Dog Articles - Canine Bloat

Canine Bloat

Canine Bloat is the common name for a not-uncommon and extremely dangerous condition in dogs called Gastric Dilation-Volvulus, or GDV. GDV has taken the lives of many an unwary owner’s beloved pet, and though much is still unknown about the causes, and thus prevention of Bloat, education remains your best defense.

What is GDV?

Bloat occurs when an excess amount of fluid, foam, or gas builds in the dog’s stomach. This becomes a dangerous condition when the stomach then twists between 90 and 360 degrees, sealing the stomach from the rest of the digestive tract. Digestive processes continue in the stomach, causing gasses to build, further enlarging the stomach. This places pressure on surrounding blood vessels, limiting circulation, which can result in death of surrounding tissue. The enlarging stomach can also place pressure in the diaphragm, resulting in labored respiration. This condition can be deadly in as little as 30 minutes if not treated.

What Dogs are At Risk?

Veterinarians believe that large breed dogs are most susceptible to bloat. Among large dogs, many believe that barrel-chested dogs are most at risk. Owners of the following breeds should be especially watchful of GDV symptoms: Gordon Setters, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Weimaraners, Bloodhounds, Dobermans, Akitas, Saint Bernards, Standard Poodles, and Great Danes; as well as all other large breed dogs.

Avoiding Bloat

The exact causes of GDV are not known. It is believed, however, that a handful of factors can contribute to bloat. Among these are eating fast, or gulping food or water, therefore ingesting large amounts of air in the process. After exercise or on hot days, dogs are likely to try to gulp large amounts of water, so be watchful of your dog’s water intake and don’t feel bad about taking the water away and only letting your dog have a little at a time. You can also help your dog eat and drink more slowly with special bowls like the Eat Better and Drink Better Bowl and the Slow Feed Bowl. These bowls are made with obstacles around which your dog must eat or drink which make it impossible for them to gulp. Not only do these help avoid bloat, but slower eating also helps your dog feel more full, which is great for dogs on restrictive diets.

Foods that make your dog gassy can also contribute to GDV.  Avoid feeding your dog table scraps or anything he is not used to eating. This includes different types of dog food. If you decide to change the brand or type of your dog’s food, be sure to change it gradually by initially mixing a little of the new food in with the old food and eventually phasing out the old food. Also, make sure that your garbage can and compost pile are out of your dog’s reach. These are full of “tasty” treats for your pooch that can severely upset his stomach and could lead to GDV.

Exercise after meals can also contribute to GDV. This is believed to be a result of the rapid movement and pendulum-like swinging of the full stomach. Dogs who have had GDV in the past are significantly more susceptible to developing the condition again and should therefore absolutely never exercise after eating.  

Symptoms of GDV

If you see one or more of the following symptoms in your dog, get him to the vet immediately.

-Distended abdomen/swelling in the stomach area
-Nausea and attempting to vomit or belch without success
-Sudden weakness
-Shortness of breath
-Abnormal heart rhythm
-Visible discomfort/stomach pain
-Excessive drooling

What Happens Now?

Your vet will perform a physical examination and most likely take abdominal x-rays.  If your dog’s stomach has not yet twisted, the vet can most likely insert a tube the stomach to release excess air. This could resolve the condition. However, if the stomach has twisted, the vet will probably have to immediately stabilize your dog with IV fluids and most likely treat him for shock. A surgical procedure will be performed to flip the stomach. Your vet can also perform a procedure called a Gastroplexy, which involves attaching the stomach to the abdominal wall. This will prevent GDV from occurring again, which is vital, as a dog who has had GDV is extremely likely to have it again.

Just as with any other health issue, the best way to prevent lasting harm to your dog is to be extremely familiar with his behavior and vigilant of any changes. If your dog seems sick, uncomfortable, or just different, there is no shame in taking him to the vet. Even if it turns out to be nothing, it is always, always better to be safe than sorry.

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