Bloat is a life-threatening emergency in Great Danes and other breeds with large chests.
As a Great Dane owner, it is your responsibility to know the signs and to educate pet sitters, dog walkers and family on what to look for should a bloat event happen to your dog.
WHAT IS BLOAT?
Bloat is a painful, distressing condition where the stomach fills up with gas, food, fluid and/or air.
Left untreated, the stomach can ‘flip’ (also known as ‘torsion’). Stomach flipping is especially dangerous.
Treatment for bloat may involve pressure relief (medications, tubes, incisions and/or needles into the stomach) or surgery, depending on the severity.
Bloat can quickly kill a healthy Great Dane that was previously running around playing as normal. It is extremely important to know the signs.
All Great Danes are at risk. The treatment for bloat can start at $2K and may cost thousands more.
WHAT CAUSES BLOAT?
As of this writing, the mechanism behind bloat is still not well understood. All Great Danes are at risk, regardless of their individual risk factor (see more below).
It’s important to understand that certain dogs are at a much higher risk of experiencing bloat than others. These are the three main risk factors associated with bloat:
-Genetic markers (most often found in dogs with a parent, sibling or other close relative that has experienced bloat)
-Poor gut health (chronic gas, loose stools and digestive issues)
-Poor temperament (fear, anxiety, aggression, timid personality)
This speaks, once again to the necessity of ethical breeding in Great Danes. Bloat risk can be greatly reduced by breeders who diligently build their pedigrees to focus on health, temperament and robust and proven lineage.
SIGNS OF BLOAT
These are the signs of bloat. If you see any one of these, get to the veterinarian immediately. Bloat can progress quickly and the longer you wait, the more serious the prognosis is.
- Swollen, painful or distended abdomen/stomach.
- Acting distressed
- Pacing and restlessness
- Drooling and/or panting
- Looking at the stomach
- Pale gums
- Vomiting or retching without anything actually coming up
- Whining, crying and stiffness, unable to move
- Collapse, unable to get up
Stomach tacking, also known as ‘Gastropexy’ is a surgical procedure where a veterinarian permanently tacks the stomach to the abdominal wall.
This procedure may buy time by helping to keep the stomach from flipping, however it does NOT prevent bloat itself.
Gastropexy is an abdominal surgery, and all surgery involves risk. Risks of stomach tacking may include complications related to blood clotting, infection, rejection and anesthesia. Rarely, during a bloat event the stomach can flip anyways, and the stitched area may open and cause internal bleeding.
If you choose to do this surgery, please work with a highly qualified veterinarian who has a LOT of experience with the procedure, in particular the laparoscopic gastropexy which is much less invasive.
CAN BLOAT BE PREVENTED?
There is no actual sure-fire way to prevent bloat. All dogs are at risk, but especially Great Danes and other breeds with large chests. As above, Danes with genetic links/markers, poor gut health and unstable temperaments are at an even greater risk!
Here are some common things people believe will ‘prevent bloat’:
Raised Bowls – while raised bowls may be easier on your dogs neck, there is no legitimate data on its effect on minimizing or preventing bloat. As a matter of fact, some studies indicate that bloat incidence is 110% higher among dogs that regularly eat out of raised bowls.
Resting Before/After Meals – the idea behind this one is to prevent the dog from sloshing a full tummy of food around while running, playing and being excited. There may be some merit to this, however it is NOT likely a notable preventative and studies have shown no correlation at all.
Many cases of bloat happen in the middle of the night when a dog is resting on an empty stomach, or hours after eating (even if a dog had been rested first!).
Some owners are so committed to this that they only allow their dogs to eat on a strict schedule, which may actually increase bloat risk if the dog hoards, gulps and scarfs down large meals at once. Find a healthy balance here if you choose to rest your dog for several hours each day.
Puzzle Feeders – We do believe there is some merit to making sure a dog eats slowly and works for their food. Puzzle feeders can be especially helpful for dogs that tend to gulp down meals without chewing.
Gas-X – Gas – X (Simethicone) or Bloat Buster is extremely important to have on hand. It may buy you time if you notice your dog start to burp, heave or act uncomfortable. Some owners dose it with every meal, we aren’t convinced that over-medicating is the answer but we DO recommend having Simethicone in. your cabinet, just in case.
Burping – Many Dane owners swear by ‘burping’ their Great Dane like a baby! You can stand behind or next to your Dane and gently whap their side until they burp. Some dogs enjoy this, others don’t. If your dog doesn’t like this, don’t do it! Stress and anxiety contribute to bloat, so you may be making things worse.
Rescue dogs with poor temperaments, poor socialization and unstable past history may have more risk. It is NOT uncommon for Danes to bloat during their first week with a rescue or foster!
Not only that, but the problem is made worse for dogs from anxious, poorly tempered parents and bad breeding situations (dirty, stressful, limited pediatric/early weeks socialization, leaving the early litter, etc.). As above, choosing an ethical breeder really matters here.
Backyard breeders are routinely creating Danes with unstable temperaments (anxious, fearful, timid, aggressive) and contributing to the rescue problem too. Look to them when assessing bloat risk, temperament, anxiety and aggression; they are largely to blame!
Avoid training methods that cause or worsen anxiety (‘alpha’ training, harsh punishment), stressful situations with children or adults (chasing, pinching, laying on or yelling at Danes). Socialize and train your Danes well from a young age using positive reinforcement.
Choose breeders that only breed healthy, well-tempered dogs. If you have a rescue Dane or purchased Dane that suffers from anxiety, fear or aggression, work with a trainer to lower stress levels. Some common forms of anxiety include fear during thunderstorms, separation anxiety and timid/fearful or aggressive behaviors towards house guests, children or strangers.
There is some data out there suggesting that overall gut health can be a contributing factor. In studies done on bloat victims, many had IBS and other problems with their gut.
There are many aspects to gut health; allergies, dry skin, gas, loose stools and lack of energy are all signs that there is a problem, however some dogs may present healthy and have underlying conditions.
We believe all Great Danes should receive a probiotic supplement, and this is one of the main reasons why. We recommend Nature’s Farmacy Probiotic Max.
Excess gas and constant loose stools are NOT normal. Your Dane should not ‘clear a room’ on a regular basis! If you are struggling to find a food that your Dane does well on, consider working with a Giant-breed experienced Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist for help.
The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. We do our best to present the most up-to-date research, however it is up to the reader to make decisions regarding the health and well-being of their dog. We make no claims here to prevent or treat bloat or any other condition related to Great Danes. Find a veterinarian with GIANT breed experience, and chat with them.
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