Bloat in Dogs: A True Canine Emergency

Bloat is a condition that occurs in dogs when the stomach fills with air (dilatation) and/or twists upon itself (volvulus). It is also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus, or GDV. It is extremely life-threatening and always requires immediate veterinary attention.

GDV causes increased pressure within the abdomen, decreasing blood flow to vital organs and increasing pressure on the lungs. Reduced blood flow can cause the tissue in the stomach, intestines, and spleen to die. Increased pressure in the lungs makes the dog unable to breathe effectively. Decreased blood flow to the heart can cause fatal arrhythmias.

Bloat in dogs symptoms

Symptoms of bloat usually occur quickly in affected dogs. They include retching, unproductive vomiting, restlessness, excessive drooling, abdominal pain, lethargy, and weakness. The dog’s belly may be bloated, but it is important to realize that not all cases of GDV have a bloated appearance.

If your dog ever shows signs of bloat, take him or her to the veterinarian immediately, and do not attempt to treat it by yourself. Do not give anything by mouth. Early and aggressive veterinary treatment is critical for survival.

If GDV is suspected, your veterinarian will take x-rays to confirm the condition and stabilize your dog with IV fluids and medications. Your veterinarian will do surgery to remove air and fluid from the stomach, reposition the stomach into the correct anatomic location, and remove nonviable tissue. To help prevent recurrence, the stomach will be tacked down to the body with a gastropexy procedure. Hospitalization is usually required after surgery to continue IV fluids and monitor for arrhythmias.

Although the prognosis for GDV without treatment is very poor, survival rates with surgery are approximately 80%. The prognosis is better if treatment is started early in the course of the disease.

Many dog owners have heard that feeding from an elevated dish will help prevent bloat. The effectiveness of feeding from an elevated dish is controversial, however, and has actually been shown to increase the risk of GDV in some dogs. Feeding smaller and more frequent meals may potentially decrease the risk of developing bloat.

Certain breeds, such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Rottweilers, are more prone to developing GDV due to their “deep-chested” conformation. In predisposed breeds, the stomach is often surgically attached to the body wall as a preventative measure to decrease the likelihood of GDV. This procedure is called a prophylactic gastropexy and is often done when the dog is spayed or neutered. This surgery is the best way to reduce the risk of GDV and is something you should discuss with your veterinarian if you owe a large- or giant- breed dog.

Bloat in dog timeline

Anyone who has ever seen a dog with bloat, or GDV, knows it can occur quickly and how scary it is. Therefore, it is important to recognize the symptoms and seek treatment immediately if it is a possibility. It is also worthwhile for owners of predisposed breeds to discuss prophylactic gastropexy with their veterinarian.

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