Got a great question from Monika concerning the eating habits of her Boxer puppy. Seems he's a real chow hound and snarfs down his food in record time. He even throws up on occasion after eating.
While it's great to be an eager eater, some dogs, especially big dogs with deep chests, like Boxers, would be better off if they slowed down. Take a look at the photo in the Boxer link and you'll get a good idea what I mean by deep chested.
This type of eating behavior can lead to a very serious problem called Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus. That's vet speak of course, but it means filling and stretching of the stomach followed by twisting on its axis, which qualifies as a medical emergency.
When dogs gulp down their food they also swallow a lot of air in the process. Over time they stretch out the stomach and the ligaments that hold the stomach in place. When you couple this with exercise after a meal the stomach can actually twist on itself preventing the dog from vomiting and leading to a much more serious problem.
Dilatation is not always followed by volvulus but as time passes it becomes more likely that one follows the other and dilatation by itself can be life threatening too.
The pressure that builds up in the dilated and twisted stomach can lead to circulatory problems, shock and death in as little as a few hours.
Affected dogs are restless and uncomfortable. They may make retching motions but be unable to vomit. The upper abdomen is obviously distended.
If you see this in a big dog with this type of medical history get to the vet's office pronto.
Simple dilatation often responds to passing a stomach tube to release the pressure. If volvulus is also involved, passing the stomach tube may not be possible and the pressure may have to be relieved surgically. Emergency treatment for shock including IV fluids and other medication may be needed too.
Once the dog is through the emergency crisis and the stomach and the other abdominal organs have recovered, surgery is highly recommended to prevent GDV from happening again.
The surgery involves attaching the stomach to the right side of the abdominal wall so it is physically prevented from twisting again in the future. The statistics tell the story. With surgery recurrence rates are 2-4%. Without surgery the recurrence rate is 60-80%. Get the surgery.
You may have heard of this condition referred to as "bloat" in the past. That is the common name for the dilatation component and there are a lot of myths attached to bloat.
One of the more persistent myths is that GDV is caused by feeding dry dog food that contains soy. The theory was that soy or some other cereal grain would ferment in the stomach and cause it to expand. This theory has been debunked by research but I still hear it from time to time.
As we've mentioned the cause appears to be both behavioral and conformational. If you have a large, deep chested breed that eats rapidly you should be on the look out for GDV. Dachshunds and Basset hounds are also at risk because they are deep chested too.
If your big dog eats too quickly feed him smaller meals more frequently. Try dividing his total daily amount of food into three or four separate feedings. And don't take him out for a run right after he eats. Let him chill for a couple of hours before exercise.
*** note from Yvonne: I was planning to post the final note on Beneful® Prepared Meals™ today but I am not ready...stay tuned for that post next week...it's a good one!***