What is Bloating?
Just like humans can get bloated or ‘gassy’ after a meal – dogs and cats can get bloated too. Bloating in humans is far less serious than in animals – as severe bloating in dogs or cats can be a life-or-death emergency!
A bloated stomach for an animal could simply occur as a result of excess gas, fluid or foam, or it could be the result of a twisted stomach (volvulus) or blockage of the stomach valve – which usually requires surgery. Most animals get bloated from too much food. However the condition referred to as ‘bloat’ should always be treated by a veterinarian and is very serious.
Symptoms of common bloating
* A slightly swollen belly after eating
* Flatulence and excess gas
* Belching or wind
When is bloating serious?
If you notice the following symptoms in your pet, you should consult with your vet immediately:
* Severely distended abdomen (usually appearing rapidly)
* Nausea, vomiting, or attempts to vomit (or retching)
* Excessive salivation
* Shortness of breath (as swelling puts increased internal pressure on the lungs)
* Restlessness and discomfort from abdominal pain (often lying down and getting up repeatedly)
* Sudden weakness or collapse or lethargy
Most animals look slightly bloated after a meal or drinking lots of water. If however, you notice a severely distended abdomen and you suspect serious bloat in your pet – an immediate vet visit is essential.
Your vet will perform a physical exam and abdominal x rays may be taken. Your vet may also check for gas in your pet’s stomach by inserting a tube through the esophagus or inserting a needle through the abdomen.
Help for Bloating
If your pet is diagnosed simply with bloat, (if the stomach has not become twisted) the vet can simply decompress the stomach with a tube or needle. If, on the other hand, your dog has a twisted stomach (volvulus) they will most likely need to be treated surgically.
If they suspect your pet has bloat, your veterinarian will stabilize your pet and treat him/her for shock by giving your pet intravenous fluids and monitoring heart rate, breathing and blood pressure. During surgery, sutures attach the stomach to the body wall to help prevent future recurrences.
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There are many safe, yet effective natural remedies that can be used prevent excess gas build up in the digestive system and abdomen. Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice) is an excellent tonic for the intestines and entire digestive tract, helping to soothe digestive upset and promote healthy digestion.
Ulmus fulva (slippery elm) can also help address excess gas and simple bloating. In addition, Althaea officinalis (marshmallow) is a well known remedy for digestive health and very effective in soothing the mucus membranes of the digestive tract.
The best way to protect your pet against bloat is to keep a close eye on them and watch for severe discomfort and stomach distention. If you notice anything about your dog or cat’s digestion that seems sudden, strange and unusual, contact your veterinarian immediately.
What Causes Bloating?
Causes of common bloating include:
* Swallowing excess air
* Eating quickly and eating too much food
* Trapped air and gas in the digestive system
Tips related to bloating
* Large breed dogs with broad, deep barrel chests are more likely to develop bloat – if you are the owner of a breed like this, watch carefully for bloat.
* Feed your dog with small, regularly spaced meals
* Presoak food in water for 30 minutes before feeding your dog
* Prevent your animals from drinking large volumes of water at any one time.
* Limiting exercise after meals
* Keep garbage cans closed and put away – eating something that your pet is not used to can also cause gas to accumulate
* Remove your pet’s food after a while if it is not finished. Periods of fasting throughout the day are very important for effective digestion and detoxification.
* Ensure your pet is eating a balanced, high quality diet with plenty of raw and unprocessed food (preferably organic). Flatulence problems are often solved by a change in diet.
* Avoid exposure to toxins and chemicals as much as possible including pesticides, herbicides, commercial flea collars, flea powder, insecticides and second-hand cigarette smoke.
* Emotional or physical stress can also have an effect on digestion.