Bloat is the second leading cause of death in canines and is extremely stressful and painful. It occurs when something has gone wrong with the digestion of food resulting in rapid gas buildup inside the stomach. The stomach blows up like a balloon and the severe stretching of the stomach cells can cause cell death or necrosis. Sometimes the stomach will twist and turn at the top near the esophagus and at the bottom of the stomach at the pyloric valve. Normal circulation of blood to and from the heart is cut off and the gas inside is unable to escape resulting in irreversible damage to the cells the dog goes into shock followed by cardiac arrest. Sometimes this happens rapidly - within several hours of bloat commencing. Therefore if you suspect your dog has bloat it is strongly advised to seek veterinary assistance immediately.
Although it may make for uncomfortable viewing, I recently found this on youtube. It documents the symptoms of bloat and was made in the hope of alerting and educating dog owners and handlers alike to this serious condition.
Flash was a 12 year old, Male/Neutered, German Shepherd Dog with Gastric Dilatation-Volvulous or "Bloat". This video was taken at the emergency vet's office WHILE Flash's x-rays (confirming GDV) were developing. Flash's prognosis was grave, and he was euthanized within minutes of film being made.
Although research is not conclusive, scientists believe the following may cause or contribute to bloat:
1. Large meals eaten at one time. They recommend serving your dog two smaller meals a day, rather than just one big one.
2. Rigorous exercise done either right before a meal or right after one. You should wait one hour before feeding after exercise and one hour after eating before you let your dog run around.
3. Dry food given that is high in grain, which causes fermentation during digestion which causes gas. Dry food should have meat, meat meal and bone meal listed within the first few ingredients, not grain. In other words, dry food should have more meat than grain in its ingredients. [some texts claim this is not true, but most do agree with it.]
4. If only dry food is given, some people moisten it with water if it is a high-end dog food. However, with lesser quality foods, less meat-based dog food, the ones that are mostly grains, it is better to NOT wet the food, since water mixed with grain will start fermentation, a process that has by-products of gas. But if the food is mostly meat, it's OK, and can actually help with digestion. Mix dry food with canned food if possible.
5. Gulping large amounts of water at one time during meals. Keep water within the dog’s reach at all times, except during meals.
6. Be careful of snacks and biscuits that are high in carbohydrates. Grains are carbohydrates.
7. Avoid dog food high in citric acid used as a preservative and also food that is high in fat.