Bloat and GDV: What Is It and Why Is It So Bad?

What is “bloat” or GDV?

What is commonly called “bloat” (known medically as gastric dilatation and volvulus, or GDV) is the sudden and painful expanding of the stomach, accompanied by a shift in the normal position of the stomach. It is a surgical emergency and is seen very commonly in dogs.

Unfortunately, it kills very quickly unless surgery is performed. There is no way to manage serious cases without surgery.

How does it occur?

The stomach fills up with air, flips over on itself and twists off the blood supply, sometimes involving the spleen as well. This causes the stomach tissue to die off, in a process called “necrosis” – like what happens when you leave a rubber band on your finger, only far, far worse. Large-breed dogs, typically those with a “deep” chest (like Great Danes) are particularly prone to it, and Danes have about a 40 percent chance of having this happen to them in their lifetime. No one really knows the cause, and the only thing that science has taught us is that dogs with a “nervous” disposition are more prone to it.

What causes it?

The truth is – no one knows. It has something to do with a dog’s anatomy, and there may be some genetic factors or management habits that contribute to a dog’s risk of developing GDV. You may have heard that exercise right after eating predisposes dogs to GDV, but this has been shown in studies not to be the case. (Although it may be best to be sure and limit activity after eating for a little while in any case – sometimes something shown to be untrue in one study gets proven in another one).

Prevention involves performing a procedure called a gastropexy, where the stomach is surgically affixed to the body wall. It can be done at the time of a spay/neuter, and can also be done through a laparascope (minimally-invasive surgery).

What are the signs?

Dogs with this condition will try and vomit and produce either nothing, or just a bit of sticky white foam. The abdomen suddenly becomes very distended, and it looks like they’ve swallowed a beach ball. They are in great pain and often try to lie down and get up repeatedly. The gums may be very pale, indicating that they are going into shock.

How is it treated?

For cases of confirmed GDV on an X-ray, immediate surgery is the only course of action that is realistic. For severe cases, or for financial hardships (surgery can be very expensive and ICU care is needed) some animals are euthanized to prevent further pain and suffering.

Dogs with GDV (GDV is limited to dogs) need to be stabilized right away and taken to surgery as soon as possible. When you get to the ER (and you need to go – don’t wait or try to treat at home) they will most likely take your dog into the treatment area and want to get an X-ray of the abdomen to confirm the diagnosis and start stabilizing your dog – this is not the time to lose precious minutes and argue about being separated from your dog! Let them do what they need to do – they will be back out to speak with you within minutes.

In cases where there are no complications and the stomach has not suffered from a lack of oxygen for too long, recovery is often speedy and they are home in a day or two. In cases for patients who have complications like infection, bleeding and heart rhythms issues, a longer hospital stay is sometime required. Overall survival for uncomplicated cases is in the range of 80 to 90 percent, while for complicated cases, it can be much lower.

If your dog has suddenly distended stomach, don’t delay – take them right away to the nearest veterinarian – night or day! You could save their life.

Tags: , , ,

  • Print
  • email