What Causes Bloat and How Can It Be Prevented? Typically, dogs with deep and narrow chests are said to be more at risk, but even small dogs, such as Dachshunds and Chihuahuas, can be affected by bloat. (The depth-to-width ratio of a dog's chest represents the amount of room for stomach movement in the abdomen, behind the ribcage.) Bloat can occur in dogs of any age or breed, although it usually is found in dogs over the age of seven. It's important to note that not all cases of bloat happen in the same way and bloat occurs as a combination of factors. There are several known causes of bloat, including risk factors relating to stress, eating and exercise habits, heredity, behavioral traits, build and disposition. A dog with a first-degree relative that has bloated is considered more at risk for bloat. Male dogs seem to suffer from bloat more often than female dogs. Spaying and neutering does not appear to affect the risk of bloat. Diet composition is key in avoiding bloat. A dog's mealtime environment should be stress-free and as peaceful as possible. Discuss with your veterinarian the types of food your dog should eat, (e.g. dry versus moist, raw meat, fiber, etc.) as well as specific ingredients to use or avoid (e.g. protein, fat, acids, carbohydrates, etc.). Every dog is different and should be evaluated individually regarding specific diet needs and his risk of bloat. Dogs fed only once a day - as opposed to multiple small meals - are said to increase their risk of bloat. And, dogs that eat too quickly or exercise too vigorously or too soon after a meal might also be more at risk. Discuss with your veterinarian your dog's breed characteristics and predisposition to bloat, as well as how many meals (and what portion size) he should have each day, and the specific recommendations for his exercise regimen. In addition, some veterinarians believe that there are higher risks of bloat when certain sizes and types of dogs use elevated feeding bowls, while others disagree. Ask your veterinarian about this issue and whether or not floor level or elevated feeding bowls are appropriate for your dog. Prevention is always preferable to treatment. Avoid situations that can create anxiety and allow your dog access to fresh water at all times. Some veterinarians suggest that owners of 'susceptible' dogs keep a product on hand containing simethicone to slow gas, if bloat should occur and to 'buy more time' to get to the clinic. A supplement of acidophilus is said to promote 'friendly' bacteria in canine intestines which prevents the fermentation of carbohydrates that can cause gas and quickly lead to bloat. Be certain to discuss these options with your veterinarian. Know The Risks and Be Prepared Bloat is a serious, life-threatening emergency that can occur quickly. Talk with your veterinarian in advance about your dog's characteristics and chances of developing bloat -- and what steps you can take to avoid it. Veterinary costs for treating bloat can add up quickly and having pet insurance can help cover the financial expense. Become knowledgeable about the signs of bloat. If you suspect your dog has bloat, do not attempt home remedies and contact your veterinarian immediately, calling ahead so that the veterinary staff can prepare for your arrival. Understanding your own dog's risks, prevention, symptoms and the need for prompt treatment can help avoid the risk of death if your dog should suddenly develop bloat.