LAST UPDATE: 10/16/2004
If you've visited my other bloat webpages, then you know that bloat can be the most horrendous medical emergency that you and your dog may ever face. What follows are excerpts from an article in the October 2004 edition of the AKC's Gazette magazine discussing not-yet-published information from Purdue University's ongoing study of GDV. Even in you're familiar with bloat and with the conventional wisdom regarding bloat prevention, please read on. Purdue University's most recent research flies in the face of some of the more commonly accepted things to do to prevent bloat. (I've italicized that information to emphasize it.)
GDV is the second leading cause of death in large breed (50 to 90 pounds) and giant breed (100 pounds and over) dogs. Approximately one in four large breed dogs and one in five giant breed dogs may develop GDV during their linfetime, with some breeds at even higher lifetime risk. GDV strikes suddenly and has a mortality rate as high as 30 percent.
IN GDV there is a rapid accumulation of air in the stomach, causing distention and often rotation of the stomach, cutting off blood supply at both ends and causing the dog to into shock. GDV is an acute emergency and rushing the dog to immediate veterinay care is essential. The risk of a dog developing GDV increases with age. Other factors that increase a dog's risk are having a first-generation relative with a history of GDV, having a deep and narrow chest or abdomen, being thin, experiencing a major health problem before age 1, and having a fearful or nervous temperament.
Research primarily at Purdue University has identified a number of feeding management and dietary factors that increase the risk of GDV. These include eating only one meal a day, feeding only dry dog food, feeding food with only small particles , and feeding a large volume of food per meal. Other feeding factors found to INCREASE the risk of GDV were eating rapidly, increased physical activity before and after eating, restricting water intake before and after eating, moistening dry food before feeding and eating from a raised feeding bowl. Thus, some of the recommendations commonly made to prevent GDV were shown by research to actually increase the risk of GDV.
THE LATEST RESEARCH
Recent research not yet published has shown an increased risk of GDV in dogs who consumed dry foods containing fat among the first four ingredients, and an increased risk in dogs who consumed dry foods listing citric acid as a preservative -- with this risk rising when foods with citric acid were moistened. Although not statistically significant, researchers found that a modest increase in risk of GDV was seen with the consumption of dry foods that listed more than one corn ingredient among the first four label ingredients, while in contrast, a pattern was observed of decreased GDV risk with an increasing number of protein ingredients of animal origin, including beef, poultry, lamb and fish among the first four ingredients.
Based on all of the GDV research to date, recommendations for owners of large and giant-breed dogs include:
- Feed two or more meals a day.
- Feed no more than one cup per 33 pounds of body weight per meal when feeding two meals a day.
- Feed an energy-dense diet to reduce volume, but avoid a diet where a high amount of calories are from fats.
- Feed a variety of different food types regularly. The inclusion of human foods in a primarily dry dog food diet was associated with a 59 percent decreased risk of GDV, while inclusion of canned pet food was associated with a 28 percent decreased risk.
- When feeding dry food, also include foods with sufficient amounts of meats and meat meals, for example: beef, lamb, poultry and fish.
- Feed a food with larger particles, and include larger pieces of meats in the diet.
- Avoid moistening dry foods.
- If your dog eats rapidly, find ways to try to reduce his speed of eating.
- Avoid raising the food bowl -- place it at ground level.
- Try to minimize stress for your dog. Stressful events have been reported to be precipitating factors in GDV occurrence.
- Restrict vigorous exercise one hour before and two hours after meals.
- When you are not in close proximity to your dogs, use a baby monitor to alert you if your dog is in distress.
- Learn to recognize signs of GDV, which include pacing and restlessness, head turning to look at the abdomen, distention of the abdomen, rapid shallow breathing, nonproductive attempts at vomiting, and salivation. These symptoms can progress rapidly to shock and death. Get to your veterinarian or emergency hospital the moment you suspect GDV.
- Gastropexy (surgery to prevent future torsion of the stomach) at the time of surgical correction of GDV is recommended to prevent or minimize GDV reoccurrence.
- Discuss with your veterinarian the benefits and costs involved with prophylactic gastropexy before your dog ever experiences GDV.
- If you live far from veterinary care, have your veterinarian instruct you in first-aid measures to help your distressed dog while en route to the veterinary hospital.
- Avoid breeding dogs who have had GDV and notify owners of first-degree relatives of dogs who have had GDV to be especially alert.
Random thoughts that came to my mind after reading this new information:
- Based on my experiences with Lucy and Gracie, I've been convinced for a long time that stress is a big factor in bringing about a bloat episode. Nice to see confirmation of this. (I think heat can also contribute.)
- My Gracie always ate like her hair was on fire and so does her niece Fancy. While I've always suspected that fast eating increased the risk of GDV, I thought a smaller kibble would be better for fast eaters. I need to change my brand of kibble immediately!
- My Gracie had BIG issues with corn in her diet so I started buying my dog food from pet stores since most kibble found in grocery stores invariably lists two types of corn (e.g., corn meal, corn gluten) in the first four ingredients. (Purina O.N.E. comes to mind.) Since I'm also a big believer in varying my dogs' diets (nice to have that idea confirmed too), I just recently switched all of my guys from Natural Balance Duck and Potato (Fancy has a lot of food issues) to Nature's Variety Prairie Beef & Barley kibble. Although all 3 of my guys seem to be doing very well on it, the kibble size is very small. I'll be switching them to Sold Gold's MMillennia Beef and Barley formula immediately!
- Aren't I lucky to have a store only 3 miles away (in Northfield Center, Ohio) that specializes in healthy dog (and cat) foods almost all of which have "protein ingredients of animal origin" as their primary ingredients ... it's called "In Good Health" and the variety of brands of healthy dog food that they carry is pretty staggering. Varying the type of dog food that I feed my red fools will never be a problem as long as they're in business!! :-) (If you're not that lucky, I can personally recommend Solid Gold and Canidae brands of kibble, both of which may be easier for you to find than some of the other brands that I have the luxury of choosing from.)
- Adding human foods to my dogs' diet is going to make it a little more difficult to to keep them at a good weight! And, of course, it doesn't help that this new research indicates that a thin dog is at a higher risk for bloat ... what about all the health problems that may be in store for an overweight dog??! It seems to me there's a pretty thin line between a thin dog, a dog at the "perfect weight" and an overweight dog. My Fancy's ideal weight seems to be about 54 pounds - thanks to all the running around she's been doing (the weather here has been great for months) she's down to about 50 pounds and she looks downright skinny. (That's part of the reason why I thought it was time to switch everybody to a different brand of dog food.)
- Moistening kibble has always struck me as a bad idea but I know that a lot of people do just that. My theory was that moistening the kibble would just add to its weight and since a dog's stomach swings around in there just like it was on a pendulum, I thought the added weight of moistened kibble might increase the risk of stomach rotation. The new research indicates that moistening kibble does increase the risk for GDV but they're also saying that restricting water intake before and after meals ALSO increases the risk of GDV. I guess I have to assume that what they're saying is that a dog drinking water after eating moistened kibble is bad but drinking water after eating dry kibble is okay.
- Having dogs that are at risk for bloat ain't easy but I wouldn't trade my Irish for any other breed under the sun :-)
Gaye Cocoman (firstname.lastname@example.org)