Gastric Dilatation Volvulus - 8 Facts

Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), more commonly known as bloat, is a serious disease that affects dogs and can be fatal if not addressed promptly by a veterinary professional. Our team at Ambleside Animal Hospital wants to help safeguard your pet by providing information concerning this critical issue.

Fact #1: Bloat occurs when your dog’s stomach twists and becomes gas-filled

As gas fills your dog’s stomach, the organ enlarges and puts pressure on the diaphragm, which makes lung expansion difficult. The excess pressure also compromises blood flow, preventing adequate blood return from the abdomen to the heart. When the stomach twists, the spleen and pancreas are also affected, and blood supply to all three organs is obstructed. If the issue is not addressed immediately, your dog will go into shock. As the condition progresses, toxins circulating in your dog’s bloodstream can lead to acute kidney failure and liver failure. Your dog’s heart may stop if they are affected by toxic hormones released by the distressed pancreas, and their stomach wall may slough or possibly rupture.

Fact #2: Your dog will initially exhibit abdominal pain signs

In the early stages, non-specific signs may suggest your pet’s abdomen is painful. These include:

  • Restless pacing
  • Stretching out
  • Looking at their abdomen
  • Excessive drooling
  • Unsuccessful attempts to vomit or defecate

As the condition progresses, your dog’s abdomen will become markedly distended and painful to touch. Your pet will have trouble breathing, and start panting excessively. Their gums will become pale, and they may collapse.

Fact #3: The sooner your dog receives veterinary care, the better their prognosis

You should rush your dog to the veterinary hospital as soon as you recognize GDV signs. Based on your dog’s history and presentation, bloat likely will be suspected. Bloodwork and a urinalysis will help determine the disease progression, and abdominal X-rays will confirm the diagnosis. An electrocardiogram will likely be performed to check for cardiac arrhythmias.

Fact #4: Treatment for your dog involves stabilization, decompression, and stomach derotation

Your dog will be stabilized using intravenous fluids and oxygen therapy. Decompression can occur by passing a tube down your dog’s esophagus to their stomach to remove the gas and fluid accumulation, or by inserting a catheter into the stomach through the abdominal wall. Once your dog is stable enough for general anesthesia, they will be taken to surgery, their abdomen fully evaluated, and their stomach returned to the correct position. If the compromised blood supply has caused damage, the spleen or the affected stomach wall may be removed. A gastropexy will be performed to permanently attach the stomach to the abdominal wall before the abdomen is closed.

Fact #5: Your dog will be hospitalized for several days after surgery

Your dog will be given intravenous fluids and closely monitored for postoperative complications. Cardiac arrhythmias are commonly seen after a dog is affected by bloat. Other possible complications include sepsis and peritonitis. The overall mortality rate for dogs affected by bloat is 25% to 30%. Factors that decrease a dog’s survival chances include:

  • Experiencing clinical signs for longer than six hours
  • Cardiac arrhythmias prior to surgery
  • Requiring removal of the damaged stomach wall
  • Requiring their spleen removed

Fact #6: Bloat affects certain dogs more than others

All dogs can be affected by bloat, but male dogs are at higher risk. Dogs weighing more than 40 kg are also more at risk, and pure-bred dogs are five times more likely to be affected. Your dog’s risk also increases as they age. Certain breeds are more susceptible to the condition, including:

  • Great Danes
  • Doberman pinschers
  • German shepherds
  • Saint Bernards
  • Weimaraners
  • Standard poodles

Fact #7: Veterinary professionals do not know what causes bloat in your dog

Bloat’s cause is unclear, but veterinary professionals have made certain associations, and the following recommendations may help your dog avoid being affected.

  • Feed your dog several small meals a day.
  • Keep your dog calm during feeding time.
  • Use a slow-feeder to ensure your dog does not gulp down their food.
  • Avoid exercise for at least one hour after a meal.
  • Do not elevate your dog’s food bowl.
  • Avoid prepared foods whose first four ingredients include soybean meal or oils and fats.

Fact #8: Prophylactic gastropexy can be performed on your dog to help prevent bloat

If your dog is at high risk, you should consider a gastropexy before problems occur. The team at Ambleside Animal Hospital offers laparoscopic gastropexy, which is performed through a small abdominal incision, or the procedure can be performed when your pet is spayed or neutered.

Recognizing GDV signs will ensure your dog receives veterinary care as soon as possible if affected by this life-threatening issue. Do not hesitate to contact our team at Ambleside Animal Hospital if you suspect your dog is suffering from bloat, or if you would like to discuss a prophylactic gastropexy for your pet.