Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV) or Bloat in Dogs
All dog owners should be aware of Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV), commonly known as bloat. This is where the stomach of the dog expands rapidly like a balloon (Gastric Dilation) due to a gas build up, then twist (volvulus). If you have a large breed dog, especially a deep chested breed such as the GSD or Alaskan Malamute, then you should be even more familiar with the signs and symptoms.
Bloat happens suddenly and quickly, left untreated it is fatal. 50% of those dogs who are treated will die, and the key to survival is recognizing it early and getting veterinary help fast. It is a medical emergency. As the stomach fills with gas, it can compress the blood supply to the heart and lungs, and many dogs will die of a heart attack. The massively stretched stomach is excruciatingly painful for your dog, and as it expands, there is the risk of it twisting. When this happens the cells of the stomach start to die.
How do you know this if this is happening to your dog. Bloat has many symptoms which you should familiarize yourself with. Many of the early symptoms of bloat are behavioural you’re your dog will suddenly begin to act differently. Here are the main ones to look out for:
- Restlessness and pacing, not wanting to lie down on their side.
- Laying flat on their stomach
- Walking stiff legged
- Keep looking at their stomach
- Vomiting a foamy liquid
- Dry retching, where they are trying to vomit and nothing comes up
- The stomach visibly increases in size (this isn’t always noticeable in some breeds of dog)
- Arched back
- Drinking heavily then vomiting
- Excess drooling
- Constant swallowing and licking at the air
- The stomach feels hard and swollen like a ball
- Dark Red or very pale gums
- Panting heavily
This list is not exhaustive, there are other symptoms which can be found by googling the condition.
If you suspect your dog has bloat, get straight to the vets. Call ahead and tell them you are on your way. Do not let them fob you off with an appt later, it is a medical emergency and time is of the essence.
Most vets will x-ray the dog immediately to see if the stomach is bloating, then try to insert a tube into the stomach to release the gas. If the stomach has already twisted then this will not be possible. Most dogs will require surgery to reposition the stomach, remove any dead tissue and tack the stomach to the abdomen wall to attempt to prevent it happening again. Dogs that have bloated once are more likely to bloat again. If the stomach has twisted and there is too much dead tissue, the condition becomes fatal.
There are many theories as to why bloat occurs and what if anything can be done by the owner to lessen the risks for their dogs. There are conflicting ideas about subjects such as feed bowl positions, some say feed in a raised bowl, some say you must feed from the ground. I would do your own research on this and talk to your vet so that you can make an informed decision on the subject.
There is a consensus of opinion on some ways to reduce the risk of bloat and the main ones are (this list is not exhaustive):
- Don’t feed large meals eaten at one time. It is recommended serving your dog two smaller meals a day, rather than just one big one.
- No exercise either right before a meal or right after a meal. It is recommended that you leave at least one hour before and after feeding.
- Do not allow dogs to gulp large amounts of water at one time during or after meals.
- Do not allow dogs to gulp vast amounts of water before or after exercise
- Slow your dog’s eating down. It is thought that dogs that gulp their food and eat very fast have an increased risk of bloat. There are many anti gulp feeding bowls available if your dog eats his food in seconds.
Some vets recommend that owners keep a preparation with Simeticone in it, such as Windeze tablets at home. The theory is that although these will not cure bloat, they may buy you some time. However, as with ALL human drugs, NEVER give anything to your dog without consulting with your Vet first.
IF YOU SUSPECT BLOAT GET MEDICAL HELP ASAP, AS DOGS CAN GO INTO SHOCK IN MINUTES
If you don’t do anything else today, take 5 minutes to research bloat/GDV, it may just save your dog’s life. Talk to your vet next time you visit, they will be able to give expert advice on all the do’s and don’ts and signs and symptoms.