bloat in dogs

A Near-Bloat Experience

We were lucky. Yes, it was the long weekend. Yes, it was late at night. Yes, it cost an arm and a leg because we had to go to the emergency clinic on a Saturday at 10 p.m. But we were lucky.

Dusty showing off his normally trim belly.

Dusty showing off his normally trim belly.

Dusty had none of the typical symptoms of bloat, other than extreme thirst and a distended belly. He was resting peacefully (no pacing or arched back), and I had been watching him carefully for hours. At 7:30 p.m., about a half hour after he ate dinner, I noticed the distended belly. Remembering one of the many things I had learned at my pet first aid course, I gave Dusty half a Gas-X tablet. I debated going to the clinic. He showed no evidence of discomfort, but I know the twisting can happen fast. Once I heard and smelled the Gas-X working, though, I thought, We’re in the clear. The air was coming out of him. (Boy, was it ever!)

However, at 10 p.m., when his belly was still really distended—seemingly more so than it had been—I woke Dusty from his sleep and took him to the emergency clinic. Since I was home alone this long weekend, it meant leaving Cora and Hogan alone for God knew how many hours (it’s never a short visit). I had been hoping to avoid it, but better safe than sorry.

Dusty with his bloated belly waiting for the vet.

Dusty with his bloated belly waiting for the vet.

I believe this was Dusty’s fourth visit to the emergency clinic in the two and a half years we’ve had him. He should get a frequent visitor discount by now. His digestive system has caused so many problems, and this one was just the latest and potentially the most serious. However, you’d never know by Dusty’s behaviour that anything was wrong. At the clinic, he wanted to say hello to all the other dogs and all the people, and he wagged his tail (his whole body, truth be told) nonstop. He put several smiles on several sad, concerned faces, and I think he believes that’s his purpose.

It didn’t take long for Dusty to be called in to see the vet tech. Vets take bloat symptoms seriously. The vet tech examined Dusty and noted that his abdomen palpation was abnormal and his heart rate was slightly elevated, possibly due to pain but also potentially a result of his excitement since he so enjoyed meeting another new person. We had to wait a while to see the vet, which suggested to me little cause for concern on the part of the vet tech, setting my mind somewhat at ease. Dusty lay down on the floor and slept, still burping and farting up a storm, while we waited. Once we saw the vet, she recommended X-rays to ensure his stomach wasn’t flipped. The X-rays showed an excess of stuff in his belly—food, water, and air pockets—but, fortunately, no signs of twisting. The vet recommended inducing vomiting to get it all out of him. I consented.

Dusty's innards--the black parts in the abdomen and stomach area are air pockets. The rest is a whole lot of food and water.

Dusty’s innards–the black parts in the abdomen and stomach area are air pockets. The rest is a whole lot of food and water.

It turns out there were about three to four cups of food in Dusty! He gets just over a full cup a day (at two feedings), so the quantity of water he drank must have increased that food volume exponentially! Once it was out of him, we were able to go home and have a mostly restful night (with one bout of diarrhea). Phew! Crisis averted.

Going forward, my dogs won’t have access to the water bowl at meal times. I’ll wait half an hour to an hour after feeding them to return the bowl to the floor. I think it was the water that caused Dusty’s issues (none of the other causes fit the situation). Let’s hope that our first bloat scare was our final one!