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Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (Bloat) in Dogs

The term bloat may sound innocuous, but it refers to a life-threatening medical emergency that is also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV).

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (Bloat) in Dogs

The term bloat may sound innocuous, but it refers to a life-threatening medical emergency that is also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV).

What is bloat?

When a dog "bloats," his or her stomach fills rapidly with gas, fluid, or food. In some cases, the stomach will also twist over onto itself. This will effectively block the entrance and exit to the stomach. The distended stomach will also begin pressing on the dog's large arteries and other internal organs, cutting off the circulation of blood between the heart and the canine's abdomen and organs.

To make matters worse, if the blood flow to the pancreas gets cut off, this organ will begin producing toxic hormones, including one that could potentially stop a dog's heart. Unfortunately, without immediate treatment, most dogs with GDV will die.

Breeds with a tendency to bloat

Large dogs — especially those with deep, narrow chests — are more likely to bloat than smaller dogs. The following are just some of the breeds known to be at a higher risk of bloat:

  • Great Dane

  • Saint Bernard

  • Weimaraner

  • Irish setters

  • Gordon setters

  • Doberman pinschers

  • Standard poodle

However, it's important to note that even small dogs, such as dachshunds and Chihuahuas, can bloat.

Cause of bloat

While scientists are still not sure of the exact causes of bloat, the following are believed to increase a dog's risk of GDV:

  • Gulping food too quickly

  • Running or vigorous activity after eating

  • Drinking water too quickly

  • Stressful situations

Age can be another factor. In fact, a dog's risk of bloat increases by 20% for each year of age.

What are the symptoms of bloat?

The following are just some of the symptoms you may notice if your canine has developed bloat:

  • Distended or swollen abdomen

  • Pain

  • Distress

  • Excessive gas

  • Rumblings or gurgling in the abdomen

  • Panting

  • Restlessness

  • Anxious appearance, pacing

  • Trying to vomit without success

  • Excessive drooling, sometimes accompanied by frothy saliva

  • Wide stance

  • Unwillingness to lie down

  • Rapid heartbeat

  • Weakened pulse

Treatment

GDV is a true medical emergency. About 30% of dogs with bloat will die, even after treatment. That's why it's so important that dog owners take their pets to a veterinarian immediately if bloat is suspected.

When treating bloat, veterinarians will typically have to deal with several issues. If the dog is in shock, the vet will work to stabilize the patient in order to get them ready for surgery. During the operation, the vet will need to deflate the stomach, and then return it to its correct position. The vet will also repair any internal damage that may have occurred. In some instances, the spleen will need to be removed.

Some veterinarians will also perform a gastropexy. In this surgical procedure, the vet will suture a dog's stomach to the abdominal wall or diaphragm to prevent it from twisting again in the future.

Cost of GDV surgery in dogs

Typically, the treatment for bloat includes an examination, abdominal X-rays, an electrocardiogram, surgery, and hospitalization. Pet owners can expect to pay between $1,500 to $7,500 for gastric dilatation-volvulus surgery in dogs, as well as for post-operative care. If the owner has pet insurance, it's possible that most or even all the cost of bloat surgery for dogs will be covered.

Recovery from bloat surgery

The typical length of a hospital stay after bloat surgery can range from one to seven or more days. During this time, the goal will be to get a dog's pain and enzyme levels under control. Additionally, a vet will want to see that the dog is eating and drinking adequately on her or his own before releasing the dog to the owner's care.

Prevention

Experts believe that the following steps could lower the risk of bloat in a dog:

  • Feeding small meals versus one large meal

  • Using a special feeder that will slow down how quickly a dog consumes food

  • Limiting vigorous activity after meals

Pet owners who have a breed that is especially prone to bloat, such as a Great Dane, may want to talk to a veterinarian about preventative gastropexy. Some veterinarians will perform this procedure at the same time that they spay or neuter a dog. The typical cost of a preventative gastropexy is usually between $1,400 and $1,600, which is substantially less than the cost of emergency surgery for GDV. Owners that have pet insurance should check their coverage. It's possible that they have pet insurance that covers gastropexy.

Bloat is one of the most frightening conditions that can affect a dog and should never be taken lightly. Immediate treatment by a veterinarian could mean the difference between life and death for a beloved canine. Don't forget to get a quote from Figo, so you have peace of mind in case of a life-threatening pet emergency.


Lizz Caputo is a Content Strategist at Figo, animal enthusiast, and owner of a rescued senior American Bully. Her hobbies include checking out new restaurants in her area, boxing, and petting dogs of all shapes and sizes.

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