Bloat or Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (“GDV”) is a life threatening condition and common killer of dogs. GDV is when the stomach swells/bloats (“gastric dilation”) and then twists (“volvulus”).
When bloat occurs there will firstly be an excessive buildup of air, fluid, and/or gas in the stomach. When the stomach swells it can, sometimes but not always, twist and cause air, fluid, gas and food to be trapped in the stomach. The stomach can twist from 90-360 degrees while still attached to oesophagus and duodenum (upper intestines). When the stomach bloats and twists it causes the veins in the stomach and abdomen to be obstructed. This can lead to dehydration, low blood pressure, shock, damage to internal organs and then subsequently death.
GDV is very serious and needs to be treated immediately by a veterinarian. From the onset of initial signs it can be a matter of minutes to possible death. Signs of bloat/GDV that all dog owners should be aware of include;
- Distended abdomen / swollen belly
- Retching or gagging / Trying to vomit
- Hunched up
- Abdominal pain
- Rapid heart rate
- Shallow breathing
- Pale gums
Certain breeds are more commonly affected by bloat like Great Danes, Saint Bernards, German Shepherds or dogs with narrow deep chests. There are also a number of things that may increase the risk of a dog suffering from bloat like stress, age, the build of the dog, or they can be genetically predisposed. The biggest contributors to bloat are to do with eating habits, such as drinking too much water while eating, eating from an elevated feed bowl, eating only dry food, exercising before or after eating or eating too quickly.
The most common cause of bloat is rapid eating or gobbling of food. When dog’s devour or inhale their food quickly they can gulp air and not chew or digest the food properly. There are specially designed bowls available like the that slow down the speed that the dog can eat. These bowls have simple obstructions that stop the dog from being able to engulf large mouthfuls of food at once.
If you ever think that your dog is suffering from bloat please contact your vet immediately; as it is a life threatening problem that can quickly prove to be fatal.
Originally published in My Pet Magazine Winter 2016.
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