What is dog bloat, and how to prevent it from happening

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Let me just tell you that bloat is my biggest fear as a dog owner.

Bloat might not seem like a big deal to humans, but it can be deadly to large or deep-chested dogs. An emergency vet explained me that a dog's stomach hangs like a hammock, and when a large amount of gas is sitting in the abdomen it can cause the entire stomach to twist. When this happens, the blood and oxygen supply is cut off and dogs can die within minutes. Unfortunately, many people don't take their dogs to the vet until the stomach has already flipped and it's too late. I wrote about some tips and signs to look for since I went through this scare with Boomer a few months ago.

 

Causes

No one really knows the exact causes, but we have somewhat of an idea on what triggers it. We know it mainly happens in large dogs, especially those with deep chests like Great Danes. We also know it can happen if your dog drinks too much water too quickly. It can also happen if you feed your dog foods with ingredients like citric acid and add water. Intense exercise too soon before or after a meal may also cause it. I avoid all of these scenarios to prevent it, just in case. 

 

How to prevent it

Sadly, you can never truly prevent bloat, I learned that from my experience with Boomer. But, you should monitor your dog's water intake as much as possible. Read your dog food ingredient list and make sure there are no citric acids if you normally like to add water to the food. This causes strong acids in the stomach that create gas. Most importantly, never feed your dog 1 or 2 hours before or after exercising them. 

 

Signs

In the very beginning stages, your dog's stomach may make loud gurgling noises, like a human's stomach when you're hungry. I could hear Boomer's stomach from across the room. At this point, give your pup some Gas X pills (3 - 4 pills should work, they can't overdose on these), and take them on a long, but slow, walk to encourage the gas to travel out of the stomach. Do this about every half hour for several hours. We had to do this once for Boomer after he got x-rays and his stomach (luckily) did not flip, every time he burped or farted I was so relieved lol!

*If your dog starts retching, or looking like he's trying to vomit but nothing comes out, IMMEDIATELY take him to the vet - preferably a hospital so they can do surgery, if necessary. Also take them if they look uncomfortable or are pacing. At this point the vet will want to take x-rays to see if the stomach has flipped and if surgery is needed. 

Once the stomach flips, it swells like a balloon because of the trapped gasses. These photos aren't pretty, but I want to make sure you have a visual of what the symptoms look like. I kept thinking Boomer's stomach look bloated, but the vet said it did not and that it would look like he swallowed a watermelon if it was. If you haven't taken your dog to the vet by this point, you must go when their stomach is visibly enlarged like this! 

Bloated belly:

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Why you shouldn't pick a breed just for looks

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 Left: Dalmatian, Right: Siberian Husky

Left: Dalmatian, Right: Siberian Husky

How gorgeous are Siberian Huskies with those big blue eyes? Or how unique are Dalmatians with all of their spots?

I know it's tempting to get a beautiful dog like a Husky or Dal for their looks, but so many people forget to consider breed temperament and needs when choosing a pet. 

A Husky and Dalmatian might look really cool when you're walking down the street, but are you able to physically and mentally exercise them to their specific needs every day? If not - be prepared for excessive barking, destructive chewing, stubbornness, and other naughty behaviors you won't want to deal with.

These are just two popular examples of breeds that owners usually pick for their looks, but there are so many other breeds (and rescue mixes!) out there than can still provide you with a loyal friend, even if they don't have spotted coats or blue eyes!

 

Be Realistic

Unless you are willing to mold yourself into the owner that a specific breed needs, let go of the aesthetic you like and admire them from afar instead. You must be honest with yourself and where you are at now as a dog owner - don't say you will start running once you get a specific breed, if you don't even run now and are somewhat of a couch potato. Instead, look for a dog who can be a couch potato with you - then you don't have to force yourself to exercise! And if you all of a sudden become an avid runner and you two happen to become fit together, even better!

 

Do research

Picking a breed takes a lot of research, but here are some fun places to start! These quizzes can give you a good starting point for which breeds to do even more research on past your results on these quizzes, and remember to be honest with where you are at now as an owner - rather than where you want to be. 

I took a handful of quizzes and these two seemed the most accurate and realistic regarding the questions asked and results!

Life factors you need to consider when picking out a dog

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It's always fun to get to pick out a puppy from a litter or bring home a rescue from the shelter, but new owners need to make sure they know what they are getting into. When an animal is in your care, they completely depend on you to provide for their every single need. It might seem like a fun idea to bring home a new pet, but there are some major questions you should ask yourself before doing so.

 

1. Do you work full-time?

Some breeds have the label "velcro dog", this means they love to be attached to your hip and want to know your every move. Dogs that love attention and companionship don't do well sitting at home alone for long periods of time. Breeds like Golden or Labrador Retrievers are a great example of velcro dogs. 

 

2. How much do you exercise?

Get a dog that matches your current fitness level, don't exaggerate or think about where you want to be in the future, that wouldn't be fair to do. Some dogs have exercising needs that are more than you can handle and it would be unfair to not provide them with that very important need. Always keep in mind, a tired dog is a happy and well-behaved dog. 

 

3. Do you have kids?

Some breeds don't care if you climb all over them like a jungle gym. While other breeds are very aloof and are not fans of being pulled or tugged at. The current age of your kids is important to consider when getting a dog. If you have a toddler running around, a breed like a Chow might not like their spaced invaded. Or if you have a teen who is on the cross country team, an active breed like a Siberian Husky might be a great running partner for them. 

 

4. What's your living space like?

Do you live in an apartment, house, or townhouse? The bigger the dog the more room they take up. Do you have a yard? Is it fenced? Some breeds, like Terriers, are notorious for digging and escaping yards. Is your home full of nice furniture and expensive art? In that case, a high-energy breed like a Pitbull might not be for you, maybe go for a smaller breed like a Pomeranian instead.

 

5. How much money do you want to spend?

Again, the bigger the dog the more space and costs. A dog bed for a Chihuahua vs. a Doberman will be incredibly cheaper. The same idea goes for their food, vet costs, toys, etc. 

 

6. DO you already own another dog?

You'll want to add a dog that gets along well with your current dog. But even more importantly, you'll want them to have similar needs. It's much easier when all of your pets have the similar exercise requirements. 

 

7. Will you provide mental stimulation?

All dogs absolutely need this! However, smart dogs like Border Collies and Poodles need it even more. A bored dog can cause more chaos and destruction than you can ever imagine. You can provide your dog with different types of puzzle toys and work on some short training sessions to keep them focused and out of trouble.

How to make long car rides more comfortable for your dog

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Did you know dogs can get car sick? And they can also feel an incredible amount of stress from being in a car for several hours?

Personally, my dogs don't enjoy being in the car, their behaviors immediately changes. Boomer gets very stressed; he drools excessively and his lower eyelids begin to droop from anxiety. Ruger paces around the back seat and can't sit still. I always feel bad for them since they seem so miserable, but I've learned some simple things to help make the car ride more comfortable.

 

1. Try over the counter medications

Give your pet regular Benadryl for car sickness. Your dog will excessively drool, whine, pant, or yawn if they are feeling motion sickness. If they show any of these signs, you can give them 1 mg/lb. at least 30 minutes before the car ride starts.

 

2. Use a natural method

Use CBD oil to help keep your dog relaxed and to alleviate nausea. I give 2 drops/lb. for each dog about an hour before they get in the car. I use the Bluebird Botanicals Classic formula that is for humans. Make sure the CBD oil you use only contains one "binder", such as hemp oil, and does not have unnecessary fillers that may be toxic to animals. You can also use a pet formula, if you prefer.

 

3. Keep them distracted

Try to give your dog a yummy bone to kill time and create a positive association with being in the car. Give them something they don't get often to make it even more special and enticing. Bully sticks or Himalayan salt chews are a great option that won't make a mess in the car. 

 

4. Don't take them if they don't need to go

Your pets don't necessarily need to ride with you everywhere you go. Unless it's a trip to the vet or a pet-friendly vacation, don't bring them on unnecessary car rides. You might think it's fun for them to always tag along, but if it causes them more harm than good they'll probably be happier at home!

How to dog-proof your home before your new bff comes

And by BFF I mean your new dog, obviously.

You want to make sure you bring them home to a safe environment where they won't get into trouble and create bad habits. Dog-proofing will help set your pet up for success and allow them to safely explore and settle into their new home.

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1. Put any breakables above head level

Move any breakables, such as glass pieces, above your dogs' head level when they are sitting. Anything made of fabric or a soft material they might be tempted to chew should be above head level when they are standing so they can't take from places like countertops.

 

2. Keep all food locked away

Put all human and animal food in locked containers or in closets/cabinets they can't easily get into. If you have medium/large dogs, don't leave anything on the counters either. You can buy all sorts of great containers for dog food that not only keep your pet out, but also keep the food fresh.

Here are a couple options from Amazon (these are not ads!): 

3. Put away prescription and Over The Counter medications

Even if they are meds meant for dogs! Put these not only above head level but also in something that properly closes or locks. We keep all medications in a small plastic drawer on a top shelf inside of a closet, the dogs couldn't reach it even if they tried!

 

4. cleaners should also be kept behind closed doors

Most household cleaning products are toxic and can easily kill a dog within a couple hours of enough consumption. Dogs don't know any better, so keep them safe by not leaving products open or left out for them to get into. For example, all of our cleaning products at home hang from a shoe holder on the door of our laundry room. 

 

5. Keep spaces open

Don't put furniture pieces in tight or narrow areas where a playful or excited dog could accidentally knock it over or get hurt. In general, try to keep your home free of clutter so your dog is less tempted to chew whatever they find on the floor. 

 

6. Check your plants

Whether you have an indoor or outdoor garden, keep everything out of reach! Keep indoor plants above head level and build a barrier or fence for your outdoor garden. Research if you have any toxic species that your pet might eat. Some common plants that are toxic to dogs include; several species of Peonies, Daisies, Aloe, and Palm Trees. Here is a complete list of toxic and nontoxic plants - click here.

Do these things to make sure your dog is drinking enough water

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Water is just as important to dogs as it is to us. It's hard to pay attention each time your dog takes a drink, so you may never know what their daily intake truly is. 

 

These are some quick and easy ways to make sure they're getting plenty of water throughout the day and staying hydrated!

 

1. Always keep water bowls full. This will encourage them to drink more.

2. Refill the water bowls at least three times a day. Dogs do not like to drink water if it is not fresh.

3. Have at least two water bowls in your home. Especially if you have a house with multiple levels. Keep one bowl on each level. 

4. Bring a portable water bowl (and water!) on outings. Even if you only go out for a couple of hours, stress/excitement is dehydrating.

5. Add water to their kibble. This is a really easy way to control their water intake.

Here's how to get an amazing photo of your dog

 
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I don't know about you... but this is a very hard task for me! 

You'd think with my blog that I'd be a master at taking photos of dogs! The issue is my boys hate having a camera pointed at them, they always  look away so they're absolutely no help. I've learned that they aren't naturals in front of the camera, and because of this I've had to figure out how to get them to look at me and hold a pose!

While I'm still learning all the time, I have a few tips and tricks I've picked up along the way!

 
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1. Bring a special treat

Always bring a very fragrant food that they rarely get to have. A great example is bacon or anything made with fish. Hold the treat to their nose so they can smell it and then pull it up to your face or above your head. You will be able to capture their full attention and you will be able to see the focus and excitement in their expressions.

 

2. Get their attention with noise

If your dog is toy motivated and can't resist the sound of a squeaker, use the noise to quickly get them to turn their head towards you. This will get great photos with their ears perked and eyes alert. If you don't have a squeaky toy, make some crazy noises! I've had people walking by turn their heads and laugh because of the noises I was making trying to get my dogs' attention! Do what you gotta do for a good photo!

 

3. Bring another human

An extra set of hands is so helpful! It's difficult to juggle a handful of leashes, treats, and a nice camera... especially while trying to get animals who don't speak your language to pose! Have that person hold a toy or treat directly behind you to get the dogs to look in your direction. 

 

4. USE a trick to make them stand still

A great one to teach is "watch" so they can make eye contact, or at least look in your general direction on cue. This is taught by holding a treat to your nose while using the command "watch" or whatever else you'd like. You can also use your pet's name so that they learn to look directly at you when you call them. And of course, every dog should know come and stay - especially if you're taking photos out in public!