Distended Abdomen in a Dog: Gretel’s Brush With Scary Bloat

Should you rush your dog to the vet at the slightest sign of not feeling well? What if their stomach is swollen and hard?

There are times when things are best left to resolve on their own and there are times where not treating is the better strategy. Particularly when treatment equals drugs, such as antibiotics, steroids and the like.

The body does have the tools to heal itself in many cases. So when do you ought to do something and when do you wait it out?

Distended Abdomen in a Dog: Gretel's Brush With Scary Bloat

Erring on the side of caution

I admit that I do take our guys to the vet even with things I feel they should be able to overcome. I want to make sure I am not missing something. And our vet was always happy to examine, evaluate and when he felt that we best not treat, he’d say that.

Finding out for sure has always been my policy.

Especially when a problem crops up just before the weekend. The last thing I want is a situation blowing up on me during the weekend.

Assessing the problem

How can you tell the seriousness of the issue at hand? How well do you know your dog? What is the big picture?

No matter how much experience you think you have, things can take an unexpected turn.

Picture your dog playing with a squeaky toy. The long lost toy gets its time in the spotlight. Sooner or later it becomes too much and you go to take the toy away to get some quiet.

Gretel’s story

You notice that your dog’s belly looks distended and when you touch it it feels like a drum. Panic comes over you. A distended abdomen is a potential sign of bloat!

But your dog is a Dachshund! They are not prone to this stuff, are they?

Any breed can get bloat with or without volvulus. However, some breeds are most likely to suffer from GDV. The most susceptible breeds include:

  • Great Danes
  • Weimaraners
  • St. Bernards
  • Irish Setters
  • Gordon Setters

Source: American College of Veterinary Surgeons

Nope, Dachshunds are not on that list. But it could happen.

Calling your vet

You call your vet. The vet asks you if your dog’s stomach is still gurgling away. (When the stomach rotates on itself, it wouldn’t).

Other telltale signs are also absent. Your dog is not trying to throw up and doesn’t look to be in major distress.

The vet asks you to measure and monitor the circumference of the abdomen. You do that. The belly doesn’t get any bigger and by next morning it returns to its normal size. What a relief!

The symptoms return

Things go back to normal until a few months later.

As if out of the blue, you find your dog’s stomach distended yet again. Nothing unusual happened prior.

Because this is the second time, you go through the same steps as before. You measure the belly and monitor. And yet again, things return to normal on their own.

And yet again

All remains well until it happens again.

Having it happen once, fine. Twice? Okay. But three times?

This is neither normal or an odd fluke anymore. Something isn’t right. This time you decide to take your dog to the emergency clinic after all. Somebody needs to get to the bottom of why it keeps happening.

Veterinary ER

After a long exam and x-rays, you’re informed that your dog indeed has bloat!

Not the really scary one with the stomach twist (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus), but bloat nonetheless. From a bloated stomach to a twisted one isn’t far to go.

How the heck did your dog get bloat?

The vets induce vomiting to see what they can find in the stomach. Some foodstuffs that match what your dog had for dinner. Some lettuce and grass, yes you dropped some and your dog does like to graze on fresh grass.

Rubbery white chunks … where did those come from?

What are those?

The vet insists they look like chunks of rawhide. But you never give your dog any! Ever! The vet is also certain your dog has gotten into something you didn’t know about.

They keep your dog at the hospital for the night. You have to return home alone, with lot’s to think about.

But the next day your dog is released to go home and doing well.

Still no explanation

However, the cause of her bloating remains unknown. After all that, no answers.

When you ask the ET veterinarian, you’re told that the cause is unknown. You receive run-of-the-mill instructions about feeding and water regime.

At the regular vet

Your family veterinarian goes over everything with you in detail. They ask about everything. And, finally, the likely cause surfaces.

As it turns out, the guys who were cutting your lawn didn’t close the gate properly. As a result, Gretel was able to get out and help herself to some yummy moldy bread from a garbage can. You wouldn’t have thought of it because you assumed Gretel was safe inside the yard.

You saw that something was in the garbage but didn’t suspect Gretel.

Gretel was actually lucky

Moldy bread could have made Gretel way more sick than she was. Well, not the bread but the toxins that the fungus produces–mycotoxins. That is just as much not funny as bloat.

Symptoms of poisoning by moldy foods range from moderate to severe and include:

  • drooling
  • vomiting
  • agitation
  • incoordination
  • tremors
  • seizures
  • fever

Source: Pet Poison Helpline

Gretel was double lucky.

What about the two times prior?

You might never know what happened before this last time. But at least you have a solid suspect for the last event. Which also means that your dog is not susceptible to GDV, just likes to fend for herself.

Now, that you know that, you might be able to prevent it.

Bad things can happen to good dogs. And sometimes you cannot have eyes everywhere and prevent everything. But, as it seems, all you have to do to prevent Gretel from getting another food bloat–or poisoning–is to make sure there is a gate between her and the garbage.

Which may be easier said than done. But you know what to look out for.

Related articles:
Abdominal Distention in Dogs: Why Is My Dog’s Stomach Swollen?

Further reading:
Food bloat in dogs

Categories: BloatConditionsDistended abdomenEmergenciesGastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat):Real-life Stories

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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