Bloat/GVD in Dogs

Dog Bloat is a very serious and high risk condition in dogs and even with treatment, 25-30% of dogs can die from it.  Dog Bloat is when the stomach will rotate or twist, and according to some sources; it is the second leading killer of dogs, after cancer. 

Dog Bloat is also known as Gastric Dilation Torsion or Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV). It mainly occurs in dogs with deep chests and the large breed dogs including German Shepherds, Great Dane, Large Setters, Basset Hounds, Irish Setters to name a few and having said that GDV can occur in any breed of dog, at any age. 

When a dog suffers from Dog Bloat a variety of serious issues occur. The stomach becomes filled with gas either by too much food or liquid which will then cause the stomach to expand causing a tearing of the wall enabling the dog to have a hard time breathing properly. 

The stomach then puts added pressure on the animal’s organs causing it to trap the blood in the stomach and making the stomach block the blood from returning to the heart and other areas of the body. Once in shock (the body’s natural response to pain or blood/fluid loss). It acts as a protective mechanism to prevent damage and shut down of the major organs in the body. This is because the stomach has expanded so much which then puts pressure on the diaphragm causing it to work harder. 

Signs and symptoms of Dog Bloat to look out for include:

  • The dog will have pale or white gums. 
  • Have rapid breathing and have a weak or rapid pulse. 
  • Does the dog have any cold extremities or show general weakness
  • Agitation, Restlessness or Pacing
  • Drooling or foaming at the mouth
  • Will try to retch but try unsuccessfully
  • Will try to attempt at vomiting, producing either froth or nothing at all
  • Have difficulty in breathing
  • The dog tries to defecate unsuccessfully
  • The dog will try and move into the sphinx position to help ease a painful stomach
  • Tries to bite the abdomen
  • The dog seems very unsettled
  • Appear to have abdominal enlargement and pain
  • Shock and collapse

So what are the causes of GDV?

There is not one full answer to why Dog Bloat occurs. There can be several risk factors which include overeating or excessive drinking, other problems that can contribute include:

  • Allowing a dog to exercise shortly after a meal either through playtime or go for a walk.
  • Allowing a dog to roll over onto its back shortly after a meal.
  • A dog eating from a raised food bowl.
  • Having just one large meal a day which according to the 

“Can weigh down the stomach and stretch the hepatogastic ligament, which is one of the ligaments associated with the Liver which usually maintains the stomach’s normal position in the abdomen”

  • Eating too quickly. If a dog is eating too fast from their dog bowl, the dog will take food into its mouth and swallow air. If a dog has behavioural issues around food and acts out territorially or guards its food at the same time as eating it. The dog will eat the food at a considerable fast pace and they will walk away trying to gasp for air trying to catch their breath back. 
  • Other family members in his lineage that have had Bloat in the past.
  • Stress or a build up of anxiety due to a number of factors i.e a stressful family household, children, other dogs/animals in the  household, medications, vaccinations, food.
  • Drinking a vast excess of water i.e a swimming pool or directly from a hose pipe during playtime.
  •  When anxious dogs tend to swallow more air. This is known as ‘Aeroghagia’ or eating air and is seen in kennelled dogs. Aeroghagia happens when there is a constant intake of air which then causes the stomach to swell in size causing the organs to change in size also. 

Conventional Treatment

According to an article written for by Vetinarian Shea Cox here is an explanation of what NOT to do when your dog has Bloat:

  • Do not give anything by mouth.
  • Do not attempt to relieve gas from the stomach with medications or by other means apart from a qualified vetinarian.

“A note about the use of Gas X:  This medication may help to reduce the amount of stomach gas in the case of “simple” bloat, but it will do nothing to help your pet in the case of GDV.  The problem with GDV is not the gas, but the actual twisting of the stomach (think of a balloon being twisted in half, like when a clown makes an animal figure). It is the twist that kills, and a medication will not undo the deadly rotation of the stomach. Please do not waste valuable life-saving moments waiting to see if the medication helps! Taking an x-ray of your pet’s abdomen is the only way to tell the difference between bloat and GDV, allowing for appropriate intervention.”

Depending of the severity of the condition and at what stage the dog has from having Dog Bloat. It is always considered as life threatening and an emergency situation. If the dog is suffering from shock then a vet will administer fluids through an Intravenous Drip (I.V Antibiotics) or will be given steroids. A tube will then be inserted into a dog’s throat and down to his Oesophagus to help release and alleviate pressure that has built up. Having said that though if the stomach has become twisted it can sometimes stop the tube from passing through. (It is highly unadvisable for anyone to attempt this other than a qualified vetinarian). If the stomach has twisted then the second option would be for the vet to put a large hollow needle through the dogs’ stomach in order to help release and alleviate the pressure that has been building up. (This is technically referred to as Gastric decompression)  This will also help restore normal breathing patterns and blood flow. Subsequently after this procedure has taken place, the vet will want to do X-rays to check if the stomach is still twisted. 

If this is the case then the dog will have to go emergency surgery for a procedure to help firstly untwist it and secondly put the stomach back into its original position again to the abdominal wall to stop it from happening again. The X-rays will also determine to see if any damage has been done to any of the organs or other parts of the body. 

Once emergency surgery has been performed the vet will closely monitor the dog over several days for any signs of infection, any heart abnormalities, if the stomach will ulcerate or perforate or check if there are any signs of damage to the pancreas or liver. Medication will also be administered such as antibiotics and other additional medicinal support.

Catching the signs is vital if any guardian to help save a dog from this terrible condition. If every guardian could take the time to acknowledge and familiarise themselves of the warning signs of GDV then it could greatly improve a dogs health and reduce the risk factors.   

© Jude Dickinson

Connect-2yourpet Dog Walking/Pet Sitting Services

Registered HAO Animal Healer

HAOK9 Massage Therapist Contact: 07783070766

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