Friday, August 8, 2008

Stomach Torsion (bloat)

Something you need to be aware of especially if you own large dogs is stomach torsion which is also known as bloat. This is a problem that develops in large breeds when a dog eats too much food at a sitting. In April of 2007 it took the life of my 10 year old German Shepherd Dog Sam, pictured here.

This condition, which is a medical emergency, is typically associated with dry dog food. I guess this has something to do with the fact that the dry dog food swells up in their stomachs. Their stomachs get really bloated and twist around, cutting off the blood supply to the vital organs, leading to death.

You can mitigate the risk by substituting some canned dog food for a bit of dry (or of course not feeding dry food at all). Another good way to reduce the risk is to split the feedings up. Don't give your dogs all their food in one single meal, feed them twice or three times a day.

When Sam was a puppy I took him to obedience school and the instructor actually mentioned this condition and told us not to feed once a day. So I had some awareness of it, but as the years went by I forgot the symptoms and forgot about feeding once per day. For most of their lives, I fed my German Shepherds a couple of cups of dry food and one can. Sam also had a fondness for egg Mcmuffins which I let him have once a week!

Then I got my Weimaraner and I got kind of lazy. I was pretty busy at the time with work projects too, so I started feeding them all dry food because it was easier. Sam weighed about 100 pounds so I fed him roughly 4 cups a day. Little did I know it would end up killing my dog.

Sam was older, he turned 10 years old in September of 2006. But he was in fantastic physical condition. I routinely took him for hikes in the Sandia mountains, and we would go on hard trails. It was real hiking and not just walking around. We did that 3-5 days per week. So I had this illusion in my mind he would live forever.

That April, Sam started burping one day. I noticed it and noticed the odd sound it made, but really thought nothing of it. If your dog starts doing this you might take some notice.

A few days later I was sitting and work and had this overwhelming urge to take the dogs for a hike. I skipped out of work and took them for a long hike on a nice trail deep in the forest. It was a great day for the dogs for sure. I took them home and went out for dinner.

That night Sam started throwing up. It turned out I was exhausted because at that time I had been writing a book and going to my full time job, so I really couldn't get out of bed. I heard him throwing up but fell back to sleep. When I got up the next morning I saw Sam laying in the bathroom. I called to him and he lifted his head and I thought everything was OK. Later I came out and saw him dead by the door leading to the backyard. I guess the poor fellow had to go to the bathroom.

In a state of shock I was running through all kinds of things in my mind. Maybe I had hiked him too hard and there wasn't any water in the house when I went out for dinner, maybe someone poisoned him-I just didn't know. A friend urged me to take his body to the vet to find out what had happened. I did and they told me it was stomach torsion.

I will always feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. Since Sam was in such good condition from hiking I thought he would live to a ripe old age for a big dog, like maybe 13-15. I feel bad for changing him to all dry food and for feeding him once a day. I feel guilty for not knowing the symptoms-for example if a dog is throwing up water you need to take them to an emergency vet right away. The only way to deal with this condition is with emergency surgery. Even then the success rate is not that good, the best thing to do is prevention. So split your dogs feedings up if you're not doing so already, and if you have deep chested dogs maybe don't even feed them dry food. I have also read that dog bowls raised off the floor reduce the risk of the condition. The reason is gulping in air during eating increases the risk, and a dog is more inclined to gulp in air if eating off the floor. Finally don't exercise your dogs for at least one hour after eating. Let them rest and start digesting the food. One more thing-make sure you have some money on reserve or a credit card available. Emergency surgery for a dog can cost a couple or three thousand dollars. Visit this website to learn more Gastric Torsion in Dogs.

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