All About Bloat (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus)

Posted: September 05 2011

Bloat, which is also called Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (or just GDV), is an emergency medical condition that all dog owners should know about.  It is a life-threatening condition that is seen most commonly in larger breed dogs with deep chests, aged two years and over.

GVD is actually a two stage medical condition for dogs.

Firstly, gastric dilatation occurs, whereby the dog’s stomach fills up with air (gas) and/or food.  This traps the gas inside the stomach puts pressure on the dog’s other organs and diaphragm. Filled with air, the stomach can easily rotate on itself, therefore pinching off the blood supply. The expansion of the dog’s stomach also has a serious effect on the heart and lungs, causing difficulty breathing and abnormal heart rhythm.

Secondly, volvulus occurs when the stomach twistsup to 180 degrees.  As the dog’s stomach rotates, it cuts of the blood supply and stomach tissue begins to die (It becomes necrotic).  In some cases the stomach can even rupture.  Volvulus prevents the dog from burping and vomiting, and gas and food is trapped in the stomach.  At the same time the dog’s entire blood supply is disrupted and the animal goes into shock. Death s condition begins to deteriorate very rapidly

Because death can occur within hours of the onset of this condition, early recognition and treatment are essential.

Most dogs will go into shock soon after the first signs of GDV.  The most common signs of GDV include the following:

- Restlessness and pacing

- Retching and attempting to vomit

- Distended or enlarged abdomen

- Unproductive retching / heaving

- Extreme lethargy

- Excessive salivation

- Heavy panting, or rapid shallow breathing

- Pale gums

- Whining or groaning when you press the dog’s belly

- Thumping the abdomen produces a hollow sound

- Abnormal heart rate

- Weak pulse

- Rapid and labored breathing

- Looks uncomfortable

Catching GVD early increases your dog’s chances of survival.  You should immediately take your dog to the vet for treatment.

What dog breeds are most likely to suffer from GDV (Bloat)?

According to studies, the most common dog breeds at risk for GDV are large dog breeds with deep chests.

The twenty breeds most at risk of suffering from Bloat include:

- Airedale Terrier

- Alaskan Malamute

- Bassett Hound

- Boxer

- Collie

- Chesapeake Bay Retriever

- Doberman Pinscher

- English Springer Spaniel

- Great Dane

- German Shepherd Dog

- German Shorthaired Pointer

- Gordon Setter

- Irish Setter

- Labrador Retriever

- Newfoundland

- Old English Sheepdog

- Weimaraner

- Standard Poodle

- Saint Bernard

- Samoyed

Importantly, although it typically occurs in middle-aged to older dogs, dogs of any age can suffer from Bloat.

What Causes GDV?

There are many causes of Bloat, or GDV.  It is usually not one particular, but a combination of events, that leads to a dog suffering from GDV.

While researchers are still not completely certain why the condition occurs, it is agreed that the following circumstances or factors may increase a dog’s risk for GDV:

- Dog Breed (large or giant)

- A large, deep chest

- Gulping food, or eating too quickly

- High activity following large meals

- Eating only one meal a day

- Stress and anxiety, for example being a nervous dog.

- Thin body condition

- Being an underweight dog

- Genetic predisposition

How do vets treat GDV/ Bloat

If you have the slightest suspicion of bloat, take your dog to a veterinary hospital for treatment immediately.nnBecause this condition can kill dogs within just a few hours, it is important not to hesitate.

If your vet considers Bloat is a possibility, they will:

- Take an abdominal radiograph (or xray) to confirm the diagnosis

- Run other tests, for example take blood and run an electrocardiogram (EKG) to check for cardiac arrhythmia

- Make your dog comfortable by administering fluids, medications and oxygen

- For gastric dilatation without torsion, the vet will attempt to decompress by passing a stomach rubber or plastic tube through the dog’s mouth into the stomach

If the dog has a volvulus and is stable, your vet will need to perform emergency surgery.

This is for many reasons:

- To inspect for damage.

- To reposition the stomach and spleen.

- To perform prophylactic gastropexy(a procedure where the stomach is tacked (or permanently attached) to the body wall to prevent future episodes)

- To remove damaged tissue.  If the spleen and part of the stomach if these organs have undergone necrosis.

Without surgery your dog is at high risk of suffering GDV again.

How you can prevent GDV

Bloat is a painful condition that might be prevented.  And while there is no agreement as to what dog owners can do to prevent their dog suffering from GDV, here are some suggestions.

- Feed your large dog breed twice or three times daily, rather than just one meal.  Make sure you space these meals well apart.

- Do not feed your dog from a raised food bowl.

- Try to make your dog eat more slowly.

- Have water available at all times, except immediately after meals.

- Never let your dog gulp down huge amounts of water all at once.

- Avoid your dog engaging in vigorous exercise, excitement and stress at least one hour before or after meals.

- Make any changes to your dog’s diet gradually, and over a period of at least three days.

- Avoid feeding your dog foods that contain citric acid, or dry food where fat is listed high up on the ingredient list.

- Avoid strenuous exercise after meals.

If your dog is from a dog breed susceptible to suffer from bloat, consider these tips also:

- Use an elevated feeder.

- Feed your dog individually and in a quiet location away from any excitement.

- Consider a preventative prophylactic gastropexy.  This is elective surgery that is expensive, and involves tacking the stomach to the body wall.   It is only recommended for those dog breeds that at “at risk”for GDV.

- Make sure you know the warning signs and symptoms of bloat and observe your dog.

Even with treatment, it is estimated that up to 50% of those dogs who suffer from gastric dilatation and volvulus die.  Sadly, dogs who respond to nonsurgical treatment have a 70 percent chance of having another episode of bloat.

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