Bloat in dogs is medically known as GDV (Gastric Dilation and Volvulus). It is the bloating and twisting of the stomach that most commonly occurs in large breed, deep chested dogs, like the Great Dane, St. Bernard, Weimaraner and Setters to name the top 4. GDV can rapidly progress to severe illness and death in a matter of hours if not recognised and treated quickly.
The most common factor associated with bloat is exercise after rapid ingestion of a large sized meal of dry food of a high fat content, +/- a large drink of water. For example, large breed working dogs (Eg. Huntaway and German Shepherd’s) being fed one large meal per day, scoffing it down quickly and having to run straight after eating.
Other factors associated with GDV include being an older male dog, having a raised food bowl (which makes them swallow more air in each mouthful), having a fearful temperament or competition from other dogs whilst eating.
How to recognise if your dog has bloat:
– Sudden enlargement of the abdomen
– Distressed, anxious, panting and restless
– Extremely painful tight abdomen with a hunched back
– Frequent unproductive attempts to vomit
How to reduce the occurrence of bloat:
– Feed two smaller meals instead of one large, with the bowl on the ground
– Avoid competitive stress whilst eating by separating dogs during feeding
– Preventative gastropexy in high risk dogs – this is a surgical procedure that fixes the stomach to the internal body wall, preventing the stomach from being able to twist. This can be done as an elective procedure on its own, or at the same time as a desexing surgery
– Do not breed dogs with a first-degree relative that has a history of GDV. GDV is considered a hereditary condition, so a dog should be desexed if they have had a case of bloat, so as not to pass on the risk of a GDV to the next generation.
Treatment involves a surgery to decompress and untwist the stomach, a gastropexy to fix the stomach in place and intensive medical care pre and post-operatively to correct the many fluid, electrolyte, acid-base and cardiac abnormalities that GDV produces. Occasionally the spleen may need to be removed if it has been caught up and damaged in the twisted abdominal organs and any damaged stomach tissue needs to be surgically removed. The quicker treatment is started in a case of bloat, the higher chance of survival for the dog. If in doubt, please don’t hesitate to call our friendly team for advice.