Bloat is one of the most terrifying and uncertain things we can face as Great Dane owners. It is painful, distressing, and can happen quickly to dogs that otherwise seem healthy.
Bloat is where the stomach fills up with gas, air, food or fluid. It is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention, especially if the stomach flips (‘torsion’).
GUT HEALTH AND GREAT DANE BLOAT
While the exact cause of bloat in Great Danes has not been proven, a lot of research indicates that bloat has strong ties to genetics, anxiety and gut health.
Ethical breeders will utilize advances in modern genetics testing to verify if their breeding dogs have markers for bloat or not, and will not breed dogs where a history of bloat is in the direct lineage.
Emerging research also indicates that poor gut health may be a contributing factor to bloat, or at the very least does very little to help prevent it. Basically, poor genetics + poor gut health create a perfect storm.
Great Danes that are otherwise low-risk for Bloat can still experience a bloat event, and it’s important to note that Gastropexy doesn’t prevent it. Gastropexy/tacking can, however help keep the stomach from flipping (torsion) if a bloat event occurs.
Gut health can be affected by genetics, diet, medications, vaccines, vitamins and environment.
Many Great Danes struggle with diet and food changes. Soft stools, excess gas, diarrhea, regular puking, tummy upset and allergies (itching, swelling, redness, yeast, buildup/gunk in ears) are all signs that gut health and diet need to be addressed.
Studies indicate a strong correlation between stomach bacteria, inflammatory bowel disease and bloat, and that a variety of similar risk factors (including genetics) contribute to this.
Addressing these factors is especially important if you are aware of a genetic link with bloat in the lineage of your dog (please hold breeders accountable! There are now genetic tests available for this and breeders should NOT be breeding or producing dogs that carry markers for bloat).
Here are our tips for addressing gut health in Great Danes.
PROBIOTICS FOR GREAT DANES
Add a probiotic supplement. Even if the food you feed contains ‘added probiotics’, a quality supplement is more likely to contain healthy, live, beneficial bacteria.
We recommend the following brands on Amazon (links to product):
Add these to their meals. Most dogs eat them right up, especially the powders sprinkled on top of a raw egg or scoop of fresh food. As always chat with your vet before starting any new supplement!
GREAT DANE FOOD
Choosing the right kibble is exceptionally important for Great Danes. Check your labels.
We do not recommend:
1. Food with fat in the first 4 ingredients, which was shown in studies to correlate with an increase in bloat risk (common in VICTOR foods)
2. Kibbles that are grain free, which can increase the risk of heart problems in Great Danes
3. Kibbles that require the dog to eat a lot to obtain enough calories. For a 125lb dog, we like to see feeding ratios of 4-5 cups/day.
We do recommend:
1. Foods with meat and/or meat meal in the first 4 ingredients
2. Fresh food toppers such as balanced raw, raw eggs, water-packed sardines, goat milk (in moderation) and fresh fruits or vegetables.
3. Probiotics and fish oil
If your Great Dane is struggling with gas, burping, puking, allergies and/or soft stools and diarrhea, you need to look at parasites, medical reasons, and the food.
We do not recommend low quality kibbles. Choose a professionally formulated raw diet or a kibble that was formulated by a board certified veterinary nutritionist.
There is some interesting data regarding a notable increase of bloat events in places where kibble diets are more common, which could indicate an additional link between kibble and bloat. More studies are needed.
Encourage slow, stress-free eating.
We can never really prevent bloat, but we can take steps to try and minimize the chance that a bloat event may occur. We owe it to our Great Danes to keep them healthy and address their gut health!
NOTES: There is no known way to prevent bloat, and the causes are not truly understood. 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. Find a veterinarian with GIANT breed experience, and chat with them.
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