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ASK THE VET

Catching Early Sign of Canine Bloat Can Keep Disorder From Becoming Deadly

November 26, 1987|Dr. GLENN ERICSON | For The Times

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.

Watch for signs of abdominal pain or tenderness such as pacing, stretching, frequent getting up and down, abdominal distention, salivation or frequent efforts to vomit. If bloat or dilatation does occur, contact your veterinarian immediately. Early treatment may reduce the bloat but surgery could be required to correct the possible torsion of the stomach.

Q: How often should I get my cockatiel's wings and nails clipped? What if they bleed?

A: Clipping a bird's wing feathers is done to limit the flight of the pet but does not completely prevent flying. Generally, once the feathers are trimmed, they remain so until they are replaced during molt. You must be very careful to avoid cutting the new "blood" feathers since serious hemorrhage can result. If they are cut or broken and start to bleed, they must be carefully removed.

Trimming your bird's nails is done more frequently, especially when they become excessively long or torn. You can use ordinary nail trimmers or, for larger birds, special nail trimmers available in most pet shops. Any bleeding must be controlled by hemostatic powders, such as Kwik Stop, or silver nitrate sticks.

Send questions about your pet to Dr. Glenn Ericson, Ask the Vet, Orange County Life, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif. 92626. Ericson, a practicing Orange County veterinarian, is incoming president of the Southern California Veterinary Medical Assn.

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