Bloat is the second most common
killer of dogs after cancer & it's more prevalent in big dogs, including
Airedales. Bloat is huge amounts of gas in the stomach which can make the
stomach swell, then twist (torsion) partly or a full 360o. If it reaches this
stage, your dog's in big trouble as this cuts off the blood supply to the
heart & spleen & the stomach lining starts to break down because food can't
pass into the intestines. The list of 'textbook' symptoms of bloat usually
highlights dry retching, whining or howling, drooling, drinking lots of water
& trying to burp or defecate with no result. Fred didn't do any of these
He had his dinner last night &
went for his normal walk this morning. Then at 8.30am he started to act
strangely. He wouldn't sit or lie down, just stood or walked about with a
stiff-legged gait, often choosing to stand with his head in a corner. His tail
& ears were down, he kept licking & yawning like he had a bad taste in his
mouth, then he'd follow me about & lean on me. It was obvious things were not
He kept looking at me
beseechingly, as if pleading with me to "do something". He didn't want pats
or cuddles, just rubs on his rump. When his Dad came home for a few minutes
Fred seemed happy enough but quiet, then reverted to his strange stance &
silence after his Dad left. Remember how stoic Airedales are, they don't
I thought that, whatever Fred's
problem was, it seemed to be in his tummy so I felt round his sides. I'd
heard of bloat, but there was no swelling evident at all. So I checked for
info on the internet (there's plenty!) then felt Fred's sides more carefully.
His tummy was taut like a drum all around and he grunted (in pain?) when I
gently pressed particular areas. Other warning signs of bloat that Fred
had were rapid shallow breathing & rapid heart rate, yet his nose was cold &
wet the whole time, so maybe that's not a good indicator of health after all.
Regarding the tummy gurgles, that's another signal... they won't be present!
Because nothing can escape from either end of the stomach, the usual plops and
gurgles cannot be heard. If you put your ear against the dog's side you'll
hear nothing. Actually, this is an excellent test to try if your suspect bloat
coz digestion noises are usually there all the time, even during sleep.
I rang the vet & took Fred in
straight away. They gave him a sedative injection & locked him in an
observation unit. I was told to ring in two hours, during which time I looked
up more websites dealing with bloat.
At 2pm I phoned the vet who said
Fred had produced heaps of gas & lots of runny foul-smelling diarrhoea.
(sorry!!) The sedative had enabled his internal organs to relax. So it was
bloat! The vet didn't mention torsion (twisting of the stomach) but Fred had
to stay overnight in case there were any more developments. Fingers, toes,
legs & eyes were crossed but he was OK in the morning and come home.
So why do dogs get bloat? Lots
of opinion links it to diet, exercise too soon after meals, gulping down food
& foods like soy that produce a lot of gas. You can read all about it on
dozens of websites. However, the latest studies have revealed that all the
gas trapped in the stomach is atmospheric air that's been swallowed. So it
seems that gulping food, an excitable temperament or stressful situations
are more likely to cause bloat.
In Fred's case, he went to the
grooming salon the day before. He loves it but gets very worked up & has
had an upset tummy straight afterwards a couple of times. I'd say this was
the cause, even tho' it was almost 24 hours before he showed any distress.
Stories on the web tell of dogs developing bloat a few hours or the day after
dog shows, being put to stud, whelping or sustaining injuries. The vet said
Fred should have a sedative pill before going to the groomers in future.
Watch your dog carefully for 24-48 hours after any stressful events,
especially if s/he has a nervous or excitable temperament.
Early recognition by the owner &
prompt treatment prior to actual bloating is vital. Once the dog's stomach
starts to swell, which it can do in minutes before your eyes, time is of
the essence as death is close. Many dogs die on the way to the vets. Of
those who have surgery, nearly 30% won't recover or will die later from
complications. The worst of these is YUK! parts of the stomach lining die as
the blood supply has been cut off. Failure to remove all the dead tissue
kills the dog later.
Some of the methods of treatment
vets use include: a tube down the throat to expel gas or, if entry to the
stomach is blocked by torsion, a hollow needle inserted into the dog's side or
surgery to open the stomach. There are kits available to use the tube
method at home but they really need an expert operator & are only for
emergency, say where the vet is hours away.
An operation which fastens the
stomach to the side of the chest wall is sometimes carried out. It doesn't
prevent future episodes of bloat but it will prevent torsion. Dog's stomachs,
unlike ours, are only attached top & bottom to other organs, that's how they
can twist out of position. It's more likely in deep chested dogs like
Airedales, presumably coz there's more room for the stomach to move. Even
miniature poodles can get bloat. On the bizarre side, there's a new
procedure where a plastic valve directly into the stomach is sutured into the
dog's skin so the owner can open the plug & manually release gas if needed. A
very expensive & complicated operation. Obviously one for the wealthy owner
whose dog has had repeat episodes.
Prevention measures include: no
exercise one hour before or after meals, feed multiple dogs separately in a
quiet place to avoid competition over food, elevate food & water bowls to
dog's chin level to lessen gulping of air. It is better to feed twice a day
instead of one big meal.
When Fred came home, he was
still pharting & boy, it would clear an auditorium! The vet gave me some pink
chalky medicine for Fred to take. He hated it but it stopped the gas attacks,
It goes to show, if your
Airedale is not 'acting right' you know something's up & it's better to check
with the vet than just wait & hope (as I was tempted to do coz I had a lot on
that day). We're also lucky to have a good vet not far away.