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Dogs

Bloat

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Bloat, also known as torsion, gastric torsion, and gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is a medical condition in which the stomach becomes overstretched by excessive gas content. The distortion of the stomach constricts the oesophagus, preventing the gas from escaping. The condition occurs most commonly in domesticated animals, especially dogs and cattle. In dogs, it occurs most commonly in large-chested breeds, such as Great Danes, Airedales, and boxers.

The condition exists in two varieties, depending on the direction of movement of the stomach. If the stomach twists around the axis of the digestive tract, the condition is known as torsion, and if the axis of movement is perpedicular to the digestive tract, the condition is known as volvulus. In either case, the oesophagus is closed off, thereby preventing the animal from relieving the condition by belching or vomiting. At the other end of the stomach, the spleen may be damaged if the twisting interrupts its blood supply. If not quickly treated, the condition can lead to blood poisoning, peritonitis and death by toxic shock.

In dogs, the causes of bloat are unclear, and currently there is little agreement on the factors that may contribute. Some of the more widely acknowledged factors are stress, eating foods such as kibble that expand in the stomach, swallowing too much air while eating, overfeeding, and other gastrointestinal distress. There is also no consensus on ways in which to prevent bloat from happening, and suggestions are sometimes contradictory, for example, "Raise your dog's feeding dish - he will not swallow as much air while eating" as opposed to "Lower your dog's feeding dish so that he eats slower, and thus swallows less air."

In cattle, bloating is most often caused by the animal eating damp, green alfalfa. New (green) alfalfa hay, especially that made from the first cutting of the year, must be kept from cattle until it has aged for several weeks. When a calf has become bloated, often a section of hose is inserted down the throat and into the stomach to relieve the gas pressure that builds up. A veterinarian should be called for treatment. Death of the animal often results if bloat is not quickly treated.

Symptoms are not necessarily distinguishable from other kinds of distress. A dog might stand uncomfortably and seem to be in extreme discomfort for no apparent reason.

Bloat is an emergency medical condition: having the animal examined by a veterinarian is imperative. Bloat can become fatal within a matter of minutes. Treatment usually involves emergency surgery.


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