Bloat is sneaky and it’s fast. Bloat doesn’t allow time for you to think it over or make a plan. Bloat will strike a Gordon Setter like a snake hidden in the grass with no warning. It takes a dog down so fast that if we aren’t with them when it strikes we may miss the small window of opportunity available to save them. Bloat won’t wait for us to be there, it attacks our dogs at all hours of the day or night, whether we’re home or gone to the store, sleeping, out mowing the lawn, doing housework, changing the oil or folding clothes in the laundry room. We simply can’t be with our dogs every minute of every day, but we do need to understand that for our dogs to have any chance of surviving bloat, every passing minute counts like an hour. To save your dog’s life you must know how to recognize bloat, have an emergency plan in place and enact that plan without delay at the first warning sign. Always error on the side of caution.
For a Gordon Setter to survive bloat it takes quick recognition of the condition and immediate veterinary treatment. That means we can’t hesitate, can’t wait to see, can’t delay for any reason. We need to get veterinary help as fast as possible.
If you own a Gordon Setter and are not sure how to recognize bloat this article is especially for you. Bloat refers to gastric dilatation – volvulus (GDV), stomach torsion or twisted stomach – an extremely serious condition and life threatening emergency.
Gordon Setters, according to a study by the University of Perdue, ranked as the 5th highest breed most susceptible to bloat. The 2004 GSCA Health Survey lists cancer, hip dysplasia and bloat as the top three health concerns expressed by Gordon Setter owners and breeders. According to Dr. Jean Dodds “The mortality rate for gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) approaches 50 percent.”
Recognizing the signs of bloat
- Restlessness or pacing – unable to find a comfortable position to lay down
- In the early stages the dog may not show a distended belly though it may feel tight
- May be lethargic, obviously uncomfortable, walking stiff-legged and hanging head
- Salivation – drooling – these can be signs of severe pain or distress
- Retching – vomiting – or gagging
- Frequent attempts to vomit
- Enlarging abdomen – the belly feels full, swollen, rounded, may look and feel like a balloon
- Thumping the abdomen produces a hollow sound, like a kettle drum
- The dog may groan when you press on the belly
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- The dog may go into shock – gums become pale, weak pulse, rapid heart beat, possible collapse
If even a slight suspicion of bloat exists, immediately take the dog to a veterinary hospital. Emergency veterinary treatment is necessary for your dog to survive and every minute makes a difference. Do not delay.
Which dogs are most susceptible
- Gordon Setters are at risk.
- There appears to be a genetic link. Dogs who have parents or siblings who are affected may be more prone to bloat. Learn more about the research at The Genetics of Bloat – Tufts Now
- Dogs over 7 years old are more than twice as likely to develop bloat as those 2-4 years old.
- Male dogs are twice as likely to develop bloat as females. Neutering does not appear to have an effect on the risk.
- Dogs fed once a day are twice as likely to bloat as those fed twice a day.
- It appears that dogs who eat rapidly or exercise soon after a meal may also be at increased risk.
- Dogs that tend to be more nervous, anxious, or fearful appear to be at an increased risk.
A few things that may help to prevent bloat:
- Feed your Gordon Setter two or three smaller meals each day.
- Make water available all day so your dog doesn’t want to gulp large quantities at one time, limit the amount of water your dog drinks immediately before and after eating.
- Avoid vigorous exercise, excitement, and stress on a full stomach.
- Diet changes should always be made gradually over a period of three to five days.
- Feed dogs individually and in a quiet area.
- Do not use a raised food bowl.
- Dogs who survive bloat are much more at risk for future episodes, preventative surgery should be considered.
- There are there are those who also advise to avoid dog foods that contain high fat (fat listed as one of the first 4 ingredients) and foods that contain citric acid. At this time, no cause-and-result relationships between these and bloat have been verified, though certainly there is no harm in avoiding them should you wish to do so.
More detailed information including treatment options and reference material for this article will be found on the sites listed below:
Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus) in Dogs – Doctors Foster and Smith
Dr. Jean Dodds’ Pet Health Resource Blog | Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat) in Dogs.
Gastric Volvulus (Bloat) in Dogs: A Life Threatening Emergency – Web MD Pets
The Genetics of Bloat – Tufts Now
GSCA Health Survey 2004 Results
The Genetics of Bloat on Gordon Setter Expert
Sally Gift, Mesa AZ