What is Bloat or Stomach Dilatation?
The risk of bloating is documented to increase with age. There appears to be no sex predisposition, but breeds known to be at risk are Basset Hound, Saint Bernard, Weimaraner, Irish and Gordon Setters, Great Dane, Rottweiler, Standard Poodle, and German Shepherd. Gastric dilatation volvulus can lead to your dog going into shock due to the severe effects on the entire body. Prompt and aggressive treatment is crucial if your canine suffers an attack of bloating.
In veterinary terms, bloating is known as gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV). This is a life-threatening condition that can progress very quickly once it occurs. Large and giant breed dogs with narrow, deep chests are predisposed to GDV. The accumulation of gas causes the stomach to dilate, and at times even rotate (volvulus).
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Symptoms of Bloat or Stomach Dilatation in Dogs
Seeing your dog in a state of gastric dilatation volvulus may be quite distressing, especially if he is in the later stages. Do not delay taking your dog (do not take a wait and see approach) to the veterinary clinic if you see any of the symptoms listed here.
- Your dog appears to be in distress
- He is standing and stretching frequently
- His abdomen looks bloated or distended
- He may be drooling excessively
- Your pet is retching, but nothing is being brought up
- Your dog has labored breathing (dyspnea)
- He is breathing rapidly (tachypnea)
- His heart rate may seem fast (tachycardia)
- Your dog may be panting
- His mucous membranes may be pale in appearance
In the later stages of the attack, your dog could be unable to rise from a lying down position and may go into shock, leading to collapse.
Once the stomach has become distended, and possibly rotated completely, many secondary systemic complications can occur.
- Toxins may circulate throughout the body
- There may be a poor return of blood to the heart from the abdomen
- A loss of blood flow to the stomach lining can occur
- Cell death in tissues and organs (like liver and kidney), can result due to poor oxygen delivery (hypoxia)
- Bacteria can enter the blood
- The stomach wall can rupture and there can also be cell death or blood vessel damage in the gastrointestinal tract
- Breathing could become difficult because of pressure on the diaphragm and lack of space for lungs to expand
Causes of Bloat or Stomach Dilatation in Dogs
Studies have shown, and best represented, that there are many factors that can lead to your canine companion experiencing a case of bloating. Gastric dilatation volvulus is a very serious condition that can quickly lead to a life threatening situation.
- Deep chest (narrow thoracic width accompanied by increased height)
- Lean body condition
- Eating one large meal per day, along with a lot of water
- Consuming the food too quickly
- Exercising too soon after eating
- Feeding at an elevated height
- Gastric ligament laxity
- Delayed gastric emptying
- Accumulation of gas
- Excessive inhalation of air
- Personality which is nervous or aggressive
- A dry diet of high fat and oil
- A canine that had a previous removal of the spleen
- Increased age
- Relation of the 1st degree to a dog who has had GDV
Diagnosis of Bloat or Stomach Dilatation in Dogs
There are many diagnostic tools that can assist your veterinarian as she assesses your pet for bloating. The physical examination may show that your dog has an enlarged abdomen and that he could be experiencing pain.
The veterinary team will begin a continuous monitoring of your pet’s pulse as it is highly likely that it will be weak. Testing could include blood glucose, coagulation assays, complete blood count, serum chemistry and blood electrolytes.
These tests will reveal important facts for the diagnosis.
- Is there pooling of blood?
- How well is the blood circulating?
- Is there evidence of bacterial sepsis?
- Are there metabolic abnormalities?
- Has cell damage taken place?
- Has there been a secondary injury to any organs?
- Are there any accompanying diseases?
A urinalysis will also be performed, and quite possibly a blood gas analysis to evaluate the condition of the respiratory system. An electrocardiogram will reveal the functioning of the heart. Importantly, a radiograph will tell if the stomach is indeed distended and whether the stomach has rotated its position.
Treatment of Bloat or Stomach Dilatation in Dogs
If your dog arrives at the clinic near to shock, he will be suffering from respiratory distress. The complete stabilization of your canine family member, and constant monitoring of his blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs will be a priority. Prompt administration of oxygen and intravenous therapy (to increase the volume of blood circulating in the body and to correct electrolyte balances) are key.
Once your dog is found to be stable, gastric decompression will be the next step. A tube will be passed down the esophagus to release fluid and air. A lavage will be done to wash the stomach and empty it of all contents. It is possible that a needle and catheter will be inserted to help the release of air to go more quickly.
After the decompression, surgery will be done to verify the condition of other organs, and to rotate the stomach back to its normal position if volvulus has taken place. The stomach will be attached to the abdominal wall (gastropexy) to prevent recurrence of the volvulus. If there is damage to blood vessels in the stomach or intestines, gastric resectioning will be done.
Antibiotics will be prescribed if there is a concern about the presence of bacteria. Food and will be withheld for 48 hours. Your beloved family pet will be under continued careful monitoring, and the veterinary team will be on alert for possible postoperative complications.
Recovery of Bloat or Stomach Dilatation in Dogs
Once your pet has been released from the hospital, you must provide him with a quiet, restful atmosphere at home. Your dog will not be permitted to exercise for two weeks. Avoiding stress will have to be part of his new lifestyle from now on as well.
You will be instructed to feed your dog in small portions 2 to 3 times per day, as opposed to a large meal for the remainder of his life. No exercise after eating will be allowed because the food should settle and begin to digest before your pet becomes active. Do not use an elevated dish for feeding.
You must be aware that some degree of gastric dilatation may remain with your pet, even after surgery.
It should be noted that some veterinarians may consider prophylactic gastropexy as a preventative for breeds that are predisposed to gastric dilatation volvulus.