Most of us have heard the story of Marly and Me. It came out as a book and was also at the movie theater. The story is about an adorable Labrador Retriever with a serious stomach condition called Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus or bloat. Today I would like to tell you more about this disease and also let you know the signs and the treatment of it as well as some preventive measures to keep it from reoccurring.
Gastric dilatation-Volvulus or bloat is an extremely serious condition and requires immediate veterinary care. Dogs can die of bloat within several hours. There is a relation between the breed and build of dog and volvulus. It occurs mostly in large breeds with deep narrow chests. Some examples of these breeds are: Great Dane, Doberman Pinscher, Rottweiler, Weimaraner, Irish Setter, Standard Poodle, St. Bernardt, Basset Hound, German Sheppard, Pittbull, Golden Retriever, Boxer, Labrador Retriever. Older Dogs are more prone to GDV than younger dogs. Also, male dogs are twice as likely to develop GDV than females. A dog's eating habits can contribute to bloat as well. Dogs that are fed only once daily and exercise soon after the meal are at higher risk and so are dogs that tend to be more nervous, anxious, or fearful.
What actually happens is that the stomach fills with air due to unknown reasons. This puts pressure on the diaphragm and the other organs as well as on large veins in the abdomen. When the stomach is filled with air, it can easily rotate within itself and thus, pinching of its blood supply which causes the stomach to die. With this, the dogs condition deteriorates very rapidly. In the x-ray to the right, you can see very well what that looks like. The big black balloon is the stomach filled with air. It has twisted within itself and moved way towards the diaphragm (on the left of the x-ray). The stomach would normally be a lot smaller and more towards the right side of the x-ray.
Signs of GDV are: abdominal distention (swollen stomach), non-productive vomiting, restlessness, rapid breathing, profuse salivation, and lethargy. If any or all of these signs are present, the dog should be seen by a veterinary or emergency clinic immediately.
The veterinarian will most likely stabilize the dog by administering intravenous fluids, a pain reliever, and antibiotics. The veterinarian will also take an x-ray of the stomach and in the case of GDV will aspirate the air from the stomach either with a stomach tube or with a large needle. Some dogs can develop a bleeding disorder because the stomach puts pressure on blood vessels which can cause blood clots to form. To prevent this, an anticoagulant like Heparin will be administered. The heart rate and heart rhythm is closely monitored. Once the dog is stabilized, abdominal surgery to untwist the stomach is performed. At this time, the stomach will be sutured in a way that prevents it from twisting again. If this is not performed, 75 - 80% of dogs will develop GDV again. After the surgery the dog will be closely monitored for several days.
There are preventive measures that can eliminate the recurrence of GDV. As mentioned above, suturing the stomach at a certain way can keep it from twisting again. Owners can do their part as well. Owners of susceptible breeds should be aware of the signs and contact a veterinarian immediately should they occur. Large dogs should be fed two or three times daily rather than once. Water should be available at all times but not immediately after feeding. Diet changes should be gradually over a period of time. Anxious or nervous dogs should be fed in a quiet location. It is recommended to feed more moist food than kibbles since kibbles can cause more gas than moist food due to the high content of grains. Exercise, excitement, and stress should be avoided one hour before meals and two hours after meals.
To sum it all up, Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus or bloat is a life threatening disease in dogs. It affects mostly large breeds with deep chests. Owners of susceptible dogs should know the signs and seek veterinary treatment immediately. By following preventive measures, owners can reduce the likelihood of the occurrence or recurrence of the disease.
Well my friends, I hope you have learned something new today. As always,
Love and Peace,