Gastric dilation and volvulus syndrome (GDV), more commonly known as bloat, gastric torsion, or ‘twisted stomach’, is a serious and sometimes life-threatening condition that many breeds, especially deep-chested breeds, may experience.
Before looking at the symptoms, risk factors and treatment of GDV, it is essential to understand how and why GDV occurs. According to Holly Nash DVM, when a dog faces GDV, his/her stomach fills with air (distension). As the stomach fills, pressure is put on a number of organs and the diaphragm. As you can imagine, this makes it hard for the dog to breathe. In addition, veins are also compressed, which reduces the free-flow of blood to return the heart. Interestingly, when a dog’s stomach is filled with gas that cannot be relieved, it more easily rotates (volvulus) limiting or cutting the blood supply off.
As the condition worsens, which can happen in minutes with GDV, it is likely that a dog will go into shock or become pale, have a weak pulse, a rapid heart rate and may also eventually collapse. Since your dog’s condition can decrease rapidly, it is important to take your dog to the vet immediately when you notice the first symptoms of GDV. A list of common symptoms has been provided below.
The symptoms of GDV can include:
- Swollen Stomach
- Nonproductive Vomiting (vomiting motion with nothing coming up)
- Retching (making vomiting noises)
- Abdominal Pain
- Shallow Breathing
- Increase in Salvation
Although the cause of GDV is unknown, there are some factors that are said to increase the risk of your dog experiencing GDV, such as:
- Being over the age of 7
- Breeds with ‘barrel chests’ (deep and narrow). These breeds include, but are not limited to: Afghan Hounds, Basset Hounds, Boxers, Chows, Collies, Golden Retrievers, Great Danes, Irish Setters, Labs, Standard Poodles, St.Bernards and Weimaraners.
- Being male
- Being fed once a day (it is best to feed your dog twice a day)
- Eating rapidly
- Exercising to promptly after a meal
- Those who are more nervous, anxious or fearful
Although it is impossible to completely remove your dog’s risk of experiencing GDV, there are some ways you can prevent it. Dr. Ernie Ward explains that dog food with oil (either vegetable or animal) listed in the first four ingredients, have been shown in some studies to increase the risk of GDV. With this in mind, any changes to your dog’s diet should be made over the course of 3 to 5 days. Also, reducing strenuous exercise, excitement and stress an hour before, as well as 2 hours after eating, has also been proven effective in reducing the chances of a dog experiencing GDV. Although water should always be available, limiting water after food can also decrease a dog’s risk of developing GDV. If your dog has experienced GDV in the past, this also increases their risk of developing GDV again in the future.
Some veterinarians suggest Gastropexy as a way to either reduce the chances of GDV occurring, or in the case where a dog has already experienced GDV, prevent it from happening again in the future. Gastropexy is a surgical procedure where the bottom of a dog’s stomach is attached to the right side of his/her body wall. There are three different ways that Gastropexy can be performed, the most popular of these include: incisional gastropexy, belt-loop gastropexy and circumcostal gastropexy. You can read more about these three methods here. You will see that there are pros and cons to each type, making it important that you talk it over with your veterinarian to ensure you are making an informed decision.
Most importantly, if you notice that your dog has any of the symptoms listed above, or if you feel that something is not quite right, take your dog to the nearest vet immediately. GDV is not an condition where time is at a premium. Quick veterinary intervention has also been shown to reduce cellular damage, organ death and long term symptoms.
Wishing you and your dog the best of health!
This blog should be used to accompany, but not replace, professional veterinary advice.