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Gastric Dilation Volvulus (Bloat),

Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is a very serious condition that occurs in many large deep chested dogs when the stomach becomes distended with air, and then whilst enlarged, twists on itself. This interferes with the blood supply to the stomach and other digestive organs, and blocks the passage of food, leading to worse bloat. The distended stomach impedes the normal return of blood to the heart, causing drastically reduced cardiac output and a decrease in blood pressure. Blood/oxygen-deprived tissues start to die, releasing toxins into the blood stream which among other adverse effects, cause serious disturbances in heart rhythms (cardiac arrhythmias) - a common cause of death in these dogs.

Simple gastric dilatation does not produce volvulus (twisting) in an otherwise normal stomach. Dogs most susceptible to GDV are the large, deep-chested breeds, in whom the stomach appears to be more mobile within the abdomen. Other factors that increase the risk for GDV include overeating, rapid eating, single daily feeding, high water consumption, stress, and exercise after eating.

What does gastric dilatation-volvulus mean to your dog & you?

GDV is one of those thankfully rare conditions in which your dog can go from being healthy to critically ill over the course of a few hours. Even with appropriate veterinary care, approximately one third of dogs with this condition will die

When gas first starts to accumulate in the stomach, the dog will appear slightly uncomfortable. The stomach then starts to dilate (gastric dilation) and the dog will become anxious and restless, often pacing, and the stomach may be swollen. He may also try to vomit, but will only bring up a white foam, no food.

The next stage is when the stomach twists (gastric volvulus) and the dog becomes extremely restless, whining and panting as well as salivating and trying to vomit every few minutes. He may go on to stand with his legs apart and hang his head down. The stomach is swollen and sounds hollow if tapped.

When the blood supply is cut off, organs become compressed and shock can begin to develop. The dog is unable to stand, or stands very shakily, with his legs apart. The stomach is very swollen and breathing is shallow.

The final stage is shock and heart failure develops, the dogs gums are white or blue and death is imminent.

How is gastric dilatation-volvulus diagnosed?

GDV must be diagnosed and treatment initiated quickly if your dog is to survive. The condition is usually readily diagnosed on physical examination. The best chance a dog has of surviving is immediate veterinary attention. Sadly, even with treatment, a large percentage of dogs still die, some survive surgery but then die of the shock after treatment.

Your veterinarian must relieve the pressure, decompressing either by using a stomach tube or inserting a large needle into the stomach to release the gas. The less time the pressure is on the stomach and organs the better the dog's chances of survival. Once the dog is stabile, x-rays are taken to determine whether a torsion is present. If it is, then surgery is performed to untwist the stomach, which is then stitched to the abdominal wall to prevent reoccurrence.

How is gastric dilatation-volvulus treated?

Your veterinarian must relieve the pressure, decompressing either by using a stomach tube or inserting a large needle into the stomach to release the gas. The less time the pressure is on the stomach and organs the better the dog's chances of survival. Once the dog is stabile, x-rays are taken to determine whether a torsion is present. If it is, then surgery is performed to untwist the stomach, which is then stitched to the abdominal wall to prevent reoccurrence.

Intensive care is required in the immediate post-operative period when dogs may face a number of life-threatening problems including shock, electrolyte imbalance, cardiac arrhythmias, and wide-spread infection (septicemia).

Prevention

There are some simple things you can do to reduce the chance of bloat. Basically, you want to avoid your dog consuming a large amount of food or water all at once, especially not at the same time as vigorous exercise. Rather than feeding once a day or leaving food always available, feed in divided portions. Avoid exercising your dog before and after meal times.

Most important of all, ensure you know and can recognise the symptoms of bloat and act quickly by taking him to the vet immediately.

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