Date: Wed, 5 Feb 1997 17:18:16 +0000
Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs Discussion List
From: Sharyl Mayhew <>
Subject: Re: Bloat Symptoms/theories/diet

Nancy apparently not having enough to read lately:) asked:

I have
>read literature on it, and I feel pretty confident about knowing the dos and
>don'ts; but still, I believe that if a dog is predisposed to it, it will
>happen sooner or later.

First: All large dogs and several smaller but deep-chested breeds are capable of bloating, it is generally a disease of old age and inactivity (Dr. Glickman and Purdue Bloat study). In other words when a dog is young, healthy, active and in good physical shape the muscles and tendons and ligaments everywhere are in good shape, but as the animal ages or softens
due to lack of activity or obesity then the ligaments and muscles are weaker and the chances are higher.

Second: Food and feeding and exercise is not as important as previously thought, It seems most dogs bloat at 2-6 AM at least 7-10 hours AFTER eating, not immediately after eating or drinking and not after exercising as previously suspected. They are almost always empty when they bloat, not full and the contents of the stomach are almost always ROOM AIR -- Not fermented gas that would have come from any food items. (the soy=gas theory is unfounded - although I wouldn't feed soy for other reasons, bloat is not one of them)

>But I am seeking the stories of those who witnessed their dog
>torsing/bloating. What behaviors did you notice? Pacing? Panting? But what
>else? I suppose different dogs in different circumstances may exhibit
>different symptoms.

I was told long ago that when a dog bloats you won't be questioning or mistake it. I found that to be true. Eating too much, drinking too much, a belly ache and or nausea may make your dog act weird and uncomfortable and if you suspect bloat it is better safe than sorry, take him to the vet or with your vet's recommendation try some GasX or Digel first, BUT when they are truly bloating (gastric dilatation and volvulus) they are OBVIOUSLY bloating. They are hunched over, they are frothing or drooling, they may or may not be trying to vomit, they are very definitely fading fast and they look like they are dying (because they are and they are usually going into shock).

The swelling of the abdomen is unbelievable it sounds like there is a base drum in there, I have seen dogs that torse their spleens look like they are bloating but without the swelling, we have also seen dogs that torse quickly and have very little air in the stomach so they don't swell dramatically either. So don't count on a huge belly to tell you, it is more the
hunched-over, roached-back of a dog in extreme pain that will tell you for sure. Call your vet and tell them you are on the way so they will be ready, in fact call your vet today and ask them what they do in the case of bloat... you would be surprised to hear many of the horror stories of vets not being willing or ready to act immediately. I know of at least two
Swissies literally dying in the waiting room of emergency vets while the owners were compliantly filling out forms and the receptionists didn't have the vets out there immediately.

What do you believe brought these symptoms on, and what
>did you do for the dog before rushing off to the vet?

[Please] read the Bloat Book, a pamphlet that the Great Dane people shared with our club, it can show you how to tube a dog if you need too. If I were out in the woods or at a show or far from a vet, I would at least try to tube a dog to buy some time. When your dog is bloating/dying you can do lots of things that you thought you could never do, trust me.
Read through that info and talk to your vet about tubing and trocharization.

Ask them to order you the supplies and show you how.

Even the experts don't really truly know the cause of bloat, there are many many theories. The most prevalent one at this time is that since 1963 or so the dog foods have been "extruded" (pressed into kibble form at high heats) instead of baked and since that time we have seen the emergence of bloat, bloat is also not a big killer in non western countries or in places where the dogs do not eat extruded kibble. Hence the latest information is to
feed your dogs a good quality kibble and add natural foods to it, especially fruit, veggies, grains and some meat - or to feed a completely homemade diet (which is very difficult for most people) The dog food manufacturers would like us to believe that the dog needs to eat only one brand at every meal for life, good marketing ploy I'd say.

Since attending the Bloat seminar with Dr. Glickman last fall, we have been adding quite a bit of veggies and fruits and other things to our dog's diets (about 25-40% of their total intake) and I have seen no vomiting, no diarrhea, no extra gaseous emmissions:) and we have changed foods at shows once or twice and changed brands when needed and have had nobody react badly to this loose regimen.

Thirdly, Dr. Glickman mentioned their latest findings pursuant to the latest results in his study that dogs that are under stress (pregnant, post whelp, post surgery, post anesthesia, post accident, post breeding, etc.) or that are predisposed to stress over nothing (aggressive dogs, nervous dogs, shy or timid dogs, noise phobic dogs, dogs that stress in crowds or at shows) are three times as likely to bloat as calm, socialized, gentle, non-aggressive, non-spooky dogs.

And lastly and the most controversial, Dr. Glickman also suggested that dogs with many family members (siblings, parents, half-siblings, aunts, uncles) that bloated and died young or bloated and survived at young ages are more likely to bloat than dogs with few relatives having bloated at young ages. We will all find dogs in our pedigrees that have bloated (either that died or survived) but what we need to look at is at what ages. A dog like Eika (who is in many of our pedigrees) who bloated at 11-12 years old is not as scary a relative as a couple litters I can think of that have more than 50% bloated before the age of 3. It could be the build of the dog, the temperament of the dog or combinations of those hereditary factors and possibly partly due to management practices in certain environments.

We are not going to completely eliminate bloat from our list of worries but we can be open and honest about dogs that do bloat or have bloated and watch our pedigrees so that we don't accidently breed dogs together that both come from families where youthful bloat has occurred more than occassionally.  This is also my reasoning for being against preventive gastropexies (stomach tacking surgery) unless the dog has actually bloated or shows signs of being likely to bloat. Because if I tack every dog's stomach down I will have no idea who would have bloated in a given pedigree. Dr. Glickman discussed this option and the ethical rammifications of breeders surgically tacking prophylactically.

The best thing we can do is to support the Bloat studies, urge your representatives in the GSMDCA to rethink their positions as far as our participation is concerned. The Purdue study folks will come out to Specialties all over the country and measure and take statistical  data about our individual dogs and help us track the incidence in our breed. I watched as dozens of St. Bernards stood in line at their National Specialty for a chance to participate, why can't our breed on the National level be proactive and interested in these types of studies too?

"I'd rather uproot a bush than beat around it" - me
Sharyl Mayhew - Precious Dog Training
Precious Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs -- Haymarket, VA