Great Dane owners definitely need to know about bloat.
The first thing that needs to be acknowledged is that there are no definitive agreements on what causes bloat. Unfortunately that means there is no guaranteed way to prevent it. BUT, there are things we can do to hopefully prevent bloat from being fatal.
Do not let the fear of bloat rule your life. Be educated and prepared, but not fearful.
Young dogs rarely bloat, so this is not something you need to worry about the moment you bring home a puppy, other than preparing yourself for the future.
Elevated feeding bowls. Some believe feeding Danes from raised bowls – or not feeding from raised bowls – will cause or prevent bloat. It has not been proven either way. There was a bloat study done a number of years ago that linked raised bowls and bloat, but it was correlative vs causative (bloat-prone breeds are more apt to be fed from a raised feeder, but it does not mean that it was actually causing bloat). You can feed from a raised bowl if you wish; you can not feed from a raised bowl if you do not want to do so.
Restricting exercise after eating. Many people believe that restricting exercise around feeding time will prevent bloat. But it’s often taken to an extreme, with dogs crated for an extended period of time post meals. A proper amount of exercise is important in our dogs’ lives, so there needs to be a logical balance. I do not necessarily restrict exercise after a meal. Be reasonable about it; dogs do not need to consume a large meal and immediately go for a vigorous run, but they do not need to be completely restricted either.
So what can we do?
Preventative gastropexy. This is probably the single biggest way to prevent bloat from becoming fatal. Once your dog is fully mature, in Danes around 18 months old, you can “tack” the stomach to the body cavity. Learn more. A gastropexy does not prevent bloat, but it should keep the stomach from rotating (torsion), which is the fatal aspect. Use an experienced vet!
Creating a non-stressy dog. Raise your puppy to be a confident adult. Fearful/nervous dogs have been linked to being more prone to bloat.
From the moment you bring home your Great Dane puppy, your priority should be molding that puppy into an adaptable adult. Of course, starting with a puppy bred from dogs with appropriate temperament is paramount as well!
Keeping your dog fit and healthy. Keep them active, fit, and healthy. Feed a quality diet. Allow plenty of opportunities for them to run safely off-leash.
Bloat kits. Consider investing in a bloat kit and know how to use it.
Know what bloat looks like. Know the symptoms of bloat and be prepared to react quickly. Time is of the essence. Bloat chart (put forth by the Great Dane Club of America) Educate yourself on the symptoms and signs, so that you can react quickly.
Know your nearest emergency vet. I have their number and address in my cell phone.