You’ve probably heard GDV referred to as “bloat,” or even by its proper name, gastric dilation-volvulus. You’ve likely also heard that the condition is incredibly dangerous and requires immediate treatment from professionals. What you might not have heard is that GDV outcomes are better than ever.
What is GDV in Dogs?
Gastric dilation-volvulus is a condition in which a dog’s stomach twists and fills with gas. The gas builds pressure in the abdomen, stopping blood from returning from the dog’s hindquarters to the heart. Without treatment, blood will pool at the back of the body, eventually sending the dog into shock.
As if that’s not scary enough, GDV bloat in the abdomen does a number on other organs, particularly the pancreas. With blood flow cut off, the pancreas begins producing very toxic hormones which can lead to sudden cardiac arrest. Without treatment, GDV is devastating.
Why Does this Happen?
GDV is a bit of a veterinary mystery. There’s no firm agreement on whether the air builds up and then the stomach twists or the other way around. A lot of potential risk factors for developing GDV have been identified:
- Large, deep-chested dogs are most at-risk (Great Danes, Standard Poodles, St. Bernards, etc.)
- Dogs who eat very quickly or drink large amounts of water at once are more at-risk
- Dogs who eat one or two big meals a day are more at-risk than dogs who eat multiple smaller meals
- Dogs who run, jump, or play immediately after eating are more at-risk
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What are the Signs of GDV in Dogs?
If you suspect your dog might be developing bloat, acting fast is critical. The consequences of the condition can be dire in a matter of two-hours or less. If you suspect GDV, rush your dog to an emergency vet immediately.
GDV is relatively easy to spot if you know to look. The most obvious sign of bloat is a very distended abdomen; it will almost look as if your dog has swallowed a balloon whole. Other symptoms include non-productive vomiting or heaving (i.e. nothing comes out), rapid breathing, obvious abdominal pain, or excessive drooling. A dog who is suffering from GDV will let you know they’re in pain, particularly if you press lightly on their stomach. When in doubt, bring your dog to the vet.
How Will My Vet Treat GDV?
Surgery is the only effective option for treating bloat in dogs. Before a veterinarian can operate on your dog, he must be stabilized if he has already entered shock. His heart rate and blood pressure will be carefully monitored throughout the process.
Surgery for GDV involves “deflating” the bloated stomach, then repairing or removing the part of the abdominal wall that has been damaged. Once that part of the procedure is complete, many vets opt to perform a “gastropexy,” which involves lightly attaching the stomach to the abdominal wall to keep it from twisting again. Dogs who suffer from bloat once are far more likely to suffer from it again in the future.
Can I Prevent My Dog from Getting GDV?
In some ways, yes. Since eating too quickly and rough play after eating can both lead to GDV, help your dog slow down during mealtimes and rest following food. These are by far the best ways to reduce his risk of bloat. There is some evidence that dog food containing soybean meal or containing high levels of fats or oils drastically increase the risk of bloat.
For the most part, vets aren’t really sure what causes bloat most of the time, so they identify risk factors instead. Because large-breed dogs and dogs with narrow chests have a much higher incidence of the condition, some vets recommend having gastropexy performed while they’re being spayed or neutered. There’s simply not enough data yet to say definitively what causes GDV.
If you think your dog might be at risk, talk to your veterinarian. He’ll suggest easy ways to reduce your risk at home and talk to you about your options for surgery. And if you have a high-risk dog? Always, always keep a 24/7 emergency veterinarian on-call.