Bloat or gastric dilation/volvulus (GDV) is a serious, life-threatening and rapidly progressive condition in dogs. It occurs when the stomach fills with gas and then dilates to a point where it then twists.
This condition can affect blood flow, cause organ damage and ultimately send your dog into shock and sometimes death cannot be prevented.
Large or giant dog breeds such as great danes, German shepherds, Irish setters and weimaraners are at most risk due to their deep chest.
Some other risk factors include: feeding a large meal once daily, strenuous exercise or stress after a meal, eating quickly, being an older dog and having relatives that have developed GDV.
Abdominal pain, drooling, panting, restlessness, pacing and non-productive retching are usually the first signs that something is wrong.
This may happen before you notice any bloating of the abdomen.
As the condition progresses, your dog may become weak or even collapse, have pale gums, and show significant changes in their heart rate and breathing pattern – all signs that your dog has gone into shock.
Immediate veterinary attention and treatment is required.
This involves treatment of shock with intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy, an xray to confirm the GDV and decompression of the stomach to try and release some gas prior to surgery.
Once under general anaesthetic, derotation of the stomach is performed, any damaged tissue is removed and then the stomach is stitched permanently to the abdominal wall (gastropexy) to try and prevent this from happening again.
The patient’s spleen may also be removed due to irreparable damage. Usually patients require several days in hospital to recover.
Despite our best efforts, approximately 15 to 40 per cent of dogs with GDV can die which highlights how devastating this condition can be for owners.
Some owners of dogs at risk of developing GDV are now electing to have a prophylactic gastropexy performed at the same time as a desexing procedure.
Please discuss your options with your vet.
If at any time you suspect your dog has signs of bloat, contact your vet immediately as it can be a race against the clock.