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August 26, 2021 – Thanks for tagging along on our virtual National Dog Day journey and helping dogs coast to coast live their best lives! Our next stop is Medford, Massachusetts, where Tufts University researchers are studying gastric dilatation-volvulus, commonly known as bloat, to help owners and veterinarians better navigate this scary health emergency.

Bloat occurs when gas suddenly builds up in a dog’s stomach, causing the stomach to flip and/or twist. As you can imagine, this is a very painful condition and the twisting action cuts off blood supply to organs, including the stomach and nearby spleen. Without treatment, affected dogs rapidly go into shock, leading to multiple organ dysfunction and even death. The best hope of survival is prompt emergency treatment.

Owners with large, deep-chested breeds, including Great Danes, German shepherds, Labrador retrievers and Doberman pinschers, need to be extra vigilant. However, all sizes of deep-chested dogs, including dachshunds and Bassett hounds, can bloat.

Although tremendous improvements in treatment have improved the odds of dogs surviving an episode of bloat (80-85% of dogs survive with prompt emergency treatment), researchers at Cummings School of Medicine at Tufts University felt they could do better.

The team knew that if they could detect the serious complications of bloat early, they’d have a better chance of saving these patients. They first noted that blood clotting problems were a key feature of dogs that didn’t survive – and surprisingly, they found these abnormalities were present when the dogs first hit the emergency room door!

The team also looked at blood measures of heart function (using similar tests to those used in people in cases of suspected heart attack). Together, clotting and cardiac findings are helping to identify why some dogs do well following aggressive treatment and why some do not.

Perhaps most importantly, the team found that older dogs had an equal chance of surviving as younger dogs – meaning that age was not a negative predictor of outcome!

These findings are helping veterinarians do a better job treating dogs with bloat, which translates to hundreds of lives saved. Well done, team!

Listen to our Fresh Scoop podcast, "Beating Bloat in Dogs," featuring Dr. Elizabeth Rozanski, lead investigator of our funded bloat studies at Tufts University. Or visit our website to learn more about the 100+ dog health studies we currently support with the help of dog lovers like you.