Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) also known as bloat, is a serious health risk, understanding the signs and the need for prompt treatment will help reduce the risk of mortality if your dog develops this problem.
Bloat is an extremely serious condition, and is considered a life-threatening emergency. There are no home remedies for this condition, so you must contact your vet immediately if you suspect that your dog has bloat.
What is Bloat?
The gastric dilatation is one part of the condition and the volvulus is the second part.
In bloat (dilatation), the stomach fills up with air and puts pressure on the other organs and diaphragm. The pressure on the diaphragm makes it difficult for the dog to breathe. The air-filled stomach also compresses large veins in the abdomen preventing blood flow.
Filled with air, the stomach can easily rotate on itself from 90° to 360° which cuts off blood supply. Once this rotation (volvulus) occurs and the blood supply is cut off, the stomach begins to die. From this point your dogs condition will begin to deteriorate rapidly.
Know in advance what to do if your dog exhibits signs of bloating.
If your own vet does not provide their own OOH emergency service, find out:
- Who provides their out-of-hours cover
- Where they are
- How long it will take you to get there
- Keep the phone number handy.
- Programme their address into your Sat Nav
The list below is not exhaustive. If you are in any doubt, please call your vet immediately:
- Attempts to vomit (usually unsuccessful); may occur every 5-30 minutes - unsuccessful vomiting can sound like a repeated cough
- Doesn't act like usual self
- Exhibits significant anxiety and restlessness
- "Hunched up" appearance - hanging head
- Pacing in a stiff legged gait
- Bloated abdomen that may feel tight (like a drum) – in some cases the swollen abdomen is not apparent
- Pale or off-color gums - Dark red in early stages; white or blue in later stages
- Heavy salivating or dribbling
- Unproductive attempts to defecate
- May refuse to lie down or even sit down
- Drinking excessively
- Heavy or rapid panting
- Apparent weakness; unable to stand or has a spread-legged stance
If you believe your dog is experiencing bloat, get them to a vet immediately, never wait and see.
Call your vet to alert them that you are on your way with a suspected bloat case.
There are numerous causes of bloat. Here are a few of the most common causes:
- Stress - Dog shows, mating, whelping, boarding, change in routine, new dog in household.
- Feeding habits - If your dog is a fast eater you should invest in a ‘slow’ bowl which is a food bowl with raised areas specifically designed to slow your dog down whilst it eats thus inhibiting the air intake.
- Exercise taken before and especially after eating.
Owners of susceptible breeds in particular should be aware of the early signs of bloat but the condition is not restricted to just large breeds. If GDV is suspected, you need to contact your vet as soon as possible.
Here are a few tips on how to reduce the risk of your dog developing GDV, although other factors such as age, hereditary predisposition and personality can all contribute significantly. The tips below will not guarantee that your dog will remain unaffected.
- Do not exercise for at least an hour (longer if possible) before and especially after eating
- Do not permit rapid eating
- Feed 2 or 3 meals daily, instead of just one
- Promote "friendly" bacteria in the intestine, e.g. from "probiotics" which is said to avoid fermentation of carbohydrates, which can cause gas to develop quickly. This is especially a concern when antibiotics are given since antibiotics tend to reduce levels of "friendly" bacteria. (Note: Probiotics should be given at least 2-4 hours apart from antibiotics so they won't be destroyed.)
- Do not permit excessive, rapid drinking
Ask Your Vet about a Gastropexy
Gastropexy is a surgical operation in which the stomach is sutured to the abdominal wall or the diaphragm. Gastropexys in which the stomach is sutured to the diaphragm to prevent the stomach from moving up into the chest.
GDV - - Animal Health Channel