Q: I have an Irish Setter and have been told to avoid an all-dry dog food diet because it may cause him to bloat. Is this necessary?
A: Canine bloat or gastric dilatation is an extremely serious condition whose cause is not completely determined or understood. Very simply, it is a condition in which the stomach begins to distend with air or gas that cannot escape. In many cases, the stomach has torsed or rotated over, trapping the air and food, and occluding some of the major blood vessels from the abdomen to the heart. This situation leads to circulatory shock and possible death. This is a very rapidly progressive disorder and must be treated as an emergency.
The disease is most common in giant breeds of dogs such as the Great Dane or Saint Bernard, but also affects other large breeds such as the German shepherd and Irish setter. Small breed dogs seem to be less affected. Feeding and exercise habits seem to be common factors in the majority of the cases. Currently, research is being done to identify the causes of bloat.
Being aware of the early signs and avoiding some of the more commonly recognized potential causes may help you prevent this problem in your dog. Some of the suggestions are to feed larger dogs with two or three smaller meals rather than one large feeding. You may want to limit the quantity of water right after your pet eats a large meal. Avoid frequent diet changes or exercising your pet right after eating.