Does Food Cause Bloat?
Does food cause bloat in dogs? Do certain ingredients contribute to excessive gas production in the stomach of dogs? Does elevated feeding help? What can be done to prevent this oftentimes deadly medical condition? Many people speculate that what we feed our dogs plays a role in bloat or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). What does the scientific literature say? Turns out there’s been quite a bit of research in this area over the past forty years. It also turns out that food appears to have less impact on the development of bloat and GDV than you might’ve guessed. We’ve also got a lot to learn.
Bloat and GDV is one of the most frightening conditions a pet parent or veterinarian will ever encounter. Your dog goes from being happy and healthy one moment to writhing in agony on its side as its belly swells the next. Even if the pet is rushed to the veterinarian immediately, death occurs in 10-16% of all cases. Much higher rates are estimated in dogs not receiving immediate medical intervention. 22% to 24% of giant and large-breed dogs will develop bloat or GDV during their lifetime. 42% of all Great Danes will likely experience GDV. This is a serious problem.
Let’s start with the hypothesis that dry food causes bloat. Some have postulated that dry food contributes to proliferation of the bacterium C. perfringens that could be responsible for stomach gas formation. Scientists have sampled the gas from bloat victims and found it to be mainly air, not a fermentation gas of bacteria. Others suggest that dry food slows stomach emptying, increasing the odds of bloat and stomach torsion. A study comparing canned meat-based and dry cereal diets found no significant difference in the amount of time it took food to exit the stomach. According to current research, feeding a dog dry food doesn’t seem to increase or decrease the likelihood of GDV. In fact, moistening dry food appears to have no benefit in reducing the risk of GDV.
A food with fat or oil (vegetable or animal) listed in the first four ingredients does seem to increase the risk of GDV. The authors of that study propose that high-fat diets slow stomach-emptying
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Dr. Ernie Ward, "America's Pet Advocate," has been helping pets and the people who love them for over 20 years as a practicing veterinarian, media personality, and author. He is one of the founders of the Pet Health Network veterinary team in 2012 and is committed to improving the lifestyles, longevity and happiness of companion animals and their families.