Bloat or Gastric Torsion is a truly dreadful condition which can affect most deep chested
breeds. Weimaraners fall into this category. We have been unfortunate to have had three
of our bitches bloat over the years.
Thankfully, we were on hand each time it happened and
were able to recognise the symptoms and transported our girls to the vet immediately.
One bitch (3 years old) had been out in the field earlier that day and had been rested for
more than 6 hours before being fed a very light meal.
She bloated less than 15 minutes after being fed.
The second girl (8 years old) had not been doing much at all that day and
was just relaxing at home - again, she bloated after her
evening meal and our third girl (4 years old) had been at home and
bloated before being fed.
PROPHYLACTIC GASTROPEXY IS STRONGLY RECOMMENDED
Prevention is far better than cure in this instance. A prophylactic gastropexy is
done as a routine preventative measure in Weimaraners these days. The recovery
time is normal for a surgical procedure and far better than your dog experiencing
the dreadful pain of bloating, coming through surgery and then possibly
succumbing to shock.
Our three girls survived surgery but other owners are not so lucky. It cannot be stressed
here enough that time is of the essence in this situation and every minute counts.
Even if you have misread the signs and think your dog is bloating only to be told
by the vet that it is not bloat after all, it is far better to err on the side of caution.
This is NOT a condition that can 'wait until morning' and if you suspect your
Weimaraner is bloating, DO NOT take no for an answer from the vet surgery -
get your dog to the surgery as fast as you possibly can.
In all but one instance with our dogs, food was involved, but it must be said that
stress can play huge role in your Weimaraner bloating. Weimaraners being kennelled
for the first time have been known to bloat due to severe separation anxiety, so if you
are planning a holiday or being away from home for an extended period of time,
it is advisable to organise a dog/house-sitter, preferably someone the dogs are familiar with.
It is equally important to be aware that if your dog does come through the surgery, there
is always the very real possibility that shock can set in and you may lose your dog.
I can only speak from our experiences with bloat and stress that the after care of your
dog is very important. Personally, I took time off work and basically just sat on our
couch with our girls each time, keeping calm and only taking them outside to the toilet
on a lead. Do not allow them to have any free, offlead running for at least the first month
after their operation. Meals for the first week or so should be extremely bland and very
small - i.e. a handful or two at a time.
We used fresh, cooked chicken breasts which was shredded into minute pieces,
with a little mashed pumpkin added. It is important that your dog has very small amounts
of fluid to lessen the likelihood of dehydration. Most Weimaraners recovering from this
type of operation will not drink cold water readily, so make it palatable by heating up some
plain, chicken noodle soup or add a little vegemite to the warm water.
Remember: Very small meals spaced out during the day, gradually increasing amounts
as your dog is recovering.
Another point of interest: Most articles you read on Bloat or Gastric Torsion mention
the most likely time of year for a dog to bloat is in the hotter weather, however,
I feel it should be noted here that our 3 Weimaraners all bloated in the cooler
months - i.e. Winter. So for that reason, I have reservations about dogs only
bloating in the hot weather, although certainly, it can and does happen.
So be aware: Bloat can happen ANY TIME of year.
Below is a general explanation of exactly what Bloat is and how it affects your dog.
Bloat is a dilation and/or torsion (twisting) of the stomach, which is usually accompanied by gas build up. Bloat can be accompanied by, and often caused by, a torsion of the spleen. It is a very rapidly developing and serious condition, which if not treated immediately, can result in a high mortality rate.
Signs of Bloat
The dog is usually found groaning with a swollen rigid abdomen which when tapped sounds hollow, like a drum. The dog is very distressed and the breathing very rapid and shallow. The mucous membranes are very pale to blue in colour, indicating a failing circulation system. Often, within 1-4 hours, it can cause death due to stress. What actually kills the dog is excessive pressure from the bloated stomach, pushing up against the diaphragm. This in turn causes pressure on the heart. The average dog, particularly an older animal, can only endure this kind of stress for a very short time before the circulation collapses and the animal dies.
If noticed in the very early stages, the dog may be seen hunched up, vomiting small amounts of frothy liquid, and often attempting to drink quantities of water, which it promptly vomits back.
Structural and Physical Risk Factors affecting the incidence of bloat:-
Circumstances relating to bloat cases are many and varied, however there are common factors,
which are listed below: -.
Bloat is more common in deep chested breeds, especially in the excessively deep and/or narrow chested individuals. Affected breeds include Weimaraners, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Great Danes, Bassets, Borzois
and the larger breeds.
Feeding immediately after excessive exercise and/or excitement, or exercise just after feeding can also increase the chance of bloat. Dogs that are still very excited from running are more likely to drink large quantities of water immediately after their main meal. With dogs that are allowed to run after a meal, the risk that the stomach or the spleen will swing around and twist, and so cause bloat, is much higher. It is imperative that your dog be rested
for at least 3-4 hours prior to feeding and even then, it is advisable to feed a very light meal.
Overexercised/overexcited dogs in hot weather. It may be seen also in dogs that are suddenly having far more exercise than they have been used to. In consequence, these individuals often have a sudden increase in demand for water and electrolytes. The increase in exercise may occur because they have been put near other dogs and are running up and down the fence, when previously they may have been housedogs.
Dogs that bolt their food – dogs that guts their food down extremely rapidly are more likely to bloat, particularly if any of the other risk factors are also present eg. Hot weather/excitement/poor muscle tone etc.
Common Food/feeding related contributing factors of Bloat Cases:-
1. Bloat is most commonly seen after the feeding of a large meal, especially if the dog is the type to eat its food very quickly. Some dogs may bloat within 5-15 minutes of eating a large meal, particularly if they run and jump about. The problem of bloat occurring immediately after a meal appears to be volume and time related ie. How much arrives in the stomach and how fast.
2. The type of food can be a contributing factor. Some people find that large amounts of dry food in the diet may be the causative agent, as the dog may drink a large quantity of water after a meal. The dry food swells considerably after ingestion and this can cause bloat.
3. Sudden changes of dry foods and or food types can be contributing factors in a considerable percentage of bloat cases. This can cause gastric irritation, changing the bacterial balance in the gut etc. It may also occur secondary to the sudden feeding of large fatty meals.
General Treatment of Bloat Cases
The initial aim of treatment is to stabilise the circulation and treat the shock, decompress the stomach (usually by releasing the excess gas via a large gauge needle through the wall of the stomach), treat the associated pain and electrolyte imbalances – ie. Get the dog stabilised as quickly as possible so the dog can undergo surgery. The vast majority of cases are opened up immediately the dog has been stabilised with intravenous fluids, plasma etc, as the profound shock (hypotension) must be treated first.
Where a dog has gassed up without torsion of the stomach, these dogs may have a tube passed down into the stomach to relieve the build up of gas. These cases are rare, over 75-80% have twisted the stomach and without surgical intervention there is a very high re-occurrence of the bloat, often within several hours. If the tube cannot enter the stomach successfully, the dog has to be opened up and the problem surgically corrected. In many cases the stomach and/or the spleen are obviously twisted, in which case tubing is usually not attempted. Dogs that are already severely compromised (i.e. shock), the stress of trying to tube them can kill them.
The twisted stomach is often heavily bruised and sections of its wall may have to be removed because of infarction (lack of blood supply). As the stomach torsions, the blood supply to the stomach twists also. When the spleen has undergone torsion as well, the ligament and blood supply from the stomach wall is twisted and can be damaged as well. Damaged areas of the stomach wall are obvious at the time, but occasionally the heavily bruised areas can develop additional blood clots, and in turn reduce the blood supply to areas of the stomach wall.
Because of the recurrent nature of bloat, most veterinarians elect to suture part of the stomach wall to the wall of the abdomen in an attempt to prevent further bloat attacks.
Quite often the spleen has twisted as well, and is heavily engorged from the build-up of pressure from the twisted stomach. If the spleen has been compromised (the blood vessels leading to it have thrombosed or clotted), it is often removed during the operation, which further reduces the chance of recurrence.
Fluid therapy with high doses of antibiotics is the normal support therapy ongoing after the operation. Additional use of drugs such as Maxalon are usually given for several days post operatively to prevent secondary complications.
The possibility of clots developing in stressed blood vessels may have to be assessed and treated.
Despite the best of veterinary care, the success rate is not always high. The earlier treatment is initiated the better. Different veterinarians have varied regimes of treatment for bloat and the circumstances surrounding bloat cases can and do vary greatly. Those that survive the first 48 hours and steadily improve are unlikely to relapse.
Aftercare of Bloat Cases at Home.
This can be nearly as important as all the work the veterinarian has done to save your dog.
For the next few weeks, give small meals often.
Ideally, older animals and those with continuing medical problems should go onto a fairly rigid routine for the rest of their lives. This includes giving 2-3 small feeds a day, reduced exercise before and after meals, and not leaving large buckets of water available.
Prevention of Bloat
1. If the weather is hot, ensure the dog's main meal is in the cool of the early morning - only
feeding a light meal later on in the evening. Water intake immediately before and after feeding
should be closely monitored. We always make the dogs stop eating half way into their meal,
sit quietly for a few minutes and hopefully, if we're lucky, they will let out a large 'burp'.
Once this happens, they are allowed to finish their meal. We find that by doing this, the
dogs slow down a little and don't rush their food as much and I always breathe a sigh of relief
once I hear that 'burp'. We also give our bitches a Degas tablet prior to feeding.
2. No exercise immediately before or after feeding. Allow at least 3-4 hours rest before
doing any hard exercise with your dog.
3. Limit water intake immediately prior to and after feeding. Once your dog has
settled down after a meal, allow access to water as normal.
4. We don't usually use alot of dry food in our dogs' diet, preferring to
use either canned and fresh food with added vegetables, however when
we do use dry food, it is always pre-soaked and only a very small
amount is added to our dogs' meals.
5. Avoid any rapid changes to the dog's diet. If changing their diet, do so gradually
in order to avoid any stomach upsets.
6. Avoid excessively salty foods, usually 2% in the diet is a maximum.
Corned beef and food preserved in brine should not be fed.
Ham and ham bones in particular should not be fed.
1. Do not allow the dog to exercise heavily before or after meals and
limit water intake immediately before & after feeding.
2. Always feed your Weimaraner twice daily and leave limited amounts of water
– with due regards to hot weather.
** PLEASE NOTE: THE ABOVE OBSERVATIONS ARE FROM OUR OWN PERSONAL
EXPERIENCE WITH BLOAT. IMMEDIATE VETERINARY TREATMENT SHOULD
ALWAYS BE SOUGHT IF YOU SUSPECT YOUR DOG IS BLOATING **
IMMUNODEFICIENCY IN WEIMARANERS