What Pet Parents Should Know About Bloat in Dogs aka GDV

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boxer with gastric dilation volvulus aka bloat in dogsBloat in dogs is very serious stuff – it’s not just a case of bad gas! If you have a dog in your life and you suspect they may be suffering from bloat you will need to get your dog to a veterinarian quickly to give them the best shot at beating it.

Bloat is a threat to your dog’s life and a medical emergency. Every dog owner should read on for what bloat or GDV in dogs is. They should know what may cause it, which dogs may get it, and what the risk factors are. Most important of all: you should know what can you do to help prevent it!

GDV? Gastric Torsion? What is Bloat in Dogs?

The official medical term for bloat in dogs is Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV). Bloat in dogs is also known as gastric torsion, twisted stomach, or canine bloat.

So what actually is bloat in dogs? When a dog’s tummy becomes overly full with gas, food or fluid, their stomach expands, and can also twist and rotate on itself. This is known as a volvulus.

This twist or rotation is serious! It will usually result in a blockage at either or both ends of a dog’s stomach. As a result, the dog’s blood supply and blood flow around their body can be compromised; pressure is put on the function of their other organs and they can have metabolic issues, inflammation, and problems breathing.

Dog owners need to be aware that bloat or GDV isn’t a condition that will correct itself. You also can’t treat GDV with home remedies. You really do need to get your dog to a vet promptly for assessment, treatment, and surgery if you see any signs of bloat.

What’s more, the symptoms of bloat or gastric dilatation volvulus can appear suddenly and progress to dangerous and damaging levels very quickly. Sadly, GDV bloat left untreated can be fatal within a matter of hours.

A Look at What Causes Dog Bloat

The actual cause of bloat or GVD in dogs is a bit of a mystery. There is no one known reason for GDV that has as yet been medically established. There can, however, be many risk factors for bloat in dogs.

Deep-chested dogs are known to be more susceptible to bloat, as are those that have a known family history of bloat. Other factors that are thought to contribute to the condition are dogs that only eat dry food, those who gorge or gulp their food and water, those that only eat once a day, and those that exercise vigorously immediately before or after eating.

x ray of severe bloating in a dog with gdv

Which Dogs are More Likely to Suffer From GDV?

Bloat can affect any dog breed, but there are some breeds that are more susceptible than others because of the shape of their anatomy. Dog breeds that are more susceptible to bloat tend to be the dog breeds that are deep chested – that is they have long and narrow chests. Some of the breeds at risk include:

From Bloating to a Distended Stomach: Know the Dog Bloat Symptoms!

There are many other symptoms that may be apparent in dogs with bloat or gastric dilatation-volvulus. Note that not all symptoms may be present, but there are a few to look out for if you suspect your dog has bloat.

These include:

  • A distended swollen stomach or abdomen: Your dog’s stomach may look and feel tight and swollen.
  • Unproductive retching or vomiting: Your dog may seem as if they are going to be sick, but they only expel stringy thick saliva, foam, or small amounts of fluid or water, or they dry retch.
  • Tiredness and restlessness: Your dog may be very weak and tired, but be unsettled, pace and/or unable to find or settle into a comfortable position. They may also be depressed and/or distressed.
  • Drooling: Your dog may drool or dribble a lot more saliva than normal. This is called hypersalivation.
  • Breathing and Respiratory Problems: Your dog’s breathing may become fast and heavy. To help get air into their chest and lungs they may adjust their posture by extending their neck and front legs outwards.
  • Pale Gums: Your dog’s mucous membranes and gums can become very pale if their blood is not circulating as it should be.
  • Pulse Rate Fluctuations: A rapid pulse rate is an early sign that your dog’s body may be going into shock. As they progress further into shock, and the other physiological changes that occur as a result of bloat, their pulse can drop to dangerous levels.
  • Cool Temperature and Extremities: Your dog’s temperature may drop suddenly, and their extremities – their paws and legs – may seem cold or cool to the touch.

Signs of Bloat in Dogs in Severe Cases

In severe cases of bloat in dogs, you may see any or all of the symptoms listed above in the extreme.

Ultimately, a dog will collapse as a result of all the symptoms. A dog’s chance of survival decreases drastically once it reaches a state of collapse as a result of bloat.

signs of bloat in dogs dog with bloating symptoms

Treatment Methods!

As already mentioned, veterinary assessment and treatment of GVD, gastric torsion or bloat in dogs is a must. This isn’t a condition you can treat yourself at home. GDV will not get better by itself either. It is likely that your dog may need some type of surgery.

  • Diagnosis: First of all, your veterinarian will assess and evaluate your dog’s symptoms to formally diagnose whether they are suffering from bloat. As well as a physical examination, your vet may need to take x-rays, blood and urine samples. They might also run other tests such as an electrocardiogram (ECG) to check their heart function.
  • Stabilization: After bloat or GVD is established, your vet is then likely to use various methods to stabilize your dog’s condition. This includes using oxygen therapy and intravenous fluids if they are dehydrated and unable to breathe properly on their own.
  • Decompression: Your vet may help alleviate your dog’s bloat with a procedure to decompress and release the contents trapped in their stomach. This may involve either inserting a tube down their esophagus and into their stomach. Alternatively, vets often insert a needle or catheter directly into the dog’s stomach. The use of a needle, catheter, or stomach tube will help expel any air and fluids that caused the bloat.
  • Surgery: If your dog’s stomach has rotated or twisted at either or both ends, your dog will probably need surgery under anesthesia to correct this.

What’s the Prognosis?

For the best possible prognosis, if you suspect your dog has bloat or gastric dilatation get them quickly to a veterinarian. Early and immediate treatment increases their chances of a full recovery and survival.

When dogs are able to be treated right away the mortality rate from bloat/GVD is around 15%. If dogs are not treated promptly the mortality rate from bloat and CVD increases significantly because of the damage caused rapidly to their whole body.

How to Prevent Bloating in Your Dog!

With the exact cause of bloat not fully understood, there are no sure fast ways to prevent bloat in dogs. However, there are some steps you take to reduce the risk of your dog getting bloat.

Surgical Methods

If you have a dog breed that is at risk for bloat, your vet can perform a Gastropexy. This is a preventative surgical procedure that is done via laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery or open surgery.

The Gastropexy procedure involves attaching the side of your dog’s stomach to their abdominal or stomach wall. Because the stomach is attached to their body wall, it prevents the stomach from rotating or twisting. Some veterinarians may offer Gastropexy surgery as an option at the same time as spaying or neutering for at-risk breeds, or dog’s with a known family history.

You should also check with your vet on whether your dog has another underlying health condition. Conditions that affect the gut such as food allergies and inflammatory bowel disease can also contribute to the risk of bloat. Your vet may be able to treat that condition through other medication or surgery.

vet operating on a dog with dog bloat gdv

Non-Surgical Methods

Some non-surgical methods dog owners can take to help prevent bloat in dogs and reduce their risk include:

  • Portion size and frequency: Feed your dog a few small meals throughout the day rather than one big meal a day. That way they are less likely to gulp their food. It is easier for their stomach to digest and process food in smaller amounts.
  • Slow down their eating: Some dogs do just gulp down their food and a lot of air at the same time! If you have one of these pups, you can slow down their eating. You can use a puzzle type feeder to slow down their food and air intake.
  • Place their food bowl strategically: If your dog gulps their food because they think another dog or pet in the house is a threat and might get to their food first, feed your pets separately. Alternatively, food bowls on opposite sides of the room may make them feel more secure.
  • Give water regularly: Make sure your dog can stay hydrated with access to regular small amounts of water. Drinking too much too fast can increase the risk of bloat.
  • Don’t exercise immediately after or before eating: Give your dog’s system a chance to digest and process a meal before setting out on any rigorous exercise. Similarly, after exercise, feed them when their breathing is at a normal rate.
  • Know their family history: Reputable dog breeders will not breed dogs that have experienced or had an episode of bloat. Whether you have a pedigree or not, if you are aware that your dog has had a parent or siblings that have had bloat, you can take some of the preventative steps listed here to help reduce the risk of them developing this condition.

Common Questions on Bloat in Dogs

Can you treat bloat in dogs with home remedies?

Does bloat affect a dog’s breathing?

Can bloat in dogs be fatal?

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