The word strikes fear in many a Weimaraner owner’s heart for good reason; bloat can kill, and kill fast.
Weimaraners are considered an at-risk breed for bloat. Bloat, or Gastric Dilation Volvulus, happens when too much gas accumulates in the stomach. This sounds fairly innocuous, but without being able to expel the extra gas, the stomach may fill up with air and then flip over on itself and twist shut. The twisting is called torsion, and it is truly an emergency since the stomach loses its blood supply. It can also happen to the spleen at the same time. The dog will go into shock and subsequently die if untreated.
Symptoms you may see are:
- A bloated look especially around the rib cage.
- Pacing, panting, restlessness and otherwise looking uncomfortable
- Gagging, retching, salivating or attempting to vomit
- It has been widely observed that bloat often happens at night.
Your dog may only have some of these symptoms, not all. And the signs may not be obvious, so it is very important to know your dog!
Akita Rescue has posted this video of an Akita bloating. Please watch the video so you know what bloat looks like. Again, not all dogs are going to show the same symptoms but seeing at least one dog bloat is worth watching so you are prepared if anything seems amiss with your dog.
If you suspect bloat, take your dog to the vet immediately!
If your emergency clinic is far (more than 10 minutes as a general guideline), you may want to keep a bloat kit. This link shows you how to make your own bloat first aid kit and how to use it. You can also buy a ready-made bloat kit.
At the clinic, the vet will take an x-ray to see the position of the stomach and spleen. If the organs have not torsed, the vet will put a tube down your dog’s throat to alleviate the gas from the stomach. If torsed, immediate surgery is necessary, and most vets recommend getting the stomach tacked to the abdominal wall during the surgery to prevent a repeat occurrence. This is called gastropexy. Some people elect to get this surgery done when they spay or neuter their dog as a preventive measure.
Unfortunately, we do not know what causes bloat. Statistical studies have suggested that deep chested dogs like Weimaraners are at high risk. The studies have also suggested eating one large meal a day, exercising right before or after eating, feeding dry food preserved with citric acid, gulping water, feeding from raised food bowls are all risks factors as well. (See “Risk Factors for Canine Bloat” by Jerold S. Bell, DVM)
It appears that bloat can sometimes “run” in lines, but this is difficult to assess since bloat is multi-factorial. And then there’s stress. Anecdotal evidence seems to point strongly that stress is a factor, and most breeders and experienced owners find this to be a consistent theme when recounting Weimaraners they know who have bloated. Stress can be things that we may not necessarily consider “stress.” A Weimaraner that lives to hunt and on the best hunt of his life is still stressed. Your bitch in season is stressed. A boarded dog is stressed. The hubbub of the holidays — all the people, the chaos, the disruption of the routine — for some anxious dogs can be very stress inducing as well. Another consistent observation is that bloat tends to happen at night.
We hope you never experience bloat, but you should know what to do just in case it happens. Know your dog and act quickly if something just doesn’t seem right. No one knows your dog better than you, and it’s better to be safe than sorry!