WICANI: The home of happy collies!

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My personal thoughts on Bloat (GDV) 


Copyright:  Angela Harvey. April 3rd 2013.

When I bought Canadian Champion Glasgowhill With Pride his breeder was honest enough to tell me that his grand-sire Ch Glasgowhill Winning Ticket had died of bloat, and during the wait for Pride to arrive in England, the sire of Pride (Tickets son) also died of bloat naturally I was concerned about this. Pride was set to be the very first known CEA non carrier Rough Collie in the UK and he also brought with him fresh MHC so I felt the chance of him possibly bloating was worth the risk.  I actually thought the risk was small, mainly because i had no previous experience of bloat during 40 years of breeding and owning Rough Collies; and especially considering the bitches I planned to mate with him had no bloat in the pedigree at all, in fact bloat was pretty much unheard of in the entire English Collie population. I did not plan to double up on Pride in any pedigree until several generations had lapsed. The correct name for bloat is Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV)

Ch Glasgowhill Winning Ticket was a son of Ch Van-M That's the Ticket and Van-M Take a Gander and interestingly neither of these two Collies ever bloated. Atsa is now around 15-16 years of age and still alive. I believe that Gander died at the age of 12 or thereabouts and without ever bloating.

Pride's breeder Sandra Hamilton is convinced that 'Atsa' (Ch Van-M That's the Ticket) is to blame but I am not so certain. Ch Glasgowhill Winning Ticket was the first Dog to bloat in this short 'case history', I am told his litter brother also bloated, but none of his sisters. My first thought was could this be sex linked? Atsa himself hadn't bloated, nor had the mother 'Gander' or any of the female offspring from this pairing. I am in contact with the breeder of Atsa who assures me she has never suffered from bloat in her kennel, and i believe her. However, the fact remains that when the 7 year old Atsa was mated with Gander, two boys were born that did bloat and die from gastric torsion...why?

If we believe that bloat is inherited by a simple dominant gene, one of the parents would surely have bloated during their lifetime, and a dog that lived to be 15 or 16 years of age has had plenty of time for this to happen. Surely had he been at risk, he would have done so during his long happy life. If this is the case we would need to rule out Atsa!

If we believe the gene is inherited as a simple recessive, both parents would need to carry it, and in this case we could not blame Atsa either, as both parents would be equally responsible!

On the other hand, if the malfunctioning gene that causes dogs to bloat is sex linked, the female 'Gander' could be responsible, and she could pass the gene to her sons while her daughters could carry the gene but remain untouched by it. I decided this is one possibility. I am not saying here that females cannot suffer bloat because i know they certainly can and do, but i wondered if the way the gene(s) are inherited and the way it affects the progeny of the dog that passes on the gene(s) could be different, depending on if the gene comes down through the dam line rather than the sire! these were possibilities that were and still are crossing my mind. 

Ch Glasgowhill Winning Ticket not only died of bloat but so did his son Ch Glasgowhill Be a Rock Star (sire of my dog Pride), thus displaying a seemingly dominant inheritance, this had me wondering if the gene(s) involved in bloat are indeed sex linked, and i also wondered further about the way they could be inherited. For instance, if the gene for bloat, is passed through the female line will only the male offspring show symptoms? and once a male has this risk factor,does it become dominant?, if this is true, it could explain why GDV can appear to onlookers as if inheritance is recessive but at other times it appears to be dominant. 

Returning to Pride, who as I have previously stated is a son of Ch Glasgowhill Be a Rock star, and to his half brother, also bought by us. This half brother (named Scifi) is also a son of 'Rock star' but interestingly he does not resemble his half brother, either in temperament or construction. Pride was often a little neurotic whereas his half brother 'Scifi' is extremely laid back and happy-go-lucky. Pride could show aggression toward other dogs whereas Scifi could be trusted with very young puppies, he would never harm a fly. Pride had a lighter skeletal frame with a very well defined 'tuck up' and he lacked vigour. Scifi has a much heavier frame without the extreme tuck-up and is more playful. Scifi bounces for joy in the fashion of a spring lamb, I doubt that Pride was capable of this same manoeuvre. We noticed that Pride would lose his footing when jumping up at the paddock fence to greet us, I was concerned about his hips. However an X-ray confirmed his hips were excellent, DNA results confirmed he was free of DM, and we stopped worrying. He left our kennel on loan for a year with some good friends in Holland and here things went sadly wrong. One evening Pride filled up with air, he hadn't eaten for many hours but Karen was quick to notice the change in him and rushed to the vet. He did not have torsion but he did have a lot of gas in his stomach, and during the X-ray of his stomach it was noted that Pride had a problem with his spine, several of the vertebrae over the area of his stomach were fused, the vet was certain this was his main problem. He told Karen the dog had the spine of an eleven year old dog (he was three years of age) and he would not be long lived...this was huge shock to us all! Now I understood why he had not enjoyed the same level of maneuverability as did his half brother, and why he would lose his footing on occasion when standing on his hind legs. The vet told Karen he was at high risk of bloating!

Until this time, I had only  heard of a couple of cases of Collies from UK lines that had ever suffered bloat and these were isolated cases with no ancestor in the pedigree that could be found to have bloated, the dogs were never bred from. However, more recently I have heard of an increasing number of cases of bloat happening in European lines which astounded me, if bloat was inherited how did it suddenly 'happen' in lines with no previous history? I asked two people whose collies had bloated if these Collies also had any spinal problems, they did. I began asking others and discovered there has been an increase in spinal problems among European Collies during the last ten years, and there has been a corresponding increase in cases of bloat!  ..was this another piece of the jigsaw?

On a genetic forum, we have recently been discussing bloat and some very interesting theories were put forward by members, one being a connection with bloat to a possible imbalance of bacteria in the gut. If the dog inherits genes that create the likelihood of such an imbalance it could very possibly cause malabsorption which in turn could affect the formation of the spinal column. So now I had something else to ponder. If this is the case (and it seems likely) how are the genes that are responsible actually inherited? It was at this point I began to consider Epigenetics.

Epigenetics is a fascinating subject which scientists are only just discovering. Could there be have been something inherited in that one litter sired by Atsa out of Gander that had caused a certain gene in two of the puppies to  be 'switched off' ?  once this gene was switched off did the deletion in this gene act as 'dominant' ? I am speaking here of a gene or genes that could be influential in creating the right conditions for gut bacteria to flourish. According to epigenetics, things can occur to a bitch in the last few weeks of pregnancy that can turn 'on' or 'off' certain genes along a chromosome, effectively deleting them! This can also happen to males but in the male it happens during puberty. I am wondering, could bloat or the conditions likely to create it, be inherited by this method? if this is true, bloat can occur suddenly in any 'line' or pedigree. 

Could something have happened in the final three weeks of Ganders pregnancy that effectively 'turned off' a certain gene leaving some of her children at high risk of bloat?  Did something trigger the 'switch' and 'turn off' the gene that creates the right environment for healthy gut bacteria to flourish?

Time will tell if any of this is valid, but for your interest you may enjoy watching this video:

If you have any thoughts to add to my own research, please feel free to email me. 

 To continue: My thoughts on how to help prevent the occurrence of GDV. 

Those of you who read my 'news' page on a regular basis will know that in February 2013 I changed from the usual diet of dry complete feed to a more natural diet, no mean feat when one has 24 Rough Collies to feed! I made this decision after struggling with one young female who developed colitis, and despite the continued efforts of two vets, there was no significant improvement. I decided to experiment with a raw meat high bone diet, in fact i fed her a diet consisting of 60% raw bone, 30% raw meat and 10% cooked cereal. To my delight, she was completely back to normal within two weeks of the change. This really impressed me. The new feeding program is slightly more expensive and appeared at first, to take up extra time. However i have discovered the advantages of feeding a more natural diet definitely out weigh the disadvantages. My dogs are now fed a daily diet that is 30% raw minced green Tripe and 30% raw minced chicken and bone. I still add cereals but i buy them cooked and flaked, i then soak them in hot water overnight in two large tubs. Before soaking I add to the mixture in each of the two tubs, one cup of mixed seeds. These are 1 part each of Fennel, Fenugreek, Coriander and Sunflower, and 3 parts Sesame seed. The first three seeds aid digestion and reduce gas in the stomach. Sunflower and Sesame are added for extra nutrients. Dog has been domesticated for thousands of years and although it is designed to eat raw meat and bone, i feel it can cope with some cooked and soaked cereal. Living alongside man during his evolution, he will have adapted to a diet with some grain and cereal content. However, he has not had time to adapt to a diet made from extruded grain and artificial enhancers etc.  

Early every morning i mix 5 pounds of raw minced 'green tripe' and 5 pounds  of raw minced chicken and bone through the cereal mix in each of the two tubs (20 pounds of raw meat and bone in total). The feed is then ready to serve. The dogs are maintaining good body and coat condition with this amount of feed to share between them. My choice of cereal consists of flaked cooked Barley and i mix this with flaked cooked green peas at a ratio of 2 parts Barley 1 part Peas. Barley is highly nutritious but needs to be fed cooked but should not provide more than 5% of the total daily feed. I also add pulped vegetables and herbs. I want the total content of the feed to be 1/3 raw green tripe, 1/3 raw meat and bone, 1/3 pulped vegetable, herbs, soaked peas and cooked cereal.

'Green' Tripe is raw untreated and unwashed tripe, it is called 'green' due to its chlorophyll content. Tripe is the only meat that contains all 30 types of protein needed by the Dog for good health. It has a protein content of around 15% and the fat content is about 11.7 %, it contains the essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic in their recommended proportions. Calcium/phosphorus ratio is 1:1. The presence of lactic acid bacteria has also been discovered in green tripe, known as lactobacilli acidophilus, a common ingredient in probiotics. In my opinion Green Tripe is a 'must have' in the diet of our 'carnivore' friend the dog. Dogs also require raw bone and the easiest way to add this on a regular basis is by feeding raw chicken carcass passed through a course mincer, this can be bought frozen and is what i refer to when i say 'raw minced chicken and bone' If you cannot buy raw green tripe, the dogs needs to be fed a wide variety of animal meats including 10% offal (heart, spleen, kidney, liver) otherwise the dog will not get the complete set of 30 types of protein needed to produce and maintain good health, and it will not get the correct supply of enzymes. These different types of meat do not need to be fed on the same day, but need to be incorporated into the dogs diet at some point during each month period, unless you feed green tripe as already stated. 

I have always included a one day fast in my 'adult dog' weekly feeding plan and i feel this is essential to optimum health. However, once your dog becomes accustomed to eating the natural diet a second fasting day should be included. On the day the fast is broken i add a cup of desiccated coconut to each tub of soaking meal to help clear out worms, and on the day before the twice weekly fast, the dogs each get a whole raw chicken carcass (not minced) to eat with the normal daily ration of their usual food. Puppies from five weeks of age also get a carcass once a week and quickly learn how to handle it, and as they increase in size they get 2-3 carcass to share. This encourages puppies to use their jaw and neck muscles to advantage. Fasting gives the body a chance to rejuvenate, during a fast the body begins to repair itself, regular fasting is widely believed to contribute to longevity in man, and in the wild state, dogs would not eat every day! I do not like the idea of continuous use of chemical worming products on my dogs. Here in the UK we are lucky as we do not suffer heart worm, but most breeders do treat for ring worm and roundworm 3 times a year. I worm young puppies every two weeks until the age of 12 weeks, but after 12 weeks i worm using a natural method,  adding desiccated coconut to the diet one day a week. Does it work?  Crushed Pumkin seeds will also keep the dog worm free along with fennel. Cod liver oil added in small quantities every day will also help. If you are feeding liver on a regular basis it might be wise not to give your dog cod liver oil  as you will could possibly be giving him too much Vitamin A in his diet. However, if you are feeding the complete diet that i have specified above consisting of Tripe and Chicken, a small amount of cod liver oil will be very beneficial each day. The stomach contents of dogs fed a raw natural diet do not encourage worms to thrive, the stomach of dogs fed on dry complete feed does. Dogs fed dry complete diets must never be given enough food to make them feel full, they should always be kept slightly hungry if you wish to avoid GDV.

My entire kennel of dogs have now been enjoying the new holistic feeding regime for 4 months and I am convinced this was a great decision, i also believe it will help to protect them from GDV. They are bursting with vitality and they devour the food with great eagerness, nothing is left. The old style feeding method produced foul smelling faeces and strong smelling urine, and with 24 dogs this was difficult to control. The new style feeding method produces faeces and urine with little or no smell. Cleaning the kennel and doggy areas is much easier and uses less sawdust, waste bags, disinfectants and other cleaning products. Teeth remain clean. Coats are cleaner and the dogs take less grooming,the breath smells fresher. These are some of the many advantages i am discovering. 

I am absolutely certain that exercise is another vital protective element against GDV. I never exercise immediately after a feed, dogs need to rest for around two hours after eating. However, in my opinion the strength of the abdominal muscle is of vital importance, a dog with strong abdominal muscle must surely be less inclined to suffer from gastric torsion? I am not speaking here of forced exercise where the dog must endlessly chase a ball for its master, I am referring to natural exercise. My own dogs are out side in a large fenced area for long periods during the daylight hours. They follow the seasons. When darkness falls and temperatures drop the dogs are put to bed. It has been noticed that dogs tend to be at greater risk of bloat during the Spring and Autumn when seasons are turning. I never exercise in the dark, i don't need too because i am here all day. If you have a dog that you feel could be at risk of bloat, i would suggest you do likewise if at all possible. Allow your dog to create and follow his own exercise patterns. He needs free running and if he is a Collie it is best to incorporate some hill running if at all possible. However, he should never be forced to run for extended periods of more than 20 minutes. My dogs will move at a natural trot for extended periods investigating smells, they do this for a large part of the day. Suddenly they will spring into action for a game of 'chase' that normally lasts about 20-30 minutes. Then they will flop down for 30 minutes before getting up and continue with investigations. They will naturally graze, they will pick and eat Dandelion flowers, they rear up and pick berries, they eat grasses. They have their feet on grass and soil for a large part of the day, they are not confined to concrete or wood. In heavy rain they are kept indoors, but never alone. The dog is a pack animal, and mine are kenneled in groups, they are never isolated. I think that being alone stresses dogs, and i also think that stress can cause a dog to bloat!  

Unnatural forms of exercise can easily cause damage and i am 100% certain that if the dog injures his back it predisposes him to an increased risk of GDV. If your dogs suffers an injury to his back, make sure you get this attended to. If your dog is from a pedigree that contains dogs that suffered GDV, i would suggest you have an X-ray done of his spine. Also follow every precaution outlined above. An osteopath may be able to help realign the spine.

Now my thoughts and decisions as a breeder. I know from studies done and continuing, that the Rough Collie has very little diversity in its gene pool. We need to keep as wide a gene pool as is possible, we need to keep heterogeneity in the MHC. However, we also need to be vigilant and we must weed out sickly dogs from our breeding programs. We have a major juggling act to perform, dancing between the reels and the jigs. I incorporated Ch Glasgowhill With Pride into my breeding program and produced my very first cea normal eyed puppies, i also increased the MHC in my own stock. The females i used with him were unrelated for more than 20 generations. Pride returned to English imports into America but without incorporating the genetic bottle necks that affected English Collies in later times. I used him on less than a handful of females, i decided this was enough, and i sent him on loan. I had no idea he had fused vertebrae. His children are active and full of vigour, they show no sign of the problems i saw in Pride. We have kept his daughter in the home kennel, she is high energy (unlike her sire) and she can jump, leap, bend, twist and travel at great speed. She is normal eyed, her inbreeding coefficient is 0% and she is mdr1 +/+

As a breeder my plans for the future are to select the fittest, most agile puppies as breeding stock. Puppies with high energy are generally healthy puppies. I want bold, friendly, HAPPY temperaments. I want dogs capable of working even if they are not asked to do so. I want dogs that can cope easily with hills and rough ground without losing their footing or tiring too quickly. Many people in today's modern world prefer a dog that is a couch potato. If you seek out a couch potato you have only yourself to blame if that couch potato proves to be unhealthy. Lethargy is not a sign of great health! A healthy puppy is a bundle of energy, an intelligent puppy is a bundle of mischief.If you are looking for a healthy long lived companion, be prepared to handle a ball of mischief and energy for the first few years! My experience of a dog prone to bloat was a dog with a highly sensitive nature, a dog that lacked vigour, strength and drive. I will shun such a dog in the future. I have learned valuable lessons. My present Studs all have high energy levels, even the ultra calm 'Epic' is a high energy dog, and they leap across the fields here like Gazelle...just how i like it! 

Time will tell if any of my thoughts are relevant, meanwhile research into bloat continues.