Bloat (GDV) in Dogs
In the late hours of 30th May 2017. Our Male dobermann, Tyler was pacing around the house. He just would not settle, we were watching a movie so I was kind of getting stroppy with him. Eventually I made him lay near my feet so I could stroke him and focus on the film. Thats when I looked down and saw his stomach was completely swollen. I glanced at my husband & said this isn't right. We needed to get to emergency. That is when he also told me that he had thrown up earlier and didn't re-eat it. Something that would be out of the ordinary for our Ty boy.
So we drove to the 24 hour emergency vets around 11pm. At first they told me he wasn't bloating, instead it looked like he had pulled something. I insisted they did an xray anyway, though they did give me a moment of false hope. Sure enough the vet tech came back from the xray white as a sheet, to confirm Tyler had full torsion and the huge lump we saw on his side was his spleen had flipped round. It took a further 2 hours to call out the surgeon, due to Tys age (12) they were reluctant to do the surgery and also needed a recent EKG due to his heart complications. Not to mention they also needed their $8k deposit first. However after stomping my feet, paying the deposit, signing all the faff they wanted me to sign, the surgeon finally came out. The surgery was about 2 hours and very successful. The surgeon came out to tell us that everything was still healthy and pink but they did remove the spleen to be on the safe side, they tacked his stomach so it wouldn't happen again.
Tylers recovery process took about a week until he was acting like nothing had happened and back to eating things he shouldn't do.
Fast forward to March 2020, we had arrived in our RV to Fort Worth, Texas on a 6 month road trip around the USA. I had fed the dogs and then took Roxy and Jax out for a potty break around 7pm. Come 9pm we were playing video games and my husband says that Roxy hasn't settled in a few hours and drinking a lot of water. He actually specifically said that he thought she was bloating. Initially I was in denial, she had a poop that evening, ate her dinner. Surely it was just a tummy bug. But as we stood there looking at her you could clearly see her stomach was swelling. So we drove to our nearest 24 hour emergency. Now thanks to COVID we were not actually allowed in the building with her. But they called shortly after and confirmed it was bloat. Roxy had just turned 14, so we knew it would be risky but we went ahead and did the surgery. They said we had caught it so early that there was no damage again, and they were confident she'd make a good recovery, they tacked her stomach so it wouldn't happen again. Recovery took a little longer as Roxy was older, but after 2-3 weeks she was back to her normal self.
In both of these instances the symptoms were a little different. But here are the main thing to watch out for in bloat / GDV.
An enlargement of the dog’s abdomen
An affected dog will feel pain and might whine if you press on his belly
Straining to poop
Biting or fussing their sides
Without treatment, in only an hour or two, your dog will likely go into shock. The heart rate will rise and the pulse will get weaker, leading to death.
Here is a good Facebook Support Group
What is Bloat / GDV?
Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) is a life threatening disorder most commonly seen in large, deep-chested dogs. In its early stage, the stomach fills with gas, causing a simple gastric dilatation or bloat. As the stomach fills with air, pressure builds, stopping blood from the hind legs and abdomen from returning to the heart. Blood pools at the back end of the body, reducing the working blood volume and sending the dog into shock.
If this isn’t enough, there is yet another scary thing that happens, and it is devastating to see. As the stomach flips, it drags the spleen and pancreas along with it, cutting off the blood flow. The oxygen-starved pancreas produces some very toxic hormones. One, in particular, targets the heart and stops it cold. In fact, a dog can go through successful treatment and seem to be out of danger, when suddenly the heart stops.
Even in the mildest case of bloat, which is extremely rare, dogs die without treatment. This is a life-threatening emergency that requires surgery to correct.
What causes the condition?
The exact cause is still unknown. The condition is seen most commonly in large breed dogs that eat or drink rapidly and then exercise vigorously.
Stress may be a contributing factor to GDV – in recent studies, dogs that were more relaxed and calm were at less risk of developing GDV than dogs described as “hyper” or “fearful”. From my own experience, old age can also lead to a higher bloat risk as the muscles that contract the stomach become weak. I have also been informed it is hereditary.
What other breeds are affected?
Large, deep-chested breeds are more prone to GDV. These include Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters, Gordon Setters, Standard Poodles, Basset Hounds, Doberman Pinschers, and Old English Sheepdogs. It must be noted that any dog can bloat, even dachshunds and Chihuahuas. Males are twice as likely to bloat as females. Neutering or spaying has no effect on risk. The condition usually occurs two to three hours after eating a large meal.
Can Bloat be prevented?
Well yes and no, there is nothing you can really feed or do to stop your dog bloating. There are many an argument that raised bowls cause bloat, however so many large breeds are fed from raised bowls I feel that an invalid argument. Ty bloated on a raised bowl. Roxy bloated with a bowl off the floor. So 50/50 on that one. Some other theories are soaking your dogs kibble before they eat it. Dogs fed one meal a day are twice as likely to bloat as those fed two meals a day. Rate of eating is also a contributor. Fast eaters have five times the risk than dogs that are slow eaters. We also know that it is best NOT to exercise your dog right after he eats. When their stomach is full, it’s more likely to flip and twist, which can cause problems with the digestive system. This includes vigorous game playing too – no wrestling or tug of war right after feeding.
There is a surgery you can do when your pups are young, and preferably done whilst they are being spayed or neutered called Gastropexy. With our track record, we decided to go ahead and have this preventative surgery done with Opie. It was not cheap, but hopefully will be worth it.
Gastropexy is a surgical operation in which the stomach is sutured to the abdominal wall or the diaphragm. Gastropexy is not effective at preventing bloat of the stomach (filling up with gas), but it does prevent the life-threatening twisting of the stomach. If bloating of the stomach occurs, veterinary attention may still be required.
Here is the full episode covering Roxys Bloat.
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