Veterinary Articles | Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV)

Veterinary Articles > What Is Bloat? (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV))

What Is Bloat? (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV))
by Jennifer Lang, DVM

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What is "bloat"?

"Bloat" is a term commonly used to describe gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV).

When GDV occurs, a dog’s stomach becomes distended and twists on itself. As the stomach twists it cuts off escape routes (through the esophagus and small intestines) for gas, fluid, and food. Dogs are unable to vomit or belch to relieve the pressure in the stomach. As the stomach becomes progressively more distended, damage to the stomach, shock, and death can occur.

Illustration of bloating (Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV))

Who is at risk?

Deep chested large and giant breed dogs are at risk for developing GDV. Great Danes are the most common breed affected by this problem. Other breeds that can be affected include Saint Bernard, Newfoundland, Irish Wolfhound, Standard Poodle, Weimarainer, German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Doberman Pinscher, Collie, Bloodhound, Akita, Irish Setter, Golden Retriever, and Labrador Retriever.

We also know that dogs who have a direct relative that has experienced GDV are at higher risk. Dogs that have had previous episodes of gastric dilatation (the stomach becomes distended with air or food but does not twist on itself) are at much greater risk for developing GDV; up to 80% of dogs experiencing gastric dilatation will go on to develop GDV at some point in their life.

Dalmation

What are the signs that my dog may be experiencing "bloat"?

  • Retching or dry heaves
  • Nonproductive vomiting (attempting to vomit without bringing up food, may vomit white foam)
  • Abdominal distension (stomach becomes swollen, usually visible just behind the rib cage)
  • Restlessness, anxiety, discomfort
  • Rapid or labored breathing
  • Weakness, collapse
  • Shock: pale gums, elevated heart rate, low blood pressure, death.

What should I do if my dog "bloats"?

This is an emergency!!!! Your dog should be taken to a veterinarian so treatment can be initiated as quickly as possible. If left untreated, GDV is fatal.

As the stomach twists, it pinches off its blood supply which causes damage to the stomach wall. The spleen can twist with the stomach, causing damage to this organ as well. As the stomach continues to distend, it puts pressure on the diaphragm, making it difficult for dogs to breathe. It also puts pressure on large blood vessels in the abdomen, resulting in less blood being returned to the heart and shock. Enough pressure can build up and enough damage can occur to the stomach wall that the stomach can rupture.

As the stomach twists, it pinches off its blood supply which causes damage to the stomach wall. The spleen can twist with the stomach, causing damage to this organ as well. As the stomach continues to distend, it puts pressure on the diaphragm, making it difficult for dogs to breathe. It also puts pressure on large blood vessels in the abdomen, resulting in less blood being returned to the heart and shock. Enough pressure can build up and enough damage can occur to the stomach wall that the stomach can rupture.

What can I do to prevent it?

While no changes in lifestyle have been shown to prevent GDV, the following suggestions may help decrease the risk:

  • Feed multiple small meals throughout the day
  • Avoid over-feeding or over-eating
  • Avoid activity one hour prior to and two hours after feeding

The only known way to avoid GDV is to preventatively perform a gastropexy.

This is a surgical procedure during which the stomach is permanently tacked to the body wall, preventing the stomach from twisting. This surgery is quick, simple, and carries minimal risks. It can be done at the same time as a spay or neuter. It can also be done laparoscopically through two very small incisions so recovery is faster. When this procedure is done electively prior to developing GDV, it carries much less risk and is much less expensive than waiting until GDV occurs. We recommend this procedure for all at risk dogs.

Surgery being performed on a bloated dog.

Above is an actual photograph of a preventative gastropexy being performed laparoscopically in a dog.

Below is a photograph of a dog’s abdomen after the procedure has been performed. Note the two very small incisions.

Post surgery of bloated dog.

 

Jennifer Lang, DVM
Veterinary Medical Center of Long Island
75 Sunrise Highway
West Islip, New York 11795
(631) 587-0800; fax (631) 587-2006

http://www.vmcli.com

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