Gastric Bloat And GDV In Dogs

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Based on an article that first appeared at

Bloat is a condition most commonly seen in dogs. It is a life-threatening emergency that can lead to the stomach twisting (also known as gastric dilation and volvulus or GDV for short). As a pet owner, understanding the signs, causes, and prevention of GDV is vital to keep our beloved canines safe and healthy. In this post, we will delve into the intricacies of bloat and GDV, exploring everything from early symptoms to emergency response and long-term prevention strategies. Whether you are a new dog owner or a seasoned pet parent, this information is crucial for ensuring the well-being of your four-legged companion.  Let's dive in and arm ourselves with knowledge to protect our loyal and loving dogs from this serious health and life threat.

How Does Dog Bloat Or GDV Happen?

Bloat usually occurs after eating or drinking. There is no evidence that certain foods or ingredients cause bloat. Bloat occurs when the stomach becomes dilated with food or air and stretches to be much larger than normal. When this happens, the stomach tends to become buoyant and then turn, which leads to it twisting. When the stomach twists, it cuts off the blood supply to the stomach and prohibits food and gas from leaving the stomach. Because the stomach and spleen are next to each other, when the stomach twists, the spleen may often twist with it, causing the splenic blood supply to be cut off as well. This condition is extremely painful. If immediate intervention is not performed to correct the problem, the dog will die.  More specifically when the stomach and spleen twist it also involves occluding the large vessel that returns blood from the organs to the heart.  This leads to decreased blood flow and shock in a dog with GDV.

Sick shepherd mix with bload.

What Symptoms Should I Watch For With Dog Bloat?

Clinical signs of bloat include your dog’s abdomen looking distended and hard, pacing or restlessness, attempting to vomit multiple times with little or no success, anxiety, and guarding the stomach (usually presents as having a roached back). Although other conditions can cause these clinical signs, it's best to air on the side of caution and seek medical attention from your veterinarian immediately.

How Is Gastric Bloat In Dogs Treated?

Bloat in dogs is usually diagnosed with radiographs (x-rays). One of three scenarios may be present. The patient will either have a:  1.   straight bloat, which is where only the stomach is dilated; 2.   a GDV; or 3.  the patient has something other abnormality (could be a mesenteric torsion).  With a straightforward bloat without a twisted stomach, the patient will be stabilized (usually with IV fluids and supportive care), then placed under general anesthesia, and will have a stomach tube will be passed to relieve the pressure in the stomach followed by flushing the stomach (gavage).   Generally  blood panel including a lactate value to identify abnormalities in any blood or lactate values.  Lower lactate values can be prognastic for a more positive outcome, but it is not a guarantee. 

More commonly, when a dog is bloated, the stomach is twisted (GDV). To correct this condition, emergency surgery is needed. The patient must be stabilized with intravenous (IV) fluids and supportive care, including pain control, and a stomach tube will be passed to relieve the gas/air pressure in the stomach, prior to performing surgery. Often, cardiac arrhythmias may occur necessitating medication to correct or control them.  As soon as possible, the dog should be taken to surgery.  A number of different procedures may occur during surgery.  In addition to untwisting the stomach, the spleen may be removed if it appears compromised and if it is part of the twisted stomach.  And, if there is any tissue that does not appear viable in the stomach, that portion of the stomach may need to be removed as well.  Depending on the stability and presentation of the dog at the time of bloat/GDV the prognosis may run the spectrum.  A further round of gavage may occur during surgery.  And finally, prior to closing a gastropexy procedure may be performed.  This is a procedure where the stomach is surgically attached to the inner abdominal wall to prevent the recurrence of a twisted stomach on the off chance of bloat recurring.   They may do well with intervention, or they may not make it and die. 

During the surgery, if any part of the stomach needs to be removed, studies have shown that the mortality rate post-surgical is 28-38%. If the spleen needs to be removed, the mortality rate jumps to 32-38%.

Great Danes running together in field.

Which Dogs Are At Risk For Bloating?

Dogs over 100 pounds are 20% more likely to bloat than dogs under 100 pounds. Dogs that are considered deep-chested, such as Great Danes, Irish Wolfhounds, Standard Poodles, and German Shepherds. are more prone to bloating and GDV, but this condition can occur in any breed.

There are some pre-disposing factors in addition to breed that can lead to bloat and GDV. These factors include increased age, a known family member having a history of bloat and or GDV, eating rapidly, and eating from raised bowls.

What Can I Do To Prevent My Dog From Getting Bloat Or GDV?

Steps can be taken to prevent GDV. Factors that may decrease the risk of bloating are feeding more than two meals per day, having an easygoing temperament, and feeding dry food with calcium-rich meat in the first four ingredients.

A prophylactic gastropexy (mentioned above) can be performed at the time of ovariohysterectomy (spay) or neuter.   A dog can still bloat with this procedure, but it will minimize the risk of the dog's stomach to twist (volvulus). The stomach can still become distended with gas and food with this procedure and cause discomfort, but it will not progress beyond that point with a gastropexy.  A gastropexy is not a guarantee that a GDV will not happen, but the chance of it happening is less than 10% with a gastropexy.

If you have a deep-chested dog, you may want to consider having a prophylactic gastropexy done. If you are not sure if your dog is at risk for bloating, discuss it with your veterinarian. Regardless, if you are ever concerned that your dog may be bloated, seek medical attention immediately. It could save your dog's life.

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