To say that our dog Sasha, an Australian Shepherd/Border Collie mix, lives to eat is an understatement. She promptly wakes us every morning so we can get up and make her breakfast, and she reminds us every night when it’s dinnertime. However, in her zest to devour her meal, she can eat too quickly, so we’ve taken measures to slow down her rate of consumption.
It’s better for her health if she doesn’t gobble up her food. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, dogs who eat too much or too quickly can develop bloat, or even worse, gastric dilation-volvulus. Bloat occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with air, fluid or food, and puts added pressure on other organs, which can cause difficulty breathing and may decrease the blood supply to a dog’s vital organs. GDV is a more serious condition in which the dog’s stomach distorts or twists. Even with immediate treatment, between 25 to 40 percent of dogs with GDV die, according to the ASPCA.
The symptoms of bloat or GDV are similar and include a distended abdomen, weakness, shortness of breath, cold body temperature, rapid heartbeat, pale gums, collapse and unsuccessful attempts to belch or vomit. If your dog is showing these symptoms, it’s best to visit your veterinarian right away.
In addition to rapid eating, bloat can be caused by overeating, overdrinking, heavy exercise after eating, only eating one large meal a day and stress. Most dogs will overeat if given the opportunity, so any dog is susceptible to bloat.
GDV, on the other hand, is more likely to strike dogs who are large in size and have deep chests, such as Saint Bernards, Akitas, Irish Setters, Boxers, Basset Hounds, Great Danes, Weimaraners and German Shepherds.
If your dog has GDV and the stomach has rotated, your vet will perform emergency surgery to correct the twisting. Most vets will recommend that during this surgery, the dog’s stomach be permanently attached to the side of the abdominal cavity in order to prevent future episodes.
Prevention, however, is the best medicine. Here are some recommendations from the ASPCA on how to prevent bloat or GDV in your dog:
- Feed your dog several small meals, rather than one or two larger ones, throughout the day.
- If appropriate (check with your vet), include canned food in your dog’s diet.
- Maintain your dog’s appropriate weight.
- Avoid feeding your dog from a raised bowl unless advised to do so by your vet.
- Limit rigorous exercise before and after meals.
There are also treat or kibble dispensers you can use to serve your dog’s meals, as well as bowls specifically designed to slow down the rate of consumption. We use the Bob-A-Lot with Sasha, and it not only slows down her meal but provides mental stimulation as well.
Is your dog a chow hound? What techniques have you used to slow your dog down? Tell us in comments!
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