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Sonny and Ollie - both are healthy Akitas

Bloat

By far one of the most serious disorders to strike an otherwise healthy Akita is Bloat (Gastric Torsion). This often fatal disease can strike swiftly at any time and at any age. There is usually very little time left to seek medical help and many Akitas die agonising deaths en transit to the Vet or on the Vets table.

Bloat is when the stomach fills with gas, liquid, solids or all three then twists and turns upside down cutting off blood supply to the spleen and other vital organs such as heart, liver, pancreas, lungs etc. Survival is only obtained by immediate surgery.

The build up of gas must first be expelled then the stomach is twisted back into its normal position. On many occasions a portion of the spleen or stomach must be sacrificed to enable recovery. Facts are, dogs that have suffered bloat once are prone to bloat again, usually within days of the first attack.

A surgical procedure to tack the stomach to the body wall to prevent reoccurrence is also common. This same procedure is becoming more common practice now as a preventative measure for dogs with known bloat problems down their ancestry lines.

Symptoms of Bloat include excessive salivation, drooling, attempts to vomit or defecate and abdominal distension and intense pain. The dog whines and groans and will be extremely restless. Pale coloured gums, rapid breathing and loss of consciousness are advanced stages of Bloat. If left untreated at this stage the dog will die within a short time.

Unfortunately there is very little known about the causes of this disease. Statistics show that deep chested breeds, such as Mastiffs, Boxers, Dobermans etc have a higher tendency towards developing this disorder, however it is becoming even more widespread and now affects many other breeds of all shapes and sizes.

Research into bloat is ongoing. Until a definite cause is confirmed, our only prevention to date is to rely on the many theories that various studies have obtained to help minimise the risks of an attack. Until recently these were as follows:-

  • Always soak dry kibble in warm water for at least half an hour prior to feeding. Kibble expands when wet and creates gas that could cause bloat.
    * However, more recent statistical studies on bloat performed by the Purdue University in the USA dispute this theory and actually show a link with bloat when soaking kibble that contains citric acid or fat as the first four major ingredients. For more information on this subject please visit http://www.vet.purdue.edu/epi/dietrisk.htm
  • Feed small amounts often rather than one large amount all at once. Feeding several small meals a day or one of a morning and another at night is highly recommended. A full stomach is a heavy weight and can prevent gas from expelling.
  • Do not allow the dog to drink copious amounts of water at one time. Dogs swallow air as well as water when drinking and this could contribute to bloat.
  • Avoid exercising directly before or after a meal. Allow at least an hour, preferably two of inactivity prior to and after feeding.
  • Statistical studies also indicate a link with bloat when feeding from a raised food bowl.

Statistics show that:

Bloat usually occurs when the dog is in his prime, between the ages of 2 and 8 years. However, dogs can suffer this at any age.

Male dogs are more prone to Bloat than females at a ratio of 2 to 1.

Dogs that have suffered bloat once are prone to bloat again, usually within days of the first attack.

Mortality rates for Bloat are about 50%.

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