Nutrition: Is it Factor in Bloat and Torsion?
by Linda Arndt

Linda Arndt has been involved in breeding Great Danes for 25 years, having produced champions in both conformation and obedience. She is the author of "Watchword", a column published in The Great Dane Reporter as well as articles in The Great Dane Quarterly and other breed magazines, here and overseas. The primary focus of the column is canine nutrition and diseases plaguing the large and giant breeds.

Linda's breeding philosophy: "My primary concern as a professional breeder is the improvement and preservation of the breed through a "designed", limited breeding program with emphasis on temperament, intelligence, longevity and classical beauty." Also to her credit, Linda is an accomplished Artist and Professor of Fine Arts at Ball State University, where she teaches Structure/Design and chairs a major crafts program. Her porcelain works have been shown in national and international exhibitions, museums, galleries and public and private collections as well as represented in textbooks, documentary films and national television. Linda Arndt is also listed in "Who's Who of American Women" and "Who's Who of American Artists".

It has been some time since I have written an article, so before I discuss the topic of nutrition and its potential role in the cause and prevention of bloat and torsion, I would like to take this opportunity to pass on some other information that will be of interest.

I want to make breeders aware of a product that is helpful: "Liquid Chlorophyll"-100mg. I have found it to be extremely helpful in masking season and urine odors. For seasons I use 1 teaspoon in A.M. and P.M. feeding and I have found my males will continue to eat even when caged right next to a bitch in season. Do not, I repeat, do not trust putting the animals together or you may end up with a litter and, of course, don't use chlorophyll if you are intending to breed your bitch. It may interfere with the male's interest in your girl! I have found the liquid works much better than the capsules and it can be purchased from health food stores or contact: World Organics Corporation, P.O. Box 8207, Fountain Valley, California 92728. The cost is approximately $10.00 per pint which will last for more than one season.

There are herbal remedies available for prostate problems as well as to aid in the prevention of future problems. Several breeders have reported using these products on their males with great success. For information on the following products call: Prostata-Nutritional Support for Prostate Health 1-800-926-9601
Prosta-Max (Prod. 54-1602) 1-800-338-7979.

MSM (Nutritional Sulfur) is one of the nutrients I will discuss in this article and its potential relationship to bloat and torsion, but this nutrient has many other benefits too. I was working with a breeder that had a 12 week old puppy that appeared to be a wobbler, or had some growth problems, metabolic disorder or injury that has manifested itself in "wobbler-like" symptoms. MSM is frequently used for yearlings when there are growth problems present. We have noticed the adoption of MSM (Nutritional Sulfur) to this animal's diet has made a considerable difference in simply 3 days and by six months of age everything was back to normal.

We have been using 1/4 teaspoon in A.M. and P.M. feedings and will continue along with Phyto-Sprout Plus for joint soreness, a product which I will be discussing in a future article. To order: 1-800-937-1104.

I would like to take a look at the potential role diets can play in these diseases. I refer to these as two separate diseases because we can have one without the other as well as spleen torsion. Of all my articles, this one is probably the most difficult to write because of the painful subject matter. The topic of bloat and/or torsion conjures up a multitude of feelings for any individual who has had first hand experience with these terrifying diseases. The feelings of frustration and helplessness are only compounded by the fact that there has been no new research information on the cause or prevention of these diseases. We have been told to watch the consumption of water, particularly after exercise and to soak food before feeding (which can destroy nutrients and actually cause fermentation). Then we have the controversy over the use of beet pulp as well as the concern regarding extruded versus pelletized foods. Frankly, I am not sure, in the final analysis, how much any of these concerns have to do with the cause and prevention of bloat and torsion. Therefore, I would like to offer another viewpoint for you to consider.

For the past 25 years research has been looking at these diseases, as well as other health issues, through old paradigms (models) and with no input from the professional breeders and their practical experience. In spite of the thousands of dollars donated to the Morris Foundation, we are no further ahead in solving these problems. I believe there must be input and dialogue between the research and professional breeders. Gathering data, after the fact, really does little in addressing the cause or prevention and thus calls for a more creative approach to solving these dreaded diseases.

It has been my ongoing personal investigation into nutritionally caused diseases that has led me to question our approach to bloat and torsion. It is important to understand what I am about to discuss is only my opinion, based on 22 years of experience in this breed, personal nutritional investigation and information on health issues shared by researchers, nutritionists and thousands of other breeders.

I believe there are things we can do nutritionally to narrow our chances of having bloat and torsion. I have found it very interesting to see a significant drop in the number of incidents of bloat and torsion over the past few years in my animals and animals of my friends and breeders across the country. Understand, I am not guaranteeing if you follow the program I choose to use that you will never have a case of bloat, torsion or spleen torsion. There is no such thing as a guarantee, but I feel this is a healthy step in the right direction.

I lost my first Dane to bloat/torsion over twenty years ago and it changed my life and the way I view these dogs. I now realize they are extremely fragile and every day with us is a gift. I have learned to love the breed as a whole because of this fragility and not a day goes by that I don't think about bloat and torsion especially when I leave the house. My whole life's schedule is geared around my dogs and would not think of traveling to a dog show without a bloat kit. (To purchase a bloat kit call "The Farmacy" 1-800-733-4981.)

It has been my experience that the number of incidents of bloat/torsion have dropped dramatically over the past few years probably due to better quality meat based foods and the incorporation of whole foods, probiotics and digestive enzymes into the diet. I base this comment on the fact that I have had very few calls regarding bloat and torsion in 4+ years. Before that, I would average 2-3 calls for assistance per week. It is because of this experience and my interest in the prevention of disease through quality nutrition that has made me consider taking a closer look at the effects diet can have on the cause and prevention of bloat and torsion.

It is no news that most breeders and research people believe these diseases have multi-factorial causes:
- stress - obvious or hidden signs
- physiological stress
- psychological stress
- genetic considerations
- environmental factors

I would like to list some other elements, seldom considered, that need to be addressed as potential factors in the cause of these diseases:
- temperament - sensitivities to sound, light, movement
- pH balance - the effect on a system when the pH balance is off
- dietary influences - on pH balance of animals' electrical system
- dietary influences - overuse of vitamins/minerals
- dietary influences - inadequacies or missing nutrients, such as:
- probiotics - friendly bacteria
- digestive enzymes
- sulfur
- micro-minerals
- anti-oxidant vitamins
- anti-oxidant enzymes

It is my opinion the disease of bloat/torsion manifests itself when the animal is under stress due to many factors. Sometimes the stress is external and obvious and other times it is internal and goes unnoticed. Bloat and torsion may appear to be triggered by one event when in reality it is a condition that has been building due to a number of circumstances. I believe the disease is multi-factored and is in response to a chronic deterioration of a total system affected by environmental, dietary, psychological, physiological factors. These factors, singly or in combination, cause excessive wear on an animal's system, changes the pH balance and can encourage pathogenic bacteria growth causing bloat and alters the body's electrical and chemical balance which under the right conditions will cause stomach or spleen torsion.

It is important to look at solving this problem from a holistic viewpoint. Instead of looking for a single cause for these diseases, like excessive water intake or the size of the animal's chest, we must understand the total picture. "The parts are not greater than the whole" and, therefore, everything has a tremendous impact on the animal's total well-being.

Stress and the Effect on Bloat and Torsion
Stress drastically affects the body chemistry of any living organism and it alters the pH balance of the system. I believe this is an important factor in the cause of bloat and torsion. There has certainly been enough scientific research done to prove when an organism responds in a negative way to stress. The results can be detrimental to one's health and well-being. Stress is not this thing, out there lurking. Stress in itself does not exist. It is instead the way in which an organism (you, me, the dogs) responds to certain situations or stimulus. Some of us and some dogs, due to genetics, body chemistry, nutrition and personality, seem to handle negative stress better than others. But as humans we can make a conscious choice as to how we are going to handle and reduce stress from our daily lives (exercise, diet, meditation, crying). But for our animals, this is an area seldom considered. Recognizing stress as a problem and altering their situation is determined only by how in tuned we are to their needs. Stress can effect the pH balance of an animal's system which in turn can set up an internal environment ideal for the fermentation of food and the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Exercise is important in the elimination of stress for humans as well as animals, and dogs that are kenneled and caged without adequate exercise for muscle/bone development as well as for psychological reasons (boredom and inertia) are primary candidates for these diseases. This is no different than when an individual retires, becomes inactive and succumbs to death far too early in life.

As humans, we also have choices when it comes to our dietary needs. We attend to those cravings and fulfill our dietary needs, unlike the dogs who are relegated to a boring diet of processed dead foods day in and day out for their entire life. They seldom have access to a variety of foods in order to compensate for nutrients lacking in a diet. The idea of feeding raw meat, eggs, fruit and vegetables to our animals has been taboo in our country for the past 25 years. In Europe, Australia and other parts of the world a natural raw diet has been an important part of the feeding program. It is interesting to me that breeders overseas believe there is a direct correlation between the increase of bloat/torsion, growth problems and other diseases when they have incorporated processed foods partially or totally into their feed program. This is an area worth researching, the comparison of European natural diets to our processed foods. (If you know of someone looking for a good doctoral dissertation on the relationship to disease in the giant breeds, put them in touch with me and I can point them in the direction of numerous breeders that can be of great help!)

We remove these animals from their natural environment, bring them into our homes as a family member and alter their life style to fit ours. (Yes, my grandma's dog loves to be covered up with my good down comforter.) These are some of the areas in which animals may respond in a stressful manner because of being subjected to certain conditions that are not really suited for four legged friends: sudden changes in diet after being fed the same thing daily; use and over-use of antibiotics; emotional trauma; psychological stress; ingestion of chemicals in food or water (chlorine, preservatives, nitrites, etc.); pollution; excessive noise; travel; boarding; breeding; showing; shipping; changes in environment; exposure to continual artificial light; disease; excessive inoculations; medications; loss/death or abandonment; and personal changes in their habits such as removal or changes in crates, toys, feeding stations, family upheaval and various other changes too numerous to mention. Some animals are able to handle stressful situations while others are not and I suspect the animal who is hypersensitive and internalizes stress is a primary candidate for bloat and torsion. If our animals are able to "work" or to "function" in a more natural way, and this means exercise and not being caged or kenneled the majority of their lives, this would help expend pent up energy and to manage stress.

When we limit our gene pool to specific kennel names, bloodlines, color families as well as remaining within each specific breed, this prevents us from maintaining hybrid vigor. It maximizes our chances for doubling on negative traits with the increased potential for animals that are more sensitive to stimulus (light, sound, movement) and affect the total physiological system (body functions) and their psychological system (mental/behavioral functions).

In the past 10+ years I have observed a deterioration in the correct reliable and stable temperament of our breed. Because breeders have bred for that "up" dog with an edge, the current generation of breeders think this is correct and normal for this breed! Any more we have a great deal of noise, light, movement sensitivity, dog aggressiveness and appetite problems in this breed and this is not correct temperament. I believe it is imperative that we choose only temperamentally sound animals for breeding stock in order to increase our chances of producing generations of animals are more stable, trainable, reliable, intelligent and above all flexible and able to handle stress. Younger breeders need to look at the whole picture and realize they may have to undo, for the sake of the breed, what breeders of my generation have done for the sake of the show ring.

Dietary Concerns
Diet and its effect on bloat and torsion is the main focus of this article. The processed commercial foods are an area I will continue to address as a cause for many of our current health problems. The commercial dog food industry is relatively young and has developed because of a financial need to utilize foods that are substandard for human consumption. The industry needs to take a closer look at the nutritional requirements, feeding habits and patterns of the dogs/cats in order to help eliminate some of our current food related health problems.

The research done by F. Pottenger, M.D. in his book "The Pottenger's Cats - A Study in Nutrition" is a fascinating look at a controlled study of cats fed raw versus cooked foods. This study detailed clinical and pathological findings in cats as well as humans which provided convincing evidence that processed foods are a modern day villain. The book includes several photos of animals and human dentition (teeth), showing the actual difference in those eating a modern processed diet to those of isolated cultures where whole raw foods are the natural diet. There are actual physical changes in jaw structure with teeth overlapping and decay present in individuals raised on modern processed diets.

I believe there is a direct correlation between the lack of whole, fresh, raw foods in our animals' diet and the problems of bloat, torsion, disease, short life span, fertility and numerous degenerative diseases. The vast majority of the problems we have been told are genetic are actually the result of feeding inadequate, incomplete, inferior grade, processed, fractionated, synthetic, hormone raised and pesticide ridden food stuffs to our animals and ourselves.

We have come to use a commercial processed diet in a matter of a few short years, yet our animal's dentition (teeth) and digestive process have not evolved slowly or had ample time to catch up being fed a processed commercial food. Just take a look at those teeth. They are still waiting to tear, chew and saw for survival. It is no wonder doggie dentistry is a fast growing business these past few years. Some companies even have a dog food that removes tartar!

There are a handful of commercial dog food companies that are visionary and are working to add back to the diet those important missing components. I commend the Eagle, Wysong, Nutra, Innova, Martin, Solid Gold Companies to name a few who have worked to incorporate some of these "life supporting" missing components into their products and pride themselves in working with professional breeders in the improvement of these feeds.

In my previous articles ("Vegetable Soup" and "Blackwatch Feed Program", for a copy send SASE-4 stamps) I have discussed in great detail the fact that heating and processing of food stuffs kills or alters the "living" elements normally found in fresh raw whole foods. Therefore, dog food companies spray vitamins, minerals, amino acids back onto the dog food after processing and before bagging.

Most of the vitamins are synthetic and minerals are in such crude forms the animals cannot use them. (Example: milk and chalk are both calcium sources. Milk is a usable form derived from a whole food but chalk is a mined mineral and not a very usable form of calcium because it is not from a food). Then there is the even greater issue of getting each of these synthetic and mined nutrients from separate sources and mixing them together and thinking they will work together like they do when found in a natural state. Wrong! When we extract the part from the whole it is not the same.

I believe the following nutrients can be most critical in helping to prevent bloat and torsion and are often disregarded by the majority of nutritionists, veterinarians, physicians and of course dog food manufacturers.
- probiotics (friendly bacteria yogurt type cultures)
- digestive enzymes
- antioxidants vitamins (Vit C)
- sulfur
- micronutrients (64 trace minerals)

Torsion: Could it be an Electrical Short Circuit?
Could torsion be the result of an electrical problem within the body? Let's consider this possibility. First of all, 95% of the body's activities are run by minerals. As you sit there reading this article, you exude 11 million kilowatt hours per pound (some of us more) and if they could harness us we could fuel a large industrial city for a week!

Minerals are what spark our body's electrons and they are absolutely critical in the diet because they affect the electrical impulses and the body chemistry. Did you get that? Minerals are what effect the electrical impulses and the body chemistry.

As owners, we are told to feed our animals the same processed, pre-packaged food day in and day out. We have all seen the television ad from a large well known company that promotes this idea in selling their product. "Why, everything they will ever need is included in this one package." Of course, this short sighted theory assumes we all have the same dietary needs.

When an animal is not part of the food selection process and not allowed to hunt and scavenge, how can special dietary needs and cravings be addressed? The best example is the mineral and micronutrient issue, particularly the micronutrients. There have been no minimum or maximum determined for most of the minerals and micronutrients. Therefore, these components are simply "overlooked" or disregarded as being unimportant in a diet. However, it is these "essential" minerals and microminerals that are the nutrients necessary to run the body's electrical and chemical system!

Although minerals were at one time abundant in our soil and transmitted into grains, fruits, grasses and vegetables, modern farming practices have depleted soils of these minerals. Herbicides, pesticides and mechanical leaching and intensive farming has leached minerals from the soil. We must then go to another source for high quality minerals, such as the cereal grasses and marine plants. Yes, kelp is good to use but is like a weed compared to seaweeds and blue green algae.

A Part of the Solution: Diet
In my previous articles and my lecture at the National I addressed the way in which I have incorporated whole food nutrients into the diet without significantly changing the protein/calorie content or disrupting the balance of the commercial food. I use the following products in small amounts to help accomplish this goal. It allows me to fill in the potential holes in the diet with a minimum of effort.

"Daily Greens Plus"
- probiotics-friendly bacteria
- digestive enzymes
- vitamin C - non-acid type (fruits)
- cereal grasses - (veggies)

- nutritional sulfur
Important part in maintaining the electrical system.

"Source" (SBGA blue green algae) Lyn @ 603-668-8157
- micronutrients - 64 trace elements from marine plants
Essential for normal growth and development and maintaining body chemistry and electricity.
Then if your schedule permits I suggest incorporating some fresh fruits, vegetables and raw meat into their diet on occasion.
To order these three products: 1-800-937-1104

Part of the Solution: Sulfur/Microminerals
I want to focus on the element of sulfur for a moment because I am astonished no one has looked at this potential connection to the problem of torsion. Sulfur is one of these critical nutrients yet is almost discounted by dog food companies, nutritionists and veterinarians. I believe nutritional sulfur, which can be obtained in a product called MSM, and the micronutrient minerals from marine plant, which can be obtained in a product called Source, may very well play an important role in the prevention of bloat and torsion.

There may be a possible connection between bloat and torsion and inadequate amounts of or an absence of sulfur and micronutrients in the processed canine diet. This one mineral, sulfur, is of such great importance in body electricity and chemistry that I feel is an important piece to this whole picture. Most dog foods are low or absent in sulfur content in the nutritional assay and if they do put it back in the food it is in an amino acid supplementation. This mineral is really given no importance in light of the whole health picture yet here is some information about sulfur you will find very interesting.

Sulfur is a mineral and has the same toxicity as water. There is practically no research done on sulfur and nothing is assigned as minimum or maximum requirements by nutritional standards. The National Research Council (NRC) and Affco does not even list it as a nutritional requirement for the dogs/cats. You will not find sulfur in the vitamins you purchase either. Sulfur is fragile and lost during heat and processing.

Sulfur is important for the following functions:
- electrical impulses
- overall body chemistry and balance
- tissue respiration
- regulating growth patterns
- protein and connective tissue (hips/elbows)
- developing collagen (hips/elbows)
- making bone
- metabolism
- fertility

Now if that isn't enough, where do you think sulfur is normally found in abundant raw meat! Yes, you heard me right, raw meat. Something we no longer feed unless we live in Europe, England, Australia and now many breeders in those countries have switched to processed foods. Sulfur is found in protein containing foods and in eggs, green vegetables, cereal grasses (barley, wheat, rye, grasses), alfalfa and fresh grasses (like the ones they tend to graze on in the yard, crab grass and young ragweed leaves, seaweeds and algaes), all things missing from most commercial diets.

Another interesting fact, nutritional sulfur (MSM) is used in horses to correct epiphyiutis, their equivalent to H.O.D. in over-fed yearlings, as well as in spondolysis and nutritional wobblers. Previously I discussed my recent experience working with another breeder and using MSM on a young puppy with wobbler-like symptoms. They saw a considerable improvement in just a few days.
It was explained to me that farm animals bloat when they consume a diet too rich in nitrogen in relation to the amount of sulfur in their diet.

Grains/cereal products are high in nitrogen and ferment quickly and raw meats are high in sulfur.

Consider this:
- Is it possible the relationship of grains to meat in a diet or how they are prepared sets
up a condition which may promote bloating?
- Why were the cases of bloat more frequent 10-15 years ago, when most of the foods
were grain based?
- Is this why dogs raised on a more natural diet of raw meats, tripe, innards and less
grains, as in European countries, are less apt to bloat?

I believe one of the reasons we see less bloat and torsion these past few years is because dog foods are improving foods by going to a meat-based food. The old-timers will remember one particular "yellow" grain based food, the one that went in "yellow" and came out "yellow", and seemed to sour and ferment within a matter of minutes if left standing with water on the food.

Part of the Solution: Probiotics/Digestive Enzymes
Probiotic (pro-life) are microorganisms and probiotics are the opposite of antibiotics (anti-life). Over time man and microbes have reached an intricate state of coexistence on this planet and on and in our bodies. In fact, all warm-blooded animals are profoundly dependent on the microbial world. Despite the inclination to regard microorganisms as the enemy, the essential truth is the majority of these "life forms" favor co-habitation and cooperation, not conflict. While some microorganisms (bacteria) are bad or "pathogenic bacteria", other microorganisms are considered good bacteria and play a very beneficial role in maintaining health, particularly in the digestive tract and by boosting the immune system. These good bacteria also inhibit bad bacteria growth and decreasing the amount of time necessary for recovery from disease. These good bacteria are called probiotics.

These are some examples of common probiotics found to enhance health and nutrition.
- Lactobacillus acidophilus
- Lactobacillus lactis
- Bifidobacterium bifidum
- Streptococcus faecium

I believe we will soon see a decrease in the excessive use of antibiotics which tend to be non-selective and kill both bad and good bacteria. Those of you who have had fever blisters, cold sores, diarrhea, or yeast infections after antibiotic therapy no doubt experienced this problem. Using probiotics simulatenously with antibiotics and continuing to use them for at least a week to ten days after you have run your course of antibiotics will help to re-establish the system with beneficial bacteria and can help prevent or lessen the time in which you have these negative effects from antibiotics. This is true in animals and a little extra added to the diet daily, over and above your normal dosage of the Daily Greens Plus, is very helpful in reestablishing the system.

One current example of this particular use of probiotics (good bacteria) in fighting pathogenic (bad) bacteria was that of the E. coli scare from the "Jack-in-The-Box" food poisoning incident in California. Some of the individuals were given a very high powered "probiotic" in order to fight off the potential effects of the deadly bad bacteria found present in the contaminated meat.

(Probiotics) are often referred to by several names:
- good bacteria
- friendly bacteria
- yogurt type cultures
- good intestinal flora

Probiotics (good bacteria) should be ever present and in good balance within our system and in the digestive tract (humans and animals). But when an organic system responds in a negative way to stress, this can alter the pH balance of the body which can have a powerful negative effect by killing off good bacteria in the digestive tract which frequently leads to diarrhea. This negative change in a system can also set up an environment that promotes the growth of bad (pathogenic) bacteria.

Poor quality diet is another factor in the wearing down of a system. If an animal's digestive system has to work over-time processing foods it is very hard on the system plus the continuous feeding of poor quality, processed foods only adds to an overall breakdown in health and well-being.

The canine intestines are short and meant to process primarily meat. A cereal-based diet is more difficult to digest, takes longer to go through a system and tends to ferment quickly. This sets the stage for a condition which helps promote the growth of bad bacteria and may increase the risk of bloating. Hydrochloric acid is necessary for proper canine digestion but I have observed that dogs do not drool over cereal based foods like they do over meat-based or raw meat diets. I suspect this limited amount of hydrochloric acid being produced by the animal when fed cereal-based foods may also contribute to this build up of gases in bloat.

Maintaining a slightly acid system in these animals is very important to digestion as well as a quality diet. In addition, you can use a squirt of apple cider vinegar in the daily water which helps maintain this balance.

I choose to use the Daily Greens Plus, which in my opinion, has numerous benefits in helping to minimize our chances of bloat. This probiotic/digestive enzyme plus vitamin C and vegetation in the form of cereal grasses are important to my animals because it:
- maintains good bacteria growth
- replaces good bacteria that is lost
- helps maintain the proper pH balance
- keeps pathogenic bacteria in check
- increases utilization of food/nutrients
- helps to boost the immune system

I keep on hand a variety of forms of probiotics. It comes in a paste which I use for new puppies or during emergencies. Because it is not necessary to keep the paste refrigerated, it can be carried in a grooming bag or purse for traveling and dog shows. I use probiotics daily in the form of the Daily Greens Plus and I also keep plain probiotics on hand in the form of "Probiotic Power Pack" or "Fasttrack" which can be mixed in water and put down a tube if an animal has bloated. You can use 1/3 cup mixed in a cup or more of tepid temperature water or any liquid you can get your hands on and dump it down the tube. If there is considerable foam present dump a cup or more of grapefruit juice down the tube to break up the foam--plus it makes the system acid again and then follow up with the probiotic mixture. This buys you time until you can get to the vet. This past summer my partners, the Bennetts, saved the life of one of the top producing collies who was exhibiting at our local summer show. By tubing and using the grapefruit juice and probiotics, they were able to buy enough time to get the dog into surgery thus saving the life of this valuable and loved animal. We carry a bloat kit with us at all times plus grapefruit juice, paste probiotics in a tube and powder probiotics in a dark container.

Beet Pulp - Does it Have a Role in Bloat?


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