You may know that I am all about exercising my pups on a regular, daily basis because it gets rid of excess energy and burns calories.
For this very reason, we begin EVERY morning with a structured (= no pulling!) walk and add doggie backpacks during fall, winter, and spring (we don’t use them throughout summer because of the heat & humidity).
Now, while it’s important to keep our pups fit & healthy, it’s equally important to know WHEN to exercise them in order to avoid health issues.
As mentioned above, we begin our mornings with a walk PRIOR to breakfast. Why? Well, have you ever exercised with a full stomach? That’s why 😉
In all seriousness though, exercising your pup with a full stomach can cause Bloat, also referred to as GDV (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus).
Bloat is a serious disorder of a dog’s digestive system, and as such constitutes a life threatening emergency. If it does not get treated by a vet right away, the dog WILL DIE within hours.
At-Risk Dog Breeds
Any dog can get bloat, but deep-chested breeds such as Great Danes, Bloodhounds, Weimaraners, Rottweilers, American PitBull Terriers, German Shorthaired Pointers, and Boxers are at the greatest risk of suffering from this emergency.
Bloat occurs when the stomach traps air & gasses which are then not able to escape, and then twists on itself, closing off the esophagus (vomiting won’t be possible).
Additionally, the blood flow will get cut off from the liver & the spleen, as well as from the heart, resulting in low blood pressure. The abdomen will push against the dog’s lungs, causing breathing difficulties.
• Belly will appear round & the skin around it will be tight as the membrane of a drum
Besides exercise right after feeding, the following can also cause bloat:
• Underweight dogs, without any cushion around the stomach
• Anxiety and stress
• Diet consisting of dry food only
• Fast eaters
• Large portions only once per day
• Drinking large amounts of water right after feeding
A word about feeding: There is a controversy about whether or not to use elevated feeding stations. For the longest time it was believed that elevated feeding limited the amount of air ingested along with the food, and thus decreased the chances of bloating.
However, in recent years there seems to have been a shift away from elevated feeders, as they are now said to increase the risk of bloating by 110%.
I haven’t, however, been able to find sources backing either theory up 100%.
I can only speak of my own experience with my dogs and the many client dogs I’ve taken care of. My pups Missy & Buzz are boxer mixes, and I don’t use elevated feeders.
Several of my doggie clients who have large chested breeds use feeding stations, while just about as many do NOT use them.
However, one common denominator has certainly been the strict avoidance of any exercise for at least 1 hour after having fed the respective dogs, as well as the limitation of access to water post-eating.
What To Do In Case Of Bloat
• Take the dog to a vet IMMEDIATELY!
• Keep the dog warm while getting him to the vet’s office
• The Vet will try to decompress (= rid stomach of fluids) the stomach with a tube
• If this approach is unsuccessful, surgery will then be necessary to un-twist the stomach
Side note: Did you know that the average cost of the life-saving surgery in K9 cases of bloat runs at $2,000? It’s always a good idea to have medical dog insurance or a healthy doggie savings account for those steep emergency vet bills!
Preventing Bloat in Dogs
• Keep dog at healthy, normal weight
• Feed several smaller meals throughout the day (at least 2)
• Don’t feed a kibble-only diet (add a little water & some wet food, or, better yet, try a raw diet!)
• Slow down the pace of eating (add pacer ball to the dish, or feed meals in an interactive feeder)
• No exercise for 1-2 hours after meal-times
• Canine gastropexy procedure (When a gastropexy is performed, the dog’s stomach gets sutured to the right abdominal wall to prevent it from flipping over again.)
Are you the proud parent of a large chested doggie? What is your experience with elevated feeders vs placing bowls on the ground?
Maybe you’re the proud owner of a small dog who has experienced a case of bloating?
Either way, we’d love to hear from you in our comment section!