Rhodesian ridgeback fans know that their favorite breed is pretty lucky in the inherited disease department. Rhodies don't suffer from many genetic diseases compared to other breeds, but their body shape predisposes them to bloat. That's always a life-threatening emergency, so take your dog to the vet immediately.
Your African lion hound, another name for your Rhodesian ridgeback, loves to eat. He might not look like a chow hound with his long, lean body, but food is always on his mind. Deep-chested large breeds like the Rhodesian ridgeback are more prone to bloat, clinically known as gastric dilatation, meaning a stomach full of gas. If your Rhodie has a relative who's prone to bloat, take extra precautions. Preventive measures include feeding your dog several small meals daily rather than one big meal, along with not feeding your dog for a couple of hours before or after vigorous exercise. Don't use a raised food bowl. After exercise, limit the amount of water your dog drinks at one time, as copious water drinking might also lead to bloat. Since running is probably your Rhodie's favorite activity (after eating), you'll have your work cut out for you, but the life of your beloved dog could be at stake.
Bloat, in addition to being uncomfortable, can proceed to gastric torsion or volvulus. The overfull stomach twists, cutting off blood flow to your dog's organs. A twist of up to 180 degrees is called torsion, and a greater twist is called volvulus. Necrosis, or tissue death, results quickly in either case. This is a life-threatening condition.
Bloat comes on suddenly. Your dog seems fine one minute, but a few minutes later he's in serious pain and could be at death's door. Signs of bloat include restlessness, trying to vomit with nothing coming up, stomach distention, excessive salivating and obvious pain. VeterinaryPartner.com rightly calls bloat "The Mother of All Emergencies" and without prompt treatment your dog will die. Even dogs who get to the emergency veterinary hospital quickly might not come home.
If bloat is at the dilatation stage, the vet can pass a tube into the stomach through the mouth. Fluids and air rush out, giving the dog relief. The vet will wash out your dog's stomach and keep him in the hospital for a couple of days.
If he's twisted, only surgery can save him. Because dogs that bloat once might do it again, your vet will probably perform a procedure known as stomach tacking after repositioning the organ, so that it can't twist in the future. If you're having your female Rhodie spayed, ask your vet if it's possible to do a stomach tacking at the same time, as a preventive measure. In addition to the life-threatening nature of bloat, Rhodies are also sensitive to certain anesthetics; doubling up on surgery when you can is a good idea.
- Vetstreet: What You Need to Know About Rhodesian Ridgeback Health
- Embrace Pet Insurance: Rhodesian Ridgebacks
- Rhodesian Ridgeback Pedigree Search: Inherited Conditions in the Rhodesian Ridgeback
- VeterinaryPartner.com: Bloat—The Mother of All Emergencies
- WebMD: Gastric Volvulus (Bloat) in Dogs: A Life Threatening Emergency
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.