As mentioned, the Old English Sheepdog is a relatively healthy breed; this does not mean, though, that it does not suffer from some health issues, many of which have a genetic component. One of these conditions, which is common in other large breed dogs as well, is Bloat; some confusion exists regarding the actual name of this condition, as it can also be called Gastric Torsion or Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (GDV). This is not a disease to be taken lightly, as a good number of dogs that suffer from it die, often quickly; treatment can be complicated and may not always turn out positively.
Often, a large breed dog that gulps his food rapidly, gulps air, drinks substantially right after he eats and then exercises strenuously is the prime candidate for this condition. Bloat does not occur in a similar manner in all dog breeds or in all dogs, for that matter. The general idea is that the stomach of dogs who suffer this condition actually twists once it is full and gastric distension has set in; this twisting can be lethal, as it closes off the esophagus and eliminates any possibility of relieving the distension. The spleen is sometimes caught in the twist and it subsequently becomes cut off from its blood supply. This is just the beginning, though. Blood flow to the heart slows down and so the blood ejected by the heart also decreases; this could lead to cardiac arrhythmias. The stomach lining starts to die and toxins start accumulating; other organs, such as the pancreas and liver, could be damaged as well. Shock sets in, due to the low blood pressure and the presence of endotoxins; in serious cases, the stomach can rupture.
Dogs who are suffering from bloat will show signs of abdominal distension, retching and salivation; they may also be restless, lethargic, depressed, weak, have a rapid heart rate or may appear to be anorexic. If you notice any of these signs in your dog, or if you suspect gastric torsion for any other reason, you MUST call your veterinarian immediately. This condition is serious and some dogs have died within 36 hours of experiencing a severe episode of bloat. The vet will perform some X-rays and blood tests to confirm gastric torsion, but because of the severity of the condition, will start treatment before the results of the tests are analyzed. IV fluids and steroids may be administered to treat the shock, as well as antibiotics and anti-arrhythmics. The next step involves using a stomach tube to decompress the stomach and then the stomach is washed out, eliminating things like gastric juices, accumulated foods, and others.
In the majority of cases, this medical treatment is not enough and surgery must be done. The veterinarian must straighten out the twisted stomach and see to any damaged, unhealthy tissue; many vets have taken to actually surgically anchoring the stomach in place, as well. This anchoring surgery aims to seriously decrease chances of the recurrence of bloat. There are actually some vets, and some owners, who believe in performing this anchoring surgery in dogs who have experienced only multiple episodes of simple gastric distension or who simply have relatives that have developed bloat, because of the seriousness of the disease.