Bloat, otherwise known as Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) is a life threatening condition commonly found in large, deep-chested dogs. Given that German Shepherds fit those characteristics, are they prone to this problem?
Are German Shepherds Prone To Bloat?
Unfortunately, German Shepherds are indeed prone to bloat. As deep-chested chested dogs, they have a higher-than average risk of developing the condition. In fact, bloat is one of the most common health problems and a leading cause of death for the breed.
In this article, we’ll further discuss what bloat is, its causes, symptoms, treatment, and most importantly, how you can prevent it.
What Is Bloat In German Shepherds?
Bloat is a fatal condition which occurs when a German Shepherd’s stomach rapidly fills with gas, fluid, or food, and causes it to expand and possibly twist. This cuts out the passage of food and water, inhibits circulation, and puts pressure on the dog’s surrounding organs. Twisting in particular, is especially dangerous, as it completely restricts blood flow and eventually causes shock.
Again, this is an extremely fatal condition. It kills around 30 percent of the dogs it affects, even after treatment.
Causes Of Bloat
Despite continuous research, there are still no known causes of bloat. There are, however, known factors that increase risk for it, including:
- Eating quickly
- Having one large meal a day
- Overeating or drinking
- Raised food bowls
- Running or playing after eating
- Age: Older dogs aged seven or higher are more at risk
- Sex: Male German Shepherds are at higher risk
Bloat progresses very quickly and so it’s important that you keep an eye on the following symptoms to increase your German Shepherd’s chance of survival:
The following signs may indicate early stages of bloat:
- Swollen abdomen
- Unable to vomit
- Obvious distress
Advanced signs are more obvious and indicate that a German Shepherd has been dealing with bloat for a certain amount of time. At this point, the dog’s body is already severely affected by the restricted blood flow.
These advanced signs are as follows:
- Pale gums
- Shortness of breath
- Rapid heartbeat
Apart from the swollen abdomen or the advanced signs, these signs are mostly subtle. And so, you have to be constantly mindful about your dog’s behavior. Bloat can take your German Shepherd’s life in just minutes, so if it’s acting differently or if you notice any of these symptoms, take it to the vet immediately.
The following is a heartbreaking video of a German Shepherd experiencing bloat. As per the video’s caption, it was taken at an emergency vet’s office while waiting for Flash’s (the dog in the video) x-rays to finish developing.
It is mentioned that Flash was eventually euthanized within minutes of filming this video, so it is quite hard to watch.
That said, it does provide valuable insight on the condition and what you may possibly encounter as a German Shepherd owner and might help you identify the symptoms and react accordingly.
How To Treat Bloat In German Shepherds
Upon arrival, the vet will use x-rays to check the severity of your German Shepherd’s condition and whether or not its stomach has twisted.
After that, the vet will then proceed to stabilize your dog by decompressing the stomach to release the pressure caused by gas build-up. This typically involves a passing tube in the stomach or when needed, a hypodermic needle on the side of the abdomen. Depending on the state of bloat, the vet may also perform shock therapy to stabilize your dog.
If decompression fails to address the twisting, your vet will have no other choice but to perform surgery to untwist the stomach and get it back to its normal position.
Afterwards, the stomach is then attached to the abdominal wall to prevent relapse. This is called a gastropexy.
How To Prevent Bloat In German Shepherds
With bloat, prevention is most definitely better than cure. And so, here’s how you can help prevent it:
At Home Strategies
- Don’t use raised bowls unless instructed by a vet.
- Slow down your German Shepherd’s eating. For this you can consider slow-feeding bowls to prevent your dog from gulping up large portions at once.
- Space out meals. Instead of feeding your German Shepherd one large meal a day, feed it two or three small meals throughout the day instead.
- Provide your German Shepherd with just the right amount of water and discourage drinking large amounts at a time.
- Avoid exercise or any strenuous activities before or after meals.
You may also have your vet perform either a prophylactic or laparoscopic gastropexy on your German Shepherd. Both these procedures help prevent bloat by attaching the stomach to the abdominal wall such that it won’t be able to twist and restrict blood flow.
The difference between the two is that laparoscopic gastropexy is a minimally invasive procedure that makes use of smaller incisions than the other. So if your vet is experienced with the technique, it would be a better choice as it takes less time and your dog can go home the same day as the surgery.
As a tip, if you ever choose to spay or neuter your German Shepherd, consult your vet about these preventative procedures so that you can have them performed at the same time and minimize the number of times your dog gets anesthetized.
Unfortunately, German Shepherds are prone to bloat. So as an owner, it’s part of your responsibility to get familiar with the different symptoms so you can react accordingly.
Also, I’d like to further emphasize that with bloat, prevention is better than cure. So mind how much food and water you provide your dog at once, adjust the frequency of meals, and be sure to avoid strenuous activity within an hour of meals to avoid gas build-up.
If possible, you can also choose to get your German Shepherd preventative surgery.