Health: Bloat

By Jennifer Stoeckl, MAT - Dire Wolf Project CEO, May 18, 2020
Bazooka (Al/Q'Leanna)

About a week ago, (just before the Puppy Express began) Zukes (aka: Bazooka; Al/Q'Leanna) ate way too much dinner causing excessive gas build up in his system that unnaturally expanded his stomach producing symptoms of bloat. He was extremely uncomfortable whimpering in pain and we knew that this life-threatening condition needed our immediate response. We frantically called the emergency vet and then raced down to the big city of Spokane as quickly as we could to receive the medical help he needed before it was too late and the expansion cut off the blood supply to his limbs.

The emergency vet determined that his stomach had not twisted and so the vet was able to give him pain meds and then pump out the contents of his enlarged abdomen relieving the pressure. The vet pumped out copious amounts of food and gas, exclaiming that its had been a while since he'd seen so much food come out of a dog all at once. This sweet boy literally ate until bursting and very nearly ate himself to death.

According to many vets, bloat can be seen to manifest in one of two types; either the dog simply shows excessive gas build up or the gas build up is coupled with the more dire situation of a stomach twist that literally cuts off blood supply to the stomach causing the tissue surrounding the stomach to die. Both types are life-threatening and need immediate medical attention. It has been shown to be more prominent in males of extra large breeds in which the chest is dropped down past the dog's elbows... so a very long chested dog. Normally, it is seen in more prominence in Great Danes, St. Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters, etc.

AKC considers bloat to be a genetic condition, however, no one has been able to determine the exact cause of this phenomenon and many veterinarians and researchers note that bloat can occur in any dog breed, regardless of chest capacity.

(Raised bowls have not been found to prevent bloat, as once suggested. Researchers do not see a significantly lower prominence of bloat when the bowl is raised off the ground.)

Others believe that bloat is a natural condition that can and does affect all dogs and dog breeds and that its appearance comes from a manifestation of another related cause - namely a relationship with food. In Zukes's case, his bloat symptoms were the direct result of a compulsive overeating episode. He consumed so much food beyond capacity that his body responded with too much gas build-up. This combination was almost lethal for him and we now know that he will need to have a specific ration and be monitored more closely after eating to make sure that his body does not ever react in this way again.

That being said, Lois has noted the the English Mastiff breed, in general, has a tendency to have an unhealthy affinity towards food. Her first generation male, Quentin, showed an overly fond relationship with his food during mealtimes. He would almost relish this time during the day. Zukes's emotions, too, have a tendency to become over-stimulated during this time of the day. He also has a tendency to become anxious about his food when another dog is near. He will look at the other dog nearby, back at his food, and then return a glance toward the other dog before beginning to eat. I believe he is making sure that the other dog is not going to come over and steal his food or bother him during mealtime.

In my opinion, the heightened level of anxiety when eating near another dog coupled with the tendency to overeat if given a chance is exactly what caused the stomach acid and gas build up when Zukes over-indulged in a binge of uncontrolled, frenzied eating. Bloat was likely a symptom brought on by Zukes's tendency to quickly and frantically overeat when given the chance.

Zukes is a second generation from the English Mastiff and so we will note any puppies coming from the English Mastiff lines that may have a tendency toward overeating/compulsive eating/food hording. Every time we bring in a crossbreed into the lines, there is something that causes outbreeding depression in which we must contend. This is one of those things. We share it here with you because we want to know from any of the owners of puppies from this new crossbred line if any of these symptoms have been shown. Furthermore, we want to share our experience with you so that you can prevent it from occurring. Lastly, we want to make sure that everyone is aware that we have seen this in this line and we will be actively working to breed this out going forward.

In the comments, I will post about how to prevent bloat from occurring in a susceptible dog breed, as well as share our thoughts on what we will look for in the puppies in order to determine which ones have more of a tendency toward this condition.

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10 Ways to Alter Your Dog's Diet for Immediate Health Results

Jennifer Stoeckl is the co-founder of the Dire Wolf Project, founder of the DireWolf Guardians American Dirus Dog Training Program, and owner/operator of DireWolf Dogs of Vallecito. She lives in the beautiful inland northwest among the Ponderosa pine forests with her pack of American Dirus dogs.