Alaskan Malamutes are a very large dog breed with deep chest cavities that help to give them the wolf-like appearance we all love. Unfortunately, it also makes them more susceptible to a potentially life-threatening problem – canine bloat.
As an owner there are several precautionary measures you can take to help prevent canine bloat in your Malamute. These lifestyle changes are worth the extra effort to make sure your gentle giant lives a long and happy life – and to avoid unnecessary vet bills!
WHAT IS CANINE BLOAT?
Canine bloat, commonly referred to as just ‘bloat’, is a rapidly life-threatening condition that must be treated as an emergency. Bloat is caused by a dog’s stomach filling with gas causing it to twist and contort in a way that cuts off the blood supply to the digestive system, preventing the gas and any stomach contents from leaving.
Bloat can also affect other nearby organs, often the spleen which may twist and lose circulation, and may cause vital veins to become obstructed in a dog’s spine leading to blood being unable to travel back to the heart. If left untreated, bloat can quickly lead to a dog going into shock causing potential organ shutdown and ultimately death.
As you can imagine, bloat is extremely painful for a dog to experience and without medical intervention, it can kill within hours. It can affect any dog but large, deep-chested breeds such as the Malamute are at a greater risk. Even though bloat occurs rarely, every dog owner must be aware of the symptoms and the severity of the condition so they can act fast in an emergency.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF BLOAT?
The symptoms of canine bloat will involve one or more of the following:
- Retching with no vomit
- A hard, swollen belly
- Tenderness in the abdomen when touched
- Excessive panting
- General signs of distress and restlessness
Symptoms can onset very quickly. If you suspect your dog has bloat you must contact your vet immediately.
HOW CAN YOU PREVENT CANINE BLOAT IN YOUR ALASKAN MALAMUTE?
Bloat can not be entirely prevented as it’s still unknown what exactly causes it. Don’t worry though, there has been research which suggests a few lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of your dog getting it.
This list talks you through our five recommendations for keeping your Malamute healthy during mealtimes.
1. KEEP FOOD AND WATER DISHES ON THE GROUND
This one is often debated by Malamute owners as elevated food dishes have great benefits for larger breeds to prevent strain on their necks during eating. Unfortunately, research suggests that eating food at a higher stance will cause your Malamute to ingest more excess air with their meal compared to those who eat from ground level.
As bloat is caused by excess gas in the stomach, it should be no surprise that the amount of air that is swallowed whilst eating should be minimised wherever possible.
We understand the benefits of using elevated food bowls and still personally advocate for them, particularly with elderly Malamutes. As with everything in life, finding a balance is important and it’s down to you to make the best decision for your Malamute’s situation.
2. EXERCISE BEFORE OR LONG AFTER FEEDING TIME
We all know that Malamutes require a lot of exercise but did you know that the time you exercise them may impact their health?
In the same way that you probably wouldn’t go on a run after stuffing yourself with a three-course meal, your Malamute needs time to let their food settle in their stomach. Exercising them too soon after they’ve eaten has been shown to increase the risk of your Malamute getting bloat.
You should wait at least an hour after they’ve had their meal to take them for their exercise, or ideally get it done before they eat. This may mean adjusting your routine slightly but it’s worth it to reduce the risk of bloat for Malamute.
3. STICK TO THE SAME FOOD
Don’t trust the saying ‘variety is the spice of life’ – when it comes to preventing bloat it’s best to stay consistent! You might think that by changing up their food frequently you’re stopping them from getting bored and doing them a favour. After all, to us humans the thought of eating the same meal twice a day for years on end is not a pleasant one.
In reality, giving your Malamute food that they are unaccustomed to can upset their stomach and lead to them producing excess gases. Most of the time this simply results in some smelly expulsions.
It’s perfectly fine to change their food every once in a while if they become picky towards their current brand. It is not recommended, however, to change their food brand simply because you think they might be bored.
If you’re still insistent, we suggest looking for other flavours of the same food as the ingredients and composition differences should be similar enough to not cause any upset.
Trust us when we say that if you’ve found a food brand that your Malamute likes, they will usually be more than happy to continue eating it for as long as you’ll provide it. In fact, we’ve known Malamutes to eat the same brand of food their entire lives. Sticking to the same food is not only convenient for you but also keeps your Malamute’s stomach at ease.
4. AVOID GIVING THEM HUMAN FOOD
This follows on from the last point – feeding your Malamute human food is not a good idea if you’re looking to avoid bloat.
What we’re referring to here is treating them with scraps or leftovers of your own food. It may seem like we’re stating the obvious, but a dog’s stomach is not designed to tackle the same foods that we are. Giving them treats may end up doing more harm than good.
Feeding your Malamute foods they are not used to can lead to excessive gas being produced and this is especially true for human foods. Our food usually contains higher sugar and salt levels than what your Malamute’s stomach can handle and does not react well in a dog’s stomach. Any treats you give your Malamute should be specifically made for dogs and should be given in moderation.
5. SLOW DOWN THEIR EATING
Here’s the big one – making your Malamute eat their meals slower. Malamutes are undeniably food lovers and it can still surprise us how quickly their food disappears. Unfortunately, dogs that eat fast are five times more likely to get bloat than slower eaters.
It may seem impossible to slow your Malamute down but there are a few tricks that we’ve tried and love. The first is to invest in a slow feeder bowl (shown above). These can usually be bought for around $15 (£12) and are dog bowls that have structures or mazes protruding from the bottom. The food can still be easily accessed but it will take your Malamute a little more time to reach it all and forces them to eat smaller mouthfuls.
If you looking for a cheaper alternative, simply placing a large stone in the middle of your dog’s bowl is equally as good. It once again forces your Malamute to take smaller mouthfuls as they need to eat around it. Just make sure you give it a good clean and double-check no small parts can easily break off of it!
Canine bloat is no joke and must be acted upon quickly to avoid the worst. Implementing these lifestyle changes can reduce the chance of your Malamute getting it but educating yourself on the symptoms to look out for is one of the best things you can do for them.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us here.
We want to see your Malamutes! Send in your photos to firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured in our gallery.