Bloat, Gastric Dilation Volvulus

Bloating and twisting of a dog's stomach is a serious condition that veterinarians call "gastric dilation volvulus," or GDV. Overeating, especially in predisposed breeds, may cause GDV, but often there is no underlying cause, making this disease one that is baffling to veterinarians and to owners alike. People can pig out on Halloween goodies, or anything else for that matter, without it coming back to haunt them. But, for some dogs who overindulge, even on plain old food and water, their stomach may inflate like a balloon and twist on itself, a canine horror story. Food is sometimes the cause of a dilated stomach, but often a dog's stomach will mysteriously dilate, or bloat, for no known reason. Either way, bloat is a medical emergency, and the puffed-up pooch will need veterinary help as soon as possible. Get help to transport the dog to a veterinarian IMMEDIATELY. Call in transit to inform the veterinarian that you have a bloat case en route and of your approximate time of arrival.

While the exact cause of GDV is unknown, a dog's anatomy is thought to play a significant role. Since the stomach of a dog is securely fixed only at one spot near the top, when the stomach is full or dilated, it can easily rotate on that one fixed axis. If that happens, not only is the stomach distension painful, but the blood vessels that feed the stomach are kinked and stretched as the stomach twists. With reduced circulation to the stomach, the lining of the stomach can die or be damaged enough to allow bacteria and toxins to enter the bloodstream. In addition, the distended stomach can put pressure on major veins, blocking blood flow back to the heart. Without the normal blood flow to the heart, blood pressure will plunge and a dog can easily go into shock.

A dog's breed and age also play a role in GDV. "Deep-chested, large breeds, such as Weimaraners, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Irish Setters, and Gordon Setters, are affected most commonly. Shar-peis, Basset Hounds, and Springer Spaniels are the medium-size breeds that may be predisposed," says Dr. Greenfield. "GDV can occur in any age dog, but more commonly it occurs in middle-aged to older dogs." If your dog is a breed that is prone to GDV, feed smaller meals more often and limit the amount of water consumed after exercise. Talk to your local small animal veterinarian for more information about GDV.

German shepherd dog, breed susceptible to canine Gastric Dilation Volvulus, or bloat

Signs of Bloat

  • Swollen stomach just behind the ribs, primarily on the left side. Tapping stomach produces hollow "drum like" sound.
  • Unproductive attempts to vomit or have a bowel movement.
  • Dog looks at stomach.
  • Retching, excessive drooling, and foaming at the mouth; dry heaves
  • Restlessness, anxiety, whining, crying, pacing, inability to get comfortable in any position.

With all the complications associated with bloat, it's not surprising that mortality rates are very high with this disease. "With GDV, owners need to get the dog to a veterinarian immediately. Successful emergency treatment involves relieving the pressure within the stomach and treatment for shock. In most cases, treatment will also involve emergency surgery to untwist the stomach and "tack" it in place to prevent future occurrence of the stomach twisting. The surgical procedure for GDV is called a gastropexy, during which the stomach is attached to the body wall to prevent twisting, or future episodes of volvulus. Recurrent volvulus can be pretty effectively managed with gastropexy, but dilatation may still occur. Owners should be vigilant in observing their dog for any signs of trouble," says Dr. Greenfield.

How to Prevent Bloating

  • Before and after work: Do not feed within 2 hours. This does not affect the food used to reward a dog for task performance.
  • During exercise, training, or work: Give water in small amounts to prevent thirst.
  • After training: Give a minimal amount of water in a bucket. After 1 hour, fill the bucket up and allow the dog to drink as needed.
  • Before and after meals Do not exercise the dog within 1 hour before and 2 hours after meals. Limit the amount of water for dogs who drink too much after eating. Soak food in warm water for 15-30 min. before feeding. This practice allows the food toexpa nd outside of the dog's stomach.

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