Everything You Need to Know About Bloat

Bloat, or gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), is a leading cause of death for dogs, characterized by a buildup of gas in a dog’s stomach leading to it twisting (volvulation). This expands the stomach and restricts blood circulation, becoming potentially fatal very quickly. Here are some warning signs and characteristics of bloat to protect your dog from this dangerous occurrence.

Susceptible Breeds and Warning Signs

Bloat is commonly seen in larger dogs with deep chests. Great Danes are by far the most affected by this ailment, but it is also commonly seen in Boxers, Doberman Pinschers, Poodles, and German Shepherds. However, if your dog is not on this list, that does not mean that he or she is immune. GDV can happen to any dog and has a mortality rate of almost 40%. Signs of GDV include uncontrolled panting, persistent vomiting, a bloated and hard stomach, and simply appearing uncomfortable or in pain, so be sure to look out for any of these symptoms throughout your dog’s life.

Causes and Clarification

To clarify this condition, it is important to note the difference between simple bloat and GDV. Bloat is a broad term which occurs when a dog’s stomach is filled with food, water, or air. GDV is the medically serious condition, which is twisting of the stomach caused by bloat in combination with a variety of things. If your dog has recently eaten a large meal, he or she is experiencing bloat. If he or she then goes on a run or outside to exercise, there is a huge risk of GDV, especially depending on breed. This can cause the stomach to twist, making it hard for a dog to breathe and preventing blood flow to the heart. However, this food-exercise combo is not the only cause of GDV. It can come from a dog eating a meal and drinking a large amount of water, from over-exercise and heavy breathing, or a variety of reasons. Therefore, it is important to take a series of precautions to prevent this.

Precautions

To help protect your pet from GDV, there are many approaches you can take. First, it is an extremely wise approach to split up your pet’s meals. Instead of feeding them one or two large meals during the day, split the food up into smaller portions to limit bloating and prevent GDV. Similarly, don’t allow your dog to drink large amounts of water at one time, but split it up into manageable portions. Moreover, as mentioned before, it is a good idea to limit exercise following a meal. This is vital in preventing GDV, and can potentially save your pet’s life. Finally, there is a medical precaution that can be taken for susceptible breeds. Prophylactic Gastropexy is a procedure that prevents GDV by surgically attaching the dog’s stomach lining to its abdomen.This stops the stomach from twisting in the presence of bloat and may save your dog’s life. Speak to your vet about this procedure if your dog is susceptible to bloat or you simply want to learn more.

Personal Story

On top of this research, I have experienced this condition in my own dog, Lance. Lance is an English Springer Spaniel, which is far smaller than many of the breeds who commonly get GDV. Following a trip during which Lance stayed in a kennel, he immediately went to the water bowl upon arriving home because the kennel did not properly hydrate him. Following this, due to his excitement of being home, Lance proceeded to run around the yard. What followed were not immediate symptoms, but a development over several hours. It began with a distended stomach, but followed with vomiting and constant panting. Lance came home at around 3:00 that day, and by 6:00 the next morning he was clearly in jeopardy of losing his life. He looked a shell of the dog he was when he came home, and my mother rushed him to the vet. After an emergency surgery and 3 days of monitoring, we decided Lance should be moved to the comfort of his home for what would likely be his final days despite the recommendation of the vet. Miraculously, Lance recovered from GDV at home and recently celebrated his 13th birthday, but many dogs are not this lucky. No matter what breed of dog you have, we urge you to look out for signs of this medical emergency.