Non-Dietary Risk Factors
The 5 year bloat study, funded by the AKC Canine Health Foundation and several Parent Clubs, including the WCA, has been completed. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the study this is a brief summary of the purpose and aims of the study and the findings.
Objective: To identify non-dietary risk factors for gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) in large breed and giant breed dogs.
Animals: 1637 dogs over 6 months of age of the following breeds were enrolled in the study: Akita, Bloodhound, Collie, Great Dane, Irish Setter, Irish Wolfhound, Newfoundland, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard, Standard Poodle and Weimaraner.
Procedure: Dogs of varying ages that did not have previous history of GDV were recruited at dog shows. The dog's length and height and the depth and width of its thorax and abdomen were measured. Extensive information concerning the dog's medical history, genetic background, personality and diet was obtained from the owners. Owners were contacted by mail and telephone at approximately 1 year intervals to determine the status of the dog.
The following is a synopsis of the findings. Many of these findings are contrary to methods of prevention which have been favored in the past.
Factors which were found to increase the risk of bloat.
1. Increased Age
There is a 20% increase in risk for each year increase in age
2. Having a first degree relative who has bloated (offspring 4X the risk, siblings 3X the risk & parents1.5X the risk)
This turned out to be one of the strongest predictors. Dogs with such a relative had a 3 and 4 fold increased risk of developing bloat. A first degree relative was defined as either a parent, sibling or offspring.
3. Deep, narrow thorax/abdomen
Dogs which were broader in body type had a lower incidence of bloat. Dr. Glickman postulates that the deeper and narrower the abdomen, the greater the room for the stomach ligaments to stretch down of lengthen as part of the aging process.
Dr. Glickman felt that these underweight dogs may have problems with their gastrointestinal tract which prevents them from gaining weight and that would predispose them to bloat.
5. Feeding only once daily
Several studies, including this one, showed that as the number of meals increased per day, the risk of bloat decreased.
6. Fearful, easily upset dogs
Personality turned out to be a major predictor. According to Glickman, it is not the amount of stress in a dog's life that is significant, but the way in which the dog handles the stress. "When animals are placed under stress, there are certain stress hormonal and neural responses. Some of these responses affect gastric motility. A fearful dog may have a very different response physiologically to stress than a happy, easygoing dog. We think those physiological responses may contribute to the rotation of the stomach because of the motility. This is the second or third time we have demonstrated temperament, particularly easygoingness or fearfulness is related to the risk of bloat".
7. Raising food bowl
The study revealed that the higher the bowl, the higher the risk. Dr. Glickman feels the elevation may be causing an increased incidence of swallowing air which could account for the higher risk.
8. Rapid eaters
Since bloat does not usually occur immediately after eating, Dr. Glickman has no explanation for this. He did find that the faster the dog ate, the greater the risk for bloat
Factors which did NOT appear to influence risk of bloat.
The one factor that was consistently associated with a lower risk of bloat was having a personality that the owner described as "Happy".
Dr. Glickmans Recommendations For Lowering The Risk Of Bloat
Don't breed a dog if a first degree relative has suffered an episode of bloat.
Consider a prophylactic gastroplexy for dogs that fit the high risk profile.
Owners of anxious or fearful dogs should consider behavior modification and consult a behaviorist. In some instances drug therapy is warranted.
Feed smaller, multiple meals instead of one large meal per day.
Do NOT elevate food bowl.
Owners who have dogs that eat rapidly should do anything to slow the speed of eating. The most common and effective way was to place a large object in the food bowl that the dog had to eat around. A suggestion was a heavy link chain which forces the dog to eat under and around it.
Dietary Risk Factors
Dietary risk factors for bloat (GDV) in dogs were identified using the 1991 dogs from the study. 106 dogs that developed bloat were selected as cases while 212 other dogs from the study were randomly selected as controls. A complete profile of intakes was constructed for each dog based on owner-reported information, published references and nutritional databases.
The study confirmed previous reports of an increased risk of GDV associated with increasing age, having a first-degree relative with GDV and having a raised food bowl. New significant findings included a 2.6 fold increased risk of GDV in dogs that consumed dry foods containing fat among the first four ingredients. The GDV increased 3 fold (200%) in dogs that consumed dry foods containing citric acid as a preservative. Dry foods containing a rendered meat meal with bone product among the first four ingredients significantly decreased GDV risk by 53%. Moistening of dry food alone was not associated with GDV.