Holistic Health and Longevity Course for Dogs Chapter 14
The story of Daisy, the dog
Daisy was one of those dogs that everyone loves and I was no exception. I met her and her ‘mom’ Paula in the early 2000s and loved their visits at my practice. Sometimes there was nothing wrong with Daisy, but Paula loved to come for a little chat, especially after her husband passed away.
One wintery weekend my family and I visited my sister in Whistler, B.C., a ski resort that many Vancouverites visit to exchange the rainy city for snow country. That weekend, we were almost ready to go up the hill for a few powder runs when Paula called.
She sounded very upset because Daisy, who was absolutely fine an hour ago, was now in severe distress. Paula told me Daisy ate her full meal and played in the backyard and now her breathing was shallow and her abdomen was distended. She had all the signs of stomach bloat.
I asked Paula not to wait a minute and rush her to the emergency clinic, but it was too late. Daisy died in surgery from Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV), which is also known as stomach bloat.
Even many years later, I can’t stop feeling that sinking sensation I had when I learned that Daisy died. I also know there are many dogs each year who die of this mostly preventable condition.
My hope is that Chapter 14 of the Health and Longevity Course for Dogs will help protect your dog and that you will share it with others to help them do the same.
5 ways to prevent stomach bloat in your dog
Most veterinary textbooks state that gastric dilation volvulus is a serious, life-threatening condition caused by fermentation of food, gas build-up and twist of the stomach, which causes severe distention and blood circulation collapse and shock.
However, these books never mention two factors that, as I have discovered, play an important role in GDV occurrence.
1. Why dogs fed kibble are much more likely to bloat
In nature, dogs have evolved to digest the carcasses of prey. They are equipped with a highly effective set of teeth for ripping, shearing, crushing and crunching meat and bones. Their digestive tract is ideal for digesting raw meat protein and the acidic pH of their stomach protects them from pathogenic bacteria. Stomach acids are also the reason why wild and domestic canines are capable of digesting raw bones. (See more info here.)
Unfortunately, most dogs today are fed kibble, highly processed and ground food that turns into slimy porridge soon after it reaches the stomach.
Over time the stomach muscles become very weak. The muscles don’t need to work as hard due to the lack of natural roughage in the food, such as raw bones and meat. ‘Kibble stomach’ is the equivalent of a lazy and weak couch potato that is more predisposed to gastric dilation.
As if this was not enough, kibble and processed food are much more likely to cause fermentation and gas build-up, which increases the chance of bloat even more. Grain and carbohydrate-based kibble are especially prone to producing gas.
2. What you may not know about fruit
Did you know that dogs should never be fed fruit and protein together? The main reason is the digestive time for fruit and protein is different.
Fruit digestion time in the stomach is much shorter than protein. If they are fed together, the stomach does not empty until the protein portion is digested, which can cause fermentation and gas build-up.
I have heard some people say the fermentation process causes alcohol production, which can make your dog drunk, but I have never seen this.
Ideally, one should feed fruit at least one hour or longer before a meal and at least four hours after eating.
3. How to exercise your dog safely
The general consensus is that you should wait at least four hours after eating to exercise your dog. When your dog’s stomach is full, it is much more likely to twist and turn when they make a sudden movement.
There are still many people feeding their dogs and taking them for a walk and a play in a park and you and I need to caution them about the risks.
Click here to read more on exercising dogs safely.
4. Nutrient deficiencies play an important role
In Chapter 5 and 6 of the Health and Longevity Course for Dogs, I mention in detail why natural vitamins, plant-based minerals and amino acids and omega oils are key to optimal organ function. We now know that the body can’t produce many of these nutrients on its own and that they need to come from the soil.
Unfortunately, agricultural soils are severely nutrient depleted, and those deficiencies are passed on to our dogs. Such deficiencies can also reduce the vitality, strength and mobility of the stomach wall and logically increases the chances of bloat.
5. A healthy back is the key to healthy stomach function
In Chapter 7 of the Health and Longevity Series I write about the energy flow of the body and how important it is to organ function.
After years of observation, I have found a very close connection between the thoracic-lumbar junction of the spine and the stomach. The stomach association points are right behind the last rib on both sides of the spine.
Dogs with a tendency for stomach problems often have inflammation and sensitivity in this area and sometimes this inflammation leads to spondylosis, a form of spinal arthritis.
The interesting part of this is that my emergency clinic colleagues confirmed that they often see spondylosis at the stomach association point.
This means that regular monthly check-ups are an important part of GDV prevention, especially if you see that your dog is sensitive along the spine behind the last rib.
I find many modalities are helpful and the results depend greatly on the skills of the practitioner. Physiotherapy, chiropractic, osteopathy, massage, intramuscular needle stimulation treatment (IMS) and acupuncture are just a few examples of practitioners you can consult.
What to do if you suspect bloat?
First, panting is not a sign of a bloat on its own. However, if it comes with severe distress, pale gums, stomach distention and excessive salivation, you must rush your dog to the nearest vet or emergency clinic immediately.
As a first aid measure on the way to the hospital, I recommend giving the homeopathic remedy Nux Vomica or Carbo Vegetalis in 30C or 200C potency.
After your arrival, a light sedation may be required and a stomach tube will be inserted to release the gas immediately. This may also be achieved by using a large needle directly through the abdominal wall.
The most life threatening part of GDV is a circulatory collapse and shock and these steps can be lifesaving.
After this, radiographs will usually follow and in some cases, an emergency surgery is required.
Is preventive surgery gastropexy good for preventing GDV?
Gastropexy is a commonly recommended preventive procedure, where the stomach wall is attached to the inside of the rib cage to prevent the stomach from flipping.
Personally, I am not in favor of gastropexy because it restricts the natural movement and function of the stomach. Also, any surgical intervention affects the body’s energy channels and the natural state of the body is the best.
The best prevention of bloat
I feel very grateful that by following the precautions mentioned in the article, not a single patient of mine suffered from GDV since Daisy passed away. In her case, it was the exercise right after feeding that was the cause.
The best way to protect your dog from GDV is to feed a natural raw or cooked diet and raw bones, give essential supplements, feed fruit separately from protein, provide safe exercise and ensure good spinal energy flow.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM