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What is Dog Gastric Dilation Volvulus (Canine Bloat), And How Can You Prevent It?

What is Dog Gastric Dilation Volvulus (Canine Bloat), And How Can You Prevent It?

Your pup is a part of your family, so you want to be ready for anything that might cause problems for your pooch. The most significant way to help your dog stay healthy is to know about the different issues that dogs face. Several diseases and conditions can affect your canine companion, and the more you know, the faster you can act if you believe your dog is battling a health problem. One issue that can progress very quickly, making early detection key, is something commonly referred to as canine bloat.

What Is Canine Bloat?

Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV), also known as canine bloat, is a life-threatening disease in canines that typically affects large breed dogs. The condition develops when food and gas cause the stomach to dilate and expand. This expansion increases the pressure in the abdomen and can cause a myriad of complications and serious issues like:


  • Decreased blood flow to the stomach lining
  • Rupture of the stomach wall
  • Inability to breathe normally because of pressure on the diaphragm and lungs
  • Reduced blood flow from the abdomen back to the heart

If the expansion in the stomach becomes severe enough, it can cause the stomach to twist, which is a condition known as volvulus. This rotation of the stomach can cause a blockage of blood flow to the stomach and spleen and ultimately put your pup in shock. Dogs can have gastric dilation with or without volvulus.  

What Are the Risk Factors of GDV?

Dog gastric dilation primarily affects large breed dogs, although any dog can suffer from it. The disease kills roughly 15% to 30% of the dogs that have it. There is still a lot to learn about this condition. Still, there are several factors that seem to make particular pups more susceptible, including a deep chest, older age, eating large meals, eating too quickly, elevated feeding, and genetics. In some cases, it is believed that stress can also contribute to GDV as well as dry dog foods with high oil content, but studies are ongoing in these areas.

sad white boxer

How Can You Prevent Dog Gastric Dilation?

Once you know the risk factors, you can implement specific practices to help reduce your dog’s chances of developing GDV. Ensuring your dog doesn’t eat too fast is an essential component to helping prevent gastric dilation. Slow feeders are an excellent way to help your pup eat slowly and safely. A slow-feed bowl like the Neater Slow Feeder Double Diner can improve digestion, reduce overeating and vomiting, and make your pup’s meal an overall more pleasant experience. 


It’s also essential to set your dog up on a proper feeding schedule so he can spread his food intake out over two or three smaller meals during the day. Also, look for high-quality dry dog foods that don’t have oils listed as one of the first four ingredients. 


Since genetics is a factor that plays into your dog’s susceptibility to GDV, whenever possible, make sure you know your pup’s ancestry. A good breeder should provide you with all of this information and the necessary paperwork that shows your dog’s family tree. If you adopt your dog, you might also be able to get some insight, although more than likely, you won’t have access to your dog’s lineage. 

What Are the Signs of Gastric Dilation Volvulus?

The faster you identify GDV, the more likely your dog can get all of the help that he needs. The earliest signs of GDV often involve abdominal issues and pain. Watch your dog for some of these signs:

  • Your dog seems nervous and looks toward his abdomen area.
  • Your pup is standing and stretching frequently.
  • Your pooch is drooling excessively.
  • Your pup’s abdomen is distended.
  • Your dog is dry-heaving. 

If the condition persists, you might also notice your pup panting more, growing weak, or even collapsing. Your dog can also experience elevated heart rate, a low or poor-quality pulse, and rapid breathing. The longer GDV goes unchecked, the more full-body effects your dog will experience. Toxins can spread throughout the body, causing an array of severe complications like kidney failure, liver failure, sepsis, and cardiac arrhythmias. 

How Do Veterinarians Diagnose GDV?

If you suspect your dog has GDV, make an appointment with your vet. The first thing she will do upon examining your dog is order blood work to get a complete blood count (CBC), perform a urinalysis, and do a few other initial tests. These preliminary assessments help your vet rule out other potential issues and narrow down the problem. If these tests point to GDV, then your vet will use abdominal x-rays to confirm the diagnosis. Your vet may also perform an electrocardiogram (ECG) to look for possible cardiac arrhythmias

sad brown dog lying down

How Do You Treat Canine Bloat?

Depending on the severity of your pup’s condition, treatment can vary. But, stabilization is vital, and surgery a strong possibility. 

Stabilization

First things first, the vet will relieve the pressure in your pup’s stomach. Your pup might need oxygen therapy to help with potential breathing issues. The vet will also use IV fluids to help stabilize your pooch. Then she’ll position a tube down your dog’s esophagus into the stomach to relieve air and fluid. She might also use water to flush out food particles.


If your pup has a lot of air in his stomach, your vet may also put a catheter into his stomach from outside of his body to provide additional relief. If your dog’s stomach is twisted or his stomach wall or other organs compromised, surgery is a definite possibility, as long as your dog can handle it. 

Surgery

Your dog might have a partial gastrectomy, where the surgeon removes part of the stomach wall, or the doctor may remove the spleen. The surgeon will manipulate the stomach back into the correct position and fix it to the abdominal wall in a procedure known as a gastropexy. This procedure is to prevent the stomach from twisting again if future dog gastric dilation redevelops.

Life After GDV

After your dog has surgery, it’s vital to attend to his post-op care carefully. Ensure you make every follow-up appointment with your vet. The first 48 to 72 hours after surgery are usually when most complications can occur, so monitor your pet very carefully. 


During this period, your dog most likely should not eat and have very little water. Your vet will instruct you on the exact steps you need to follow for your pup’s unique situation. Once your dog resumes eating, start him off with tiny, preferably bland meals spread throughout the day.


Administer any medications your vet prescribes, and don’t miss a dose. If you have any concerns about the medicine or your dog seems to be having adverse effects, contact your vet immediately; don’t just stop giving your pup the prescription.


No matter what problems your pup faces, it’s your responsibility to learn all you can to care for him in the best way possible. At Neater Pets, we’re always adding more helpful information and tips to our blog, so you can find what you need to give your dog everything he deserves! Here’s to being the best pet parent that you can be!

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  • Fernando Becattini