Bloat is a potentially life-threatening condition which primarily affects large, ‘barrel chested’ dogs. Some breeds are more sensitive than others, and some individually dogs seem to be particularly susceptible to this painful, dangerous disorder.
Some factors which seem to contribute to the incidence of bloat, include eating too soon after exercise, gulping food or swallowing air, and drinking too soon after meals.
Gastric distension is the mildest form of (or pre-curser to) bloat, and can occur in any breed. Over-eating is a common cause and the signs are swelling and hardening of the abdomen, usually relieved by vomiting or belching.
The more serious condition occurs when the stomach actually twists, and this is known as gastric torsion or gastric dilation / volvulus, depending on the direction / axis of the twist. Some of the most common signs are restlessness, lethargy, salivation, retching, pacing, rapid heart rate, and distension of the abdomen.
Any time these signs are seen, immediate veterinary attention is vital, because GDV is an extremely serious condition. Bloat is thought to be the second leading killer of dogs, after cancer.
Some recent research has investigated the link between bloat and kibble diets, as well as citric acid (used as a preservative in many natural kibbles in place of harsher preservatives like BHT and Ethoxyquin).
A study investigating the links between food types and bloat, suggested that in addition to the quantity of food consumed at each meal, dry kibble was by far the biggest cause of this disorder. Canned food was the next leading cause and semi-moist and non-processed diets were the least likely to cause bloat. Despite these findings, however, the researchers determined that further investigation was needed in order to form a final, definitive conclusion.
Of course, the non-dietary risk factors for bloat are also extremely important but it may be that feeding a minimally processed or semi-moist diet is a good option for dogs who are predisposed to this condition.