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Bloat (GVD) in dogs

Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is a potentially fatal condition in dogs, where the stomach twists and becomes engorged with air and froth. GDVs are most common in large, deep-chested dogs, such as Huntaway dogs, Dobermans, Rottweilers and Boxers. GDVs are emergencies.

How do you know your dog might have a GDV? The most important thing to remember is that from the onset of symptoms, you have very little time, sometimes only minutes, to get immediate veterinary attention to avoid death. Symptoms include a bloated abdomen that feels tight like a drum; attempts to vomit every five to 30 minutes (sounds like a cough, only foam and mucus come up); not acting normally; significant anxiety and restlessness; hunched up appearance; and generally looking uncomfortable.

If you suspect a GDV, please ring us immediately. The hospital team will establish your dog on an IV drip and decompress the stomach. This is done by passing a tube down the oesophagus and into the stomach, allowing the air to escape. Alternatively, a needle is inserted into the stomach through the side of the dog’s abdomen in order to release the pressure.

The next step is to perform emergency surgery to untwist the stomach. The longer the stomach remains twisted, the more likely it is that areas of the stomach become necrotic (die off), due to the lack of blood supply. The twist in the stomach also causes respiratory distress, damage to the heart and cuts off blood supply to the vital organs in the body, causing irreversible damage and often death. The stomach wall is sutured to the abdominal wall to prevent it from being able to twist again in the future.

The recovery period is very much a waiting game and the prognosis is often 50:50 as to whether patients will survive. Most of the dogs that survive often do so due to their owner’s observations and quick thinking. There are several things you can do to minimise (but unfortunately not eliminate) the risk of GDV: do not exercise your dog for at least an hour before and especially after eating; do not allow rapid eating; and feed two to three meals a day instead of one.

If you suspect a GDV, please ring us immediately – this is an emergency and every minute counts.