Preventing and Treating Bloat (GDV)

What is bloat?

Gastric dilatation-volvulus, also known as bloat, is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach distends and rotates. This traps gas and fluid in the stomach and also causes tissue deterioration and necrosis. GDV causes extreme pain and if untreated with emergency surgery within 4-6 hours can lead to death in as many as 60% of cases.

Who is at risk for bloat?

While bloat can occur in any dog, dogs with deep chests (a higher depth-to-width ratio) are more prone. The following breeds are especially likely to develop bloat at some point in their lifetime:

  • Akitas
  • Basset Hounds
  • Boxers
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • German Shepherds
  • Gordon Setters
  • Great Danes (Risk for Great Danes without gastropexy to develop bloat in their lifetime is 37%1)
  • Irish Setters
  • Weimaraners
  • Saint Bernards
  • Standard Poodles

What other risk factors are associated with bloat?

Aside from your pet's breed and body type, we see an increased risk in dogs with high stress and anxiety, ingestion of large amounts of food and water or eating from an elevated bowl, and dogs who have a family history with bloat in it.

What are the symptoms of bloat?

If you notice any of these symptoms, get your dog to a veterinarian immediately:

  • Severely distended abdomen (usually appearing rapidly)
  • Excessive drooling and panting, due to pain and nausea
  • Unsuccessful attempts to vomit, retching
  • Restlessness and discomfort from abdominal pain (often lying down and getting up repeatedly)
  • Sudden weakness, collapse or lethargy
  • Gums may turn bluish or mud-colored (critical stage)

Treatment and Prevention

Treating and preventing is accomplished with the same surgery, called gastropexy. It involves permanently adhering a portion of the stomach muscle to the chest wall, preventing the stomach from rotating. In cases where GDV has already occurred, tissue and/or organ damage can complicate the basic surgery and recovery can be long and difficult.

Luckily, using gastropexy as a preventative measure is becoming easier for doctors and patients alike as new methods are developed. Thanks to Finnish veterinarians working to prevent GDV in their working dog breeds we're now using incisional gastropexy to speed up the surgery and recovery time.

Incisional gastropexy is quick to perform, safe, and has few complications. We recommend the procedure to any at risk puppies and dogs to prevent unecessary suffering and save both our patients and clients from painful, costly emergency surgery down the line.

1 Ward M, Patronek G, Glickman L (2003). "Benefits of prophylactic gastropexy for dogs at risk of gastric dilatation-volvulus". Prev. Vet. Med. 60 (4): 319–29. PMID 12941556. doi:10.1016/S0167-5877(03)00142-9.

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