered with both Average Frog and SM Leaders, who repurpose the proven performance principles of the Navy SEALs for individuals and organizations.

    37 replies to "GDV Strikes Again: My Experience with “Bloat” in Dogs"

    • Heather

      Thank you for this information. I am still trying to understand bloat and how to minimize the risk. I have 4 Great Danes. One is a rescue that is 8 years old now, he was 6 when I got him. The other three are under the age of two and this scares me terribly. I live in a rural area and emergency vet service is not close. I do feed kibble, however it is moistened with water and I add either meat or canned food to it so that it is somewhat similar to soup. I feed them twice a day. Their food dishes are on the floor and their water dish is elevated. I usually do not see them drink much at one time. I do not let them outside until it has been at least an hour after eating. I sincerely appreciate the information that you shared.

      • Meagan Karnes

        Hi Heather 🙂 I don’t know if anyone can say without a doubt how bloat happens or how to prevent it. From my experience, there is a big genetic component to it, and water consumption seems to be a big factor as does weight of the dog – thin or slightly under weight dogs tend to have a higher risk from my direct experience. I’ve experienced bloat a few times over the course of my career – quite scary. My dane’s initial experience was something we never really understood. But later in life, she developed the condition repeatedly – turns out her heart began to fail and that was what was causing the repeated bouts of bloat. She bloated weekly in her last month or two of life and ultimately, we lost her to her heart condition. So I think there are so many things that can contribute to bloat and all we can do is try our best and keep an eye out for the warning signs.

    • Molly Waymire

      Thank you for a great article. My 12-year old Alaskan Malamute is currently recovering from bloat/torsion and the associated surgery. I related so much to the anguish you felt when you weren’t able to lift your dog and get her to, and into, your vehicle. I live alone too and faced the same challenge but was able to eventually lift my dog into the car, but he’s only 75 pounds.

      I’m just a regular dog owner (I’ve owned two dogs in my adult life) and both of them have experienced bloat/torsion (my previous dog was a Tibetan Mastiff). Because I had had this experience with my TM, I follow all of these suggested guidelines for avoiding bloat with my malamute. When he started vomiting one night about 930 and continued to throw up seven times over the next three hours, bloat was the last thing I was thinking about. My Tibetan Mastiff had shown the classic sign of trying to vomit but nothing coming up. But, after my mal started exhibiting signs that he was in a lot of pain I thought to check his gums and they were very pale. It was then that it hit me that this was likely bloat and I needed to get him to the hospital immediately. Thankfully, we have an incredible emergency hospital in Portland, Oregon, and they were able to save both my TM and my malamute…I’m so grateful.

      Thank you for the suggestion of having a sling on hand to help get your dog in the car if you don’t have help. I hope I never have to face bloat again, but I’m going to get a sling in case it’s needed for some other emergency. I’m also going to think seriously about having the surgery to preventatively tack the stomach in any future dog. I never want to watch another dog experience so much pain. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on that prophylactic surgery since you have so much experience with dogs that are more apt to suffer from this condition. I understand that that surgery can now be done laparoscopically. Interestingly enough, even though bloat/torsion is most common in deep chested dogs, the vet at the ER told me that she had recently treated a dachshund for bloat/torsion…go figure.

      Thanks again for an informative and interesting article.

    • Maxine

      My 10 year old Great Dane suffered with bloat on Wednesday and had emergency surgery. Unfortunately it was about 4 and a half hours after first bringing up foam before surgery. I have brought him home today he won’t eat and is struggling to walk because of his back end but is slightly better today than yesterday so we are hopeful . My questions are about after care any advice . As mentioned refusing to eat but wants to drink a lot of water ? Any help much appreciated

      • Meagan Karnes

        I am so very sorry. Bloat is such an awful thing to experience. My dog absolutely refused to eat much when she came home. Her meds gave her a really uncomfortable stomach. She was on pain medications and antibiotics and under the advice of our vet, we discontinued her pain medications which helped quite a bit. I’d call the vet that did the surgery just to be sure – always better to be safe. I’d be cautious on water intake, making sure the dog has plenty to stay hydrated but doesn’t overindulge. I watched my dog like a hawk, monitored temp to make sure it remained in the normal range, and regularly checked gum color for signs of dehydration and/or other issues. You can read more about that here: https://pethelpful.com/dogs/What-Makes-a-Dogs-Gums-Pale . I fed small amounts of an easy to digest soft food frequently for several days. Best of luck to you. Please keep us posted!

    • Leija

      Hi there. We recently lost our11(ish) year old Rottweiler and I am finding a bit of solace in this article. He passed in the middle of the night and we do not know what happened. However, he had bloat/GDV 2 1/2 years prior and had emergency surgery to tack his stomach. He had a miraculous recovery without any complications. I thank my stars every day for the extra time the vet lended us.

      During this past year Caesar had developed MMM and went on and off of low dose prednisone to treat it. Although unrelated to his bloat experience, we couldn’t tell if his arbitrary bouts of IBD was from the medication, the lack of medication, or remnants of bloat. From extremely healthy diets, to probiotics, to multiple vet specialists, we simply could not figure out what made him have episodic vomiting and lethargy. It would suddenly clear up and he would become a puppy again. He was almost diagnosed with Cushing’s disease until two tests later showed this was not the case. He was also deficient in B12 and the supplement worked wonders for him.

      After all this and 4 months of a seemingly very healthy pup, he passed suddenly in the middle of the night. His stomach appeared bloat-like to me and although this occurs naturally in death, it shouldn’t happen so soon. It makes me sick to think this could be the case but now I am facing the fact that multiple rounds of bloat are entirely possible, regardless of stomach tacking . I hope people can hear our story and remind themselves to keep bloat in mind at all times. Thank you for making dog parents aware of this devastating sickness.

      • Meagan Karnes

        I am so sorry you went through this. How awful. But you did everything you knew to do and I’m confident you gave him the best life possible. And just an anecdote…my great dane, even with her stomach tacked, bloated several times when her health began to decline. It was due to a heart condition and poor circulation. So while I immediately thought “BLOAT!” and rushed her to the ER, treating the bloat would not have saved her. It was just a symptom of a much bigger problem. Her heart was giving up and lack of circulation was causing her to bloat regularly. As much as I wanted to fix her, and as much as I swore I could, there was nothing I could do to help her. So please please please, pat yourself on the back for being an amazing dog owner. For doing everything that you could do. And thank you for giving your dog the BEST life possible. <3

        • Brannon

          Do you mind me asking how old your Dane was? I am currently dealing with a bloat issue with my 4 year old Dane. He was diagnosed 5 weeks ago with pancreatitis, also had exploratory surgery to examine his internal organs. His pancreas seems to be healing but he keeps developing gas in his belly. I had his stomach tacked at 10 mos old, but the vets at a loss at to why he keeps filling with air. He exhibits all the symptoms of bloat and isn’t responding to meds. We have him on prescription diet low fat food and nothing else, feeding small frequent meals. We’re heading to internal medicine tomorrow for hopefully some answers. Just wondering now if my guy may have another underlying issue causing this gas build up, like yours did.

          • Meagan Karnes

            She was four the first time she bloated and 13 when she finally passed away. So sorry you are struggling with this. Danes are notorious for heart and circulation issues. Might be something worth investigating.

    • Frank

      Great article – thank you!
      I came home from work two nights ago and instantly knew something was not right with my Dane. He usually comes to greet me but instead remained on his cushion stretching and shifting constantly to get comfortable. At first I thought he might have fallen down the stairs and hurt himself or pulled a muscle. Then my fear turned immediately to bloat which as a Dane owner has always been in the back of my mind. I googled “bloat and constant stretching” and immediately came across your article. Moments into reading it I felt my blood go cold, grabbed his lead and rushed him into a black cab and sped him to the 24hr emergency vets. He was operated on immediately as he had a tortion – but is now stable and recovering well. Thanks to you I acted decisively and without hesitation and it was largely because of the clarity of your article. Excellent work

      • Meagan Karnes

        Oh wow. I am so happy your boy is ok. Best wishes for a speedy recovery and thank you for sharing <3

    • Laurie Fadness

      My Saint Bernard had bloat surgery 3 months ago. The vet did tack his stomach . He recovered fine and everything appeared ok until I noticed that my dog was loosing weight. I feed him 3 small meals a day of moist food. Still he is loosing weight. I’m at the vet now and when they weighed him he has lost 30 pounds in 3 months. Waiting to see what his diagnosis is. I will post the outcome.

    • Leslie Steeves

      Hi Meagan: I have been trying to discover a solution to my 12 year old, yellow lab Rosie’s issue with two episodes of bloat, post gastroplexy. Too long a story but after surgery, from which she recovered beautifully, she experienced bloat symptoms twice that required us to take her to the 24 hour emergency vet where the surgery was done. She is on meds that zonk her out and we still are trying to find a food that does not create gas and the eventual bloat. It’s like living with a time bomb even though we have had three weeks without a return trip. We in the family are aware of the signs she gives, like licking then panting and eventual pica wher she becomes frantic eating everything from plants to curtains!!! When this happens we give her a trazadol to relax her. I am torn by the meds and also the very expensive prescription food she is on which she is now beginning to turn on. She is a lab she’ll eat anything! We have been giving her the 2-3 small meals which she is clearly not satisfied by. She is hungry and as she is not on kibble any longer I suspect this is why. If you give your dogs kibble who had bloat can you recommend a good one for “sensitive” (gassy) stomachs? Bil-Jac Sensitive Solution supposedly dissolves very quickly in the stomach which was something Rosie was having trouble with. The kibble on ex-ray was always still in there even after hours of eating. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciate. We have know the heartbreak of bloat as we are big dog people too. When you love any pet you know what you are in for in terms of letting them go at some point. Thanks for this article. I am searching high and low for answers as Rosie circles my feet having eaten only an hour ago and ready for more. Leslie and Rosie

      • Meagan Karnes

        I use NutriSource brand dog food with Honest Kitchen “Perfect Form” supplement. However, my dane repeatedly bloated when she got older and it turned out to be a circulation issue. For me, it feels like there might be something else going on besides poor digestion. Might be worth looking into further or getting alternative vet opinions. Best of luck to you and your girl. Bloat is so scary!

    • Rose

      I have just gone thru this with my 10 yr old giant labradoodle Chewy. He had surgery on Monday for GDV. I got him to the vet in time. They still had to remove 1/4 of his stomach and his spleen. It’s Friday today and he has come home. Now just trying to get him to eat. He has no interest in food right now. I have been worried for a long time about this, as I had an acquaintance lose her young Standard poodle to GDP. Hoping he will eat tomorrow.

    • Beth Burton

      Thank you for sharing your story. On Sunday night our 12yo bloodhound Ruby started showing the classic signs of retching with nothing but white foam, pacing and a drum tight abdomen. I was on the phone with her vet within 15 minutes of the onset of symptoms who sent us straight to emergency care. Luckily she was still strong enough to get all 130lb of herself in the car with only a little help. Once diagnosed as bloat with torsion, we decided she was not a good candidate for surgery given her age, arthritis and previous episodes of seizures. I was heartbroken to think I would lose my “beauty queen”, as I call her ♥️ . The vet had one last ditch effort to try, under sedation she inserted a tube down her throat to her stomach and with some efforts was able to coax her stomach to untwist. A miracle. The vet was still very cautious as to how she would recover but 8 hours later she was up wagging her tail and 24 hours later she was home acting like nothing happened. I know our case isn’t typical, I’d even says it’s nearly miraculous and I am so grateful to get a little more time with my old girl.

    • Tennent

      The elephant in the room is kibble…..most bloat cases come from dogs that eat kibble….it’s an awful product…even if it’s organic and grain free…dogs need to be fed real food…

      • Meagan Karnes

        We agree to disagree. But thanks so much for sharing your opinion!

    • Peta sampson

      My 90kg English mastiff bloated with torsion last Monday. I noticed the signs within minutes as I’ve alwats been paranoid about bloat and had him to the emergency clinic within 35 of first signs. By this time his stomach had fully twisted. I was so scared but to make things worse, the clinic wouldn’t commence surgery until I put down a $5500 deposit even though I have insurance. I didn’t have that kind of money just sitting in my account so it took me an hour to rally around to friends and family to help me out. The whole time I was yelling at the vet to just save my dog as time was of the essence and I had done the right thing by getting him to care as quick as I did. Waiting for him to come out the other end of surgery was the longest wait ever and the next couple of nights while he spent time in ICU I didn’t sleep at all, having been told heart attacks and strokes were common during the recovery period. But just over a week later, he’s home with me and recovering well. He has his appetite back and he’s on 3-4 small soft meals a day. I’ve always done everything to avoid bloat. I work in pet nutrition and my boy is fed an excellent raw diet and no kibble, no excessive exercise or water intake. And it still happened. I’ve always worried about bloat since he was a pup but now that it’s happened, I’m so scared about it happening again. And I’ve read so many stories that even with the stomach tacking, it can still happen so nothing puts me at ease. Thanks so much for your article. Going to share with all dog owners.

      • Casey Wood

        I’m so glad your dog is okay.

    • Josie

      We just lost our Amstaff, Dude, to bloat. We feed mostly raw organs, fruits, veggies, fish, eggs and sweet potato and pumpkin puree with occasional kibble. The vet saw some small growths on his liver on xray 1 1/2 weeks ago and he is on really high dose of prednisone. He has been drinking a whole lot. I knew about not exercising around meal time but was unaware I needed to restrict his drinking. He drank right after eating and collapsed about 10 minutes after drinking. He was gone within minutes but we rushed him to the ER. I didn’t recognize it as bloat…his collapse looked like the 2 times he had choked before. I was doing first aid all the way to the hospital while my partner drove…it’s 25 min to the nearest ER. I knew he was gone but I had to keep trying. I feel incredibly guilty for not knowing more. I keep thinking we could have prevented this.

      • Casey Wood

        I’m so sorry for your loss.

    • Chelsea

      My Dane mix, Chance who is 6 had emergency surgery for bloat last Sunday. Fortunately we were home when it happened and I’ve always been super paranoid about the possibility of it happening so as soon as she tried throwing up and nothing came out we got her in the truck and called the emergency vet on the way since we live about 40 mins from there. The surgery went well and since we caught it so quick all of her stomach tissue was healthy and they didn’t need to remove any. She was back home with me after 2 days of being monitored at the vets and I was amazed at how she was recovering. She had her appetite back and I’ve been feeding her a bland diet of chicken and rice like the vet suggested, several small meals a day. She’s no longer on the pain meds as she’s been acting fine and her incision looks like its healing wonderfully. She was great for 5 days but all of a sudden yesterday morning she vomited twice after waking up and was drooling a lot and acting nauseous. I called the vet and the prescribed me some more nausea meds which I went and picked up and she seemed better as the day went on. Today she’s back to nauseous and loss of appetite with some diarrhea. I have an appt to bring her to the vet tomorrow to be seen. Just wondering, is this a normal part of recovery? I know it’s a pretty serious surgery but I haven’t seen much about what to expect for her recovery.

      • Meagan Karnes

        It’s such a scary thing. So sorry you went through this. I will say, it’s best to talk with your vet. They will have better answers for you. For me, my dog really struggled with her recovery. She was shakey and nauseous and lacked any real appetite. We learned that she didn’t tolerate the pain medications all that well and when we switched those up, she was much better. I’d talk it over with your vet to see what they recommend. Best wishes to your girl.

    • Alanna

      Last week, our 10.5-year-old chocolate Labrador named Monty Wes passed away from GDV. We opted out of the surgery as he had several other issues including frequent bloat (at least every couple weeks) for the past 6 months. After reading this article, I regret not going for the surgery. I didn’t think the survival rate was as high as 80% but perhaps that’s for a healthy dog? It all happened so fast and we only had a short time to deliberate. Monty was struggling with his mobility for the past couple years as well as laryngeal paralysis and we thought the surgery would be just too much for him. It was a terrible night. One minute he was fine, and the next he started dry heaving and foaming at the mouth. Usually, when we suspected a distended stomach, we let it alone and it subsided after an hour or so – that was the procedure for the past couple months. But that night, it escalated. Rushed him to the 24 hr vet as it was 3 am, and the X-ray showed torsion of the stomach. I guess torsion was inevitable at some point considering how often he was experiencing bloat. The vet also mentioned, there is likely an underlying issue causing the bloat (an issue that was undetected by ultrasound or x-ray as we had done several in the past couple years). What’s sad is he seemed okay when we essentially brought him into the euthanasia room with the vet but I hope that means he was not suffering severely at the moment. I miss him. Did we make the right decision? The emergency vet thought it was a reasonable decision considering his state but I can’t help but feel we let him down by not giving him a fighting chance.

      • Casey Wood

        I’m so sorry for your loss, Alanna.

    • Kristin

      We own a German Shepherd and I have anxiety about him getting bloat. He’s a big boy and just about to turn 9. I follow all of the precautions and have not had any problems. Yet I still have angst over this.

      You mentioned having a sling on hand in case of emergencies – when you’re home alone. Where can I get one of those?

    • Derek

      I have an english bulldog. His stomach was firmer tonight than usual, and it might even have been a little bigger, though I’m not positive about the second. He was behaving a little strange tonight. He is extremely active. He loves playing ball. I don’t think I have been waiting long enough after meals before playing with him. I think I’ve been feeding him too much and maybe too fast. I don’t know about all of these things; I could be reaching as I’m searching for clues. What I do know if that, as stated, his stomach was more firm tonight and he was acting a bit strange today. He sits in the front seat when I drive. He’s been putting his arms on the floor and keeping his behind on the seat. He’ll rub and be restless and appear like he’s going to the floor but just stays like that being restless and kind of squirming. Then he’ll poop – I’ll take him to poop – maybe play a little ball, and he;ll be OK. That seat thing is rather new though. Last month, maybe two. I’m going to heed the suggestions for preventing bloat, but does a firm stomach necessarily mean early stages of bloat?

      • Casey Wood

        Not always. But with any bloating, it’s best to seek the advice of your veterinarian.

    • Kaci

      Thank you to everyone sharing their experiences. It’s so helpful to commiserate with others via this blog. My 11 yr old Dane had emergency GDV surgery at 3:00 am Monday morning. I caught it quickly, and all her internal organs are fine. She’s back with me tonight after two full days and one night of vet observation. She is so tired. She’s had a little bit of rotisserie chicken (no skin) and a little water. I’ve set my alarm to go off periodically so I can check on her, and I’m hoping some good quality rest where she feels safe will help her perk up. Blood work has been good, and the vet felt comfortable with me brining her home. She’s just so tired. I doubt she rested much while at the vet, as she’s a tad anxious by nature and the vet clinic isn’t the most peaceful place.

      My advice for anyone with a dog breed susceptible to bloat: if you have any doubt, go ahead and get your dog to the vet. Our situation turned out well bc I went with my gut and took her to the emergency clinic. There was a brief internal debate about that choice bc I didn’t want to “waste” $200 just to find out she was ok. So so so glad I decided to take her. Good luck to all those in recovery. Maggie and I are wishing you (and ourselves) well.

    • Tracey Barry

      I lost my 11 year old GSD just the other night. I arrived home about 7pm to find white froth here and there, as I found my dog, he wanted out and collapsed on the back door step, he didn’t really move after that, he looked like an inflated balloon. I checked his gums and they were grey. He was still breathing but I would say he had gone into shock., it took about 10 minutes to find a vet open and another 20 minutes to get him to one. They brought out a trolley to take him into the vets and he took his last breath as they transferred him to the table. He was last seen between 2-3pm and seemed well, wanting to play ball as he always did………………broken hearted

      • Casey Wood

        I’m deeply sorry for your loss, Tracey.

    • Tania Malkin

      Please help with any advice! My 14 year old Doberman has just had GDV and surgery for a fully twisted stomach. She has not recovered well and 24 hours later is still laying motionless in her kennel at the vet. She had some complications in surgery including a punctured diaphragm, but the vet says she should be picking up by now. Any advice?

    • Lauren

      My Akita/Shepard/Mastiff mix just came home today after GDV surgery with her stomach sutured to her chest wall on Friday. We almost lost her and now I’m so paranoid! She has eaten and we have been giving her small servings of water every 30 min but she keeps coughing! It’s a very rough, wet cough and it’s scaring me that gas/acid is building in her stomach again. About an hour ago she also sat up from a deep sleep and was panting very hard and her heart was racing. She eventually laid back down and is now asleep again but does any of this sound abnormal? Am I just being paranoid and these are just post-op normalities?

    • D Donahue

      Your article is well done. My daughter just lost her GSD to bloat, even though he had a tacked stomach…..so hearbreaking!

    • Lynda Lovell

      Hi, I have a one year old Dogue De Bordeaux that I had with friends to show. I brought her home and she was in terrible condition, not one ounce of fat and extremely minimal muscle. I feed my dogs 3 times a day until 12 months old, this girl didn’t gulp her hurry her food, drink excessive since having her back and I feed mainly a raw diet. She had GDV about 3 weeks after bringing her home, my brilliant vet saved her and gave her a gastropexy. My question is, is she likely to bloat again, or because of her poor condition, has she got the chance of a normal life in a loving pet home? I would not ever show her again or breed her. Thank you so much

      • Casey Wood

        After dogs experience GDV, their chances of recurrence do go up. If the vet performed a gastropexy procedure, it lessens the chance of a torsion. My dog had GDV surgery and, while she bloated a few times after, she never torsioned or needed surgery.

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