More on bloat

More on Bloat
ByIan Billinghurst as told to Andrea Madelev (posted to the Wellpet list)

Hi all,
You may recall we had a case of a Great Dane bitch (6.5 years / spayed) that after having eaten some chicken parts became ill and bloated. I told Joanne that I would forward her post to Dr. Ian Billinghurst (Author: Give Your Dog A Bone) and get some feedback on this.
Here is his reply in full. Andrea


Hi Andrea,

Thank you for the opportunity to look at this interesting case. We are all constantly learning – and this case is no different. I am constantly learning what parts of GYDAB require more detail and more emphasis.
Thinking of my own experiences with Great Danes and other large breeds of dogs, and what breeders using the dietary ideas in GYDAB have done and are doing and relating all of this to nature – has prompted me to write the following.

I have NEVER, and to my knowledge, neither have other Large or Giant Breed breeders that follow the ideas of GYDAB, fed large dogs chicken thighs or drumsticks. So I have no experience of doing this or seeing it done by others. It is certainly not something I would recommend, especially from the point of view of what would happen in nature. In nature the whole animal would be available. This would mean there would be less flesh and more bone, and the whole thing would need to be chewed. These portions of chicken (as you have noted) are not particularly chewed by the larger dogs (except for very fussy eaters) but rather tend to be swallowed whole. In addition as a major component in the diet, they have a much too high flesh to bone ratio. Both of these factors are not actually in the spirit of GYDAB. You may get away with feeding this way forever, but if the conditions arise which predispose to bloat (and we do not understand what all of these are yet) disaster will follow.

The feeding of large numbers of chicken thighs comes close to feeding a largely meat diet. That is why I recommend chicken wings or necks. They have a far superior flesh to bone ratio than the thighs and drumsticks. Ideal in fact. In the case of chicken wings and necks, large dogs might occasionally be fed these, but not very often. It is only to the smaller breeds that we feed the tiny portions of the chicken as a regular and large component of their diet. However, the recommendation here is the chicken wing or necks.

My larger dogs have routinely eaten raw meaty bones derived from lamb and beef, and if fed chicken, it has consisted of either the whole chicken – but mainly the chicken carcasses or frames. The chicken frame consists of the backbone and ribs and whatever else hangs off this part of the chicken – – after most of the flesh has been removed. In other words, these frames are mostly bone and cartilage with a little bit of flesh. These portions of chicken are never swallowed whole, they have to be chewed. Also, their low flesh to bone ratio and cartilage ratio make them ideal. We obtain these from places where they bone out the chicken. I do not know if parts like this are readily available in the US but I’m sure that if enough people asked they soon would be.

In my experience, these chicken frames are not the sort of food which will promote bloating. I conjecture or hypothesize so that this may be so because of their high bone and cartilage content, their need to be chewed and their texture or consistency in the stomach following being chewed.

Most of this has been covered in GYDAB, but may require some ferreting out, or careful reading or simply having caught the spirit of the book. If all that has been elusive, please note the following:
Firstly, let me refer you to page 153 of GYDAB where I mention that to large dogs we feed WHOLE chicken (and let me repeat, they absolutely have to chew these) With large breeds, we do feed the chicken wings and necks to the young puppies.

Also see the last paragraph p139 in this respect.

Most importantly, let me refer you to page 126 of GYDAB. If you read the first paragraph on this page you will notice it says a whole lot. As does the next one and the one after that. This is most important page, because although I refer to feeding things such as canned dog food or mince – the principles it speaks of apply very much to this situation involving large dogs and their tendency to bloat if fed incorrectly. In this case when fed food they have no chewed and which had the tendency to sit in the stomach as a large mass which promotes indigestion and possible bloat.

There is a whole lot more that could be said, but the above will do for starters. I trust this will assist. Obviously, I need to explain more clearly in GYDAB what should and should not be fed to large dogs, particularly those predisposed to bloat. My revised edition of the book will say a whole lot more about feeding chicken to large dogs, with probable reference to this particular case – so thank you and all the best.

I did not hear or see the segment by Dr. Zammit on Burke’s Back Yard, so I can not really comment.
Ian Billinghurst.

(Via a very typed out Andrea Madeley)

There you have Ian’s reply. I must admit, even I have learned from this about the smaller portions, although my Bernese seem to chew the necks very well. But It’s a good thing that he has information like this. He can see what areas he needs to clarify more.
As far as the info on the chicken meat and bloat off that program…still waiting for the darn sheet. That’s television for you! I’ll keep you all posted.

Take Care,
Andrea Madeley

Yes, Andrea, you’re right, I really shouldn’t get angry with all this chicken bones misunderstandings…anger is not productive! But, but, but,… I can’t help but feel tremendous guilt for not asking more questions BEFORE I experimented on my Dane girl and put her through such needless suffering. Unless it was you that rushed your dog into the emergency room at 11:30 at night and hoped and prayed that she’d make it through the surgery and post op care….you probably can’t totally relate. But, ‘nuf said on that.

Your point that IB wrote his book for an Australian audience is well taken. You guys have available a wider selection of dog-appropriate meat/bone items than us Yanks. Lamb and lamb bones are about as frequently seen as the Hope Diamond….and I live in Kansas (beef capital), not New York or L.A. Wings are too expensive for large dogs and necks/backs/carcasses are simply not available where I live. I even asked all three grocery stores in my town about getting necks/backs/carcasses and was told they do no/zero/zip/zilcho butchering in the store. All meats with bones come pre-packaged in the popular pieces…thighs, wings, breasts, drums. Once I asked the butcher in one of these grocery stores if he could cut the beef soup bones in half, as they were just huge and a lot of the marrow would be wasted. He said they are not allowed to cut beef bones….”Its too dangerous” were his exact words.

In addition to adding caveats on how large and giant breeds should be fed on the GYDAB diet, I hope IB might consider writing another version of his book for an American audience, or at least include a section in his next book specifically for Americans. Many of us just can’t get all the “cool” dog food goodies that you folks have Down Under.

Joanne Blair

Hi Joanne,

I never thought through the whole GYDAB book that chicken pieces where out for large breeds either. In fact I got the opinion from the book that chicken bones where fine and didn’t get the impression that whole frames needed feeding to large breeds either.

I only didn’t feed thighs or drumsticks etc. because discussing it with the vet I work with and the fact my lab is a major pig she thought it wouldn’t be a good idea because she wouldn’t chew them and they would take a while to digest that way.

In a word I don’t think you were being too sensitive and I guess I wouldn’t have liked that reply if my dog had bloated either.

On another note, I discussed bloat with the vet I work for just yesterday (had her pulling out all manner of text books ;)), even though she looked at me strangely as if to say, Why ask all these nutrition questions? Why not just feed Eukanuba? – Anyway, her opinion is that of course there is no proof about anything causing bloat but from what she read and what she had seen as an emergency hospital vet for a few years that yes the deep-chested breeds are more prone (that we all know). She thinks the best way to avoid bloat is to split feedings rather then to feed 1 meal a day (which I am now doing with my dog). Also she suggested making the food smaller for dogs that just swallow it anyway without chewing (now what meat I feed I cut into smaller pieces as I figure my dog doesn’t chew it anyway no matter what size). This is to make it pass from the stomach quicker. She also thought bigger bones would be best i.e.: lamb shanks, etc. that the dog has to chew up can’t just crunch and swallow and that I should remove them after she has chewed them down to the long part of the bone.

Of course processed dog biscuits (the cheaper ones that swell in the stomach are a major no-no re bloating) are what she has mostly seen in the stomachs of bloat dogs she has seen. Eaten too fast and then swollen to huge proportions in the stomach.

Anyway the above is the opinion of only 1 vet but they make sense to me so I’m going with her opinion which really is mostly what I thought in the beginning.
I am however still confused about the chicken neck issue, to feed or not to feed.

Hi, I sympathize about what you are going through right now…all the confusion that you have, but I think what Ian Billinghurst was trying to say was…someone please correct me if I’m wrong…If you take 1 chicken and the amount of bones that are in it is, say 75%, and you add the actual meat and that’s 25%, well, the ‘whole’ make up of that is much easier for the dog to consume and digest. The reason being, dogs will not swallow a carcass whole, so, they would have to chew it, breaking all the bones up nicely.

When you give the dog a piece of thigh or a leg the bone meat ratio is much higher for the meat part, maybe 50/50…and if it’s been pumped with steriods then the meat ratio would be even higher, maybe 30% bone and 70% meat. And the piece is most likely not chewed up that well. This also is a concern when there is a higher meat ratio for the digestibility of the item consumed.

Andrea…is this correct? Inquiring minds want to know… regards,

Kathy Schonberg

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