Canine Bloat

By Dr. Kristel Weaver for the Danville Press, Danville, CA

Bloat, or gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), is when the stomach fills with gas and flips over. This twists blood vessels, blocks blood flow and traps gas. The gas and pressure builds up, forcing the stomach to expand. Within a few hours or less the stomach is extremely stretched and hard, and the stomach tissue begins to die. Circulation is cut off, causing the dog to go into shock. Without emergency treatment GDV is fatal. Even with aggressive therapy, some dogs do not survive.
What does a dog with GDV look like? Dogs with GDV are very uncomfortable – as you can just imagine! They act restless and try to vomit but nothing comes up. As their stomachs fill with gas, their abdomens appear bloated just behind the ribs. If you think your dog has these symptoms, regardless of the breed, take him or her to your veterinarian immediately.
What causes GDV and what breeds are at risk? No one knows exactly what cause GDV. Past cases show the biggest risk factor is a big, deep chest. The risk increases as a dog gets older and the ligaments around the stomach stretch out. The breed most at risk is the Great Dane; about 2 out of every 5 have GDV. Some other breeds at risk are St. Bernards, Setters, Weimaraners, Standard Poodles, German Shepherds, and the list goes on.
What can be done to prevent GDV? A surgery called a gastropexy can prevent GDV. In it, the stomach is sewn to inside of the body wall, preventing it from flipping over. This surgery can be done safely with either a laparoscope or traditional surgical method. It’s typically done at the same time a deep-chested or large breed dog is spayed or neutered. Aside from a gastropexy, there is no guaranteed method to prevent GDV. Another factor to consider is that emergency GDV treatment and surgery can range from $3000 to $7000, depending on the hospital, while a preventive laparoscopic gastropexy is about a third of that cost.
If you’re concerned about bloat, talk to your veterinarian about a gastropexy. In my opinion, it is absolutely worth the peace of mind!

Dr. Kristel Weaver is a graduate of the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis where she received both a DVM and a Master’s of Preventative Veterinary Medicine (MPVM). She has been at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care in San Ramon since 2007.

2 Responses to “Canine Bloat”

  1. Octavia Mercado says:

    My dog daughter recently passed of GDV, and it was devastating for both my husband and I. We are still in mourning. Once I discovered what she passed from, I started doing research and discovered this happens a lot in canines. I spoke to a lot of other animal lovers, and they had not heard of this acute illness either. Is there any current research that you all are doing in order to help prevent or educate people on this?
    Thank you,
    In Shasha Mercado’s Honor,
    Octavia mercado

    • We are very sorry for your loss. It is very hard to lose a member of your family.
      We are not a research organization, but GDV (also called torsion and bloat) is most common in larger dogs. It’s been around for awhile.
      Usually, when you have a larger breed dog, your veterinarian tells you about the potential and what to look for.
      Unfortunately, it can be very quick and, from what we’ve read, usually comes on when a dog has eaten and then exercises or plays too soon thereafter, not allowing proper digestion of the food. When larger breed dogs are spayed they can go in and staple the organ to keep it from being an issue.

      There are many articles on torsion and canine bloat on the internet, which would have a much better explanation than ours.

      Again, we are very sorry for your loss.

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