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GDV/Bloat in Dogs

Did you know that exercising your dog or letting them play immediately after eating puts your dog at risk for a serious life threatening condition?

Large breed dogs with deep chests such as Great Danes, Akitas, Setters, Poodles, German Shepherds, Saint Bernards and many other large breeds are prone to a dangerous condition called Gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV), also known as bloat.

This occurs when a dog’s stomach becomes blocked, and gas and fluid accumulate, causing the stomach to stretch to many times its normal size. The bloated stomach causes severe pain, and it is prone to twist.

When the stomach twists, all of its contents become trapped and the blood supply is cut off. Without blood flow, the stomach quickly deteriorates, and, because it is so distended, it can compress the large vessels that return the blood back to the heart and cause a shock to the circulatory system. Although bloat can occur in young dogs, the risk increases significantly, as dogs grow older. A retrospective study of records in the VMDB showed that 7 8.8% of the dogs were at least 4 years old before they bloated. The risk of bloat was more than twice as high in dogs 7.0-9.9 years old as in dogs 2.0-3.9 years old, and more than 3 times as high in dogs age 10 or older. Read more on bloat and this study done here

Dogs weighing over 100 pounds (like Ripley) have approximately a 20% risk of bloat during their lifetime, with that rising to 39% for Great Danes! My mother's 80lb Golden Doodle actually bloated and it was a $5,000+ life saving surgery with a long recovery, when he was under two years old. There are two main ways to prevent this condition. The first is a Gastropexy, which is sometimes done on XL breeds during routine spay or neuter (the rescue did this for Rip) where they will surgically 'tack' the stomach to the right side of the body wall. This will hold the stomach into place, preventing it from making the twist that results in a GDV. The majority of the time if your dog needed bloat surgery, they also have had a Gastropexy. Next is management or prevention.

This is where having your dog comfortable in a crate comes in very handy. Your dog should never be exercised immediately after eating. So many people throw down breakfast then leash their dog up for a walk or park trip. This is a very bad and dangerous idea! All that heavy undigested food sloshing around in their stomach is a recipe for an emergency.

1 meal should ALWAYS be followed with at least 30 minutes of rest.

If you have a single dog household, most dogs will naturally relax for a while after eating, but if you're like me and have a multidog household, things can get wild after meal time. So, everyone goes to their designated areas for some down time before we start our day after breakfast. Allowing your dog to rest post meal prevents bloat, improves digestion and avoids stomach upset. Avoiding carbohydrate heavy foods like processed kibbles to reduce gas production can also play a role in GVD prevention. Dogs can also contribute to bloating if they are extremely quick eaters, because they take in a lot of excess air while gulping down the food. Adding moisture to dry food, Slow feeding bowls, snuffle mats and food enrichment toys are great for gulping dogs.

Symptoms of GVD include

  • restlessness and pacing around

  • swollen or distended abdomen

  • painful abdomen

  • overall look of distress

  • retching or attempts to vomit with no success

  • excessive drooling

  • panting or rapid breathing

If you suspect your dog every has symptoms of bloat, please call your local emergency veterinary phone line.

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