White foamy vomit is one of the symptoms of bloat, a serious and potentially fatal canine illness. The stomach is stretched by gas and/or food, causing it to swell to many times its normal size. The stomach usually rotates, preventing blood from flowing in and gas from escaping, according to veterinarians at Mar Vista Animal Medical Center in Los Angeles.
Bloat has a number of symptoms besides white foamy vomit that all dog owners should know. These include excessive drooling or salivation, a swollen abdomen, pacing, agitation, hunched back, low head and tail, pale or blue-tinged gums, signs of shock and collapse, according to Pet Alert. A dog showing these symptoms should see a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Some dog breeds are at higher risk of developing bloat than others. The most at-risk breeds are large, deep-chested dogs like the Akita, Great Dane, German shepherd, Saint Bernard, Irish wolfhound, Irish setter, Doberman, Weimaraner and bloodhound, dog breeder and trainer Norma Bennett Woolf says in the Dog Owner's Guide.
The first step in treating a dog with bloat is stabilising the dog and decompressing its stomach to prevent it from pressing on the dog's major blood vessels, according to veterinarians at Mar Vista Animal Medical Center. A stomach tube and stomach pump help decompress the dog's bloated stomach. Intravenous catheters allow fluid solutions into the dog's blood stream, replacing those trapped by the bloated stomach. Pain medication also helps stabilise the dog to ready it for surgery. During surgery, the veterinarian tacks the dog's stomach back into its normal place to prevent the bloat from recurring.
The risk of bloat increases when a dog eats a large meal too quickly or exercises too soon after eating. Feeding two or three small meals throughout the day helps decrease the risk and prevent bloat, as does limiting exercise for two hours after a meal, says Bennett Woolf.
Bloat is a fatal illness and the dog often dies from pain within hours of the first symptoms. Bloat cannot fix itself. Immediate veterinary care and surgery is required if the dog is to live. If a dog has any of the symptoms of bloat it should see a veterinarian, even if the owner is not sure that the dog is bloated.