What are the symptoms of bloat and how can it be treated? | TeamDogs
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What are the symptoms of bloat and how can it be treated?

GDV is a life-threatening condition for dogs

Danielle Elton

Posted 4 months ago

None of us like to think of our dogs no longer being around, they’re our little shadows and we just couldn’t be without them.

But our dogs don’t live as long as us so it’s something we will likely have to face at some point, as hard as that is. Although, knowing they’ve had a long and happy life can definitely help ease the pain.

Sadly, some dogs pass away long before their time from illnesses we just don’t know much about.

Following the passing of her beloved Great Dane Barnaby, one owner got in touch wanting to raise awareness of his condition - GDV. He was only three-years-old.

So what is GDV? And what are the symptoms we should be looking out for?

We spoke to vet and pet writer Dr. Joanna Woodnutt BVM BVS MRCVS. She had some advice for owners 

What is GDV?

Getty - Bradley Olson / EyeEm

Joanna said: “GDV stands for ‘Gastric Dilation Volvulus’. It’s a dangerous condition where the stomach bloats and then twists. The twist is the dangerous bit – it traps gas, stomach contents, and blood in the stomach area and causes pain and shock.

“Once the stomach has ‘twisted’, food and gas in the stomach cannot move into the guts or be vomited back up. The gas continues to build up, but it has nowhere to go. The stomach has to expand, stretching the delicate tissues thinner than usual.

“The twist also stops the blood from moving around the stomach and guts properly. Very quickly, this lack of blood supply causes the tissues of the stomach to die. Not only is this painful, but damaged tissues become leaky, causing life-threatening peritonitis.

“Despite this, many dogs with GDV die from the shock, especially when the extra-large stomach starts pressing on some of the major blood vessels that run through the abdomen, slowing blood movement further and compromising the heart.”

Joanna also advised how sometimes the spleen can be caught up in the twist, leading to further blood loss and shock.

What are the symptoms?

Getty - Sam Carey

With this being a potentially life-threatening condition for dogs, any sign of bloating should be treated as soon as possible, to hopefully prevent it from twisting.

Joanna said: “Signs of abdominal pain, like looking at the abdomen and adopting the ‘prayer position’, are some of the earliest signs of a problem developing. 

“Rounding of the abdomen as the dog bloats is a sign that veterinary attention should be sought immediately.”

She also mentioned some other symptoms which should be considered an emergency and a sign that you should head to the nearest open veterinary surgery immediately.

They include:

  • Unproductive retching
  • Drooling
  • Changes in breathing rate
  • Collapse 

What breeds are more susceptible to GDV?

Although any dog can be affected, the dogs most prone to the condition are the large, deep-chested breeds.

They include:

  • Great Danes
  • German Shepherds
  • Poodles
  • Weimaraners
  • Shar-Pei
  • Basset Hounds

Can it be prevented?

Getty - ChristopherBernard

As well as the breeds mentioned above, there are also some other factors that can impact the risk of bloating.

Joanna advised that a greater age is a factor, with a higher likelihood in dogs over the age of four. Stress is another contributor, with GDV often happening whilst dogs are being boarded

She also mentioned how once-daily feeding and exercising close to time of feeding can be a risk.

So how can we prevent it?

“Whilst raising the food bowl is often recommended, it’s actually been shown to increase the risk of GDV in large, deep-chested dogs,” said Joanna.

“Other than reducing some of the risk factors, like feeding twice daily and not exercising near mealtimes, the best way to prevent GDV is by having a “stomach tack” (prophylactic gastropexy) performed in at-risk breeds. 

“This is usually done at the time of neutering, and the vet opens the abdomen and attaches the stomach to the body wall so that, even if it bloats, it can’t twist.”

How is GDV treated?

Getty - Sebastian Condrea

As was the case for poor Barnaby, this condition can be fatal for dogs. That’s why it’s vital that you act quickly.

Joanna told us that GDV can only be effectively treated with surgery, and the sooner, the better. But she did say that a vet’s first task would be to treat the dog’s shock.

“Once your dog is considered stable enough, they’ll have an anesthetic,” said Joanna.

“Your vet will open the abdomen, find the stomach, and assess how much of the tissue is damaged. They’ll untwist the stomach and may need to remove the spleen or sections of the bowel that have died from a lack of blood supply. 

“Your vet may also perform a ‘gastropexy’ procedure, which involves permanently attaching the stomach to the wall of the abdomen so it can’t twist again.”

Sadly, sometimes during surgery the vet will find that the stomach is too injured to heal and may recommend putting your dog down.

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