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The Dreaded BLOAT

If you own a dog, you might have heard of bloat and know that it's badness... But what is bloat, and why is it a big deal?

When we talk about bloat in dogs, usually we are talking about gastric dilatation and volvulus, or GDV. GDV is a bit difficult to understand, but it happens when the stomach, full of food or gas, twists on itself so that the bottom is near the top, the left ends up on the right, and the blood vessels are twisted tight! Sometimes the spleen becomes involved too. It is mostly a problem of deep-chested dogs, such as Great Danes, rottweilers, poodles, German shepherds, and Irish wolfhounds; but at Sunrise Veterinary Clinic we have seen it in huskies, border collies, greyhounds, and even guinea pigs! Other risk factors include gorging on a big meal, strenuous exercise, inflammatory bowel disease, and a lot of panting and swallowing air.

The reason it is so devastating is because the displacement causes more and more gas to become trapped in the stomach, so that the dog's stomach blows up like a balloon. Without rapid intervention this will continue, causing the blood vessels, heart, lungs and everything else to be compressed until the dog dies. This happens fast: within a matter of hours a dog can go from playing joyously at the beach to breathing its last breath.

How do you recognize GDV? If your dog seems painful, anxious, restless, stretching in a downward dog position and bloated, go to the vet IMMEDIATELY. Other signs that may occur are gagging and retching.

When we are faced with a GDV, we rapidly intervene, treating the dog immediately for shock, relieving the pressure from the stomach if necessary right away by trocharization (tapping the stomach with a large needle to release excess gas), and racing the dog to surgery to untwist the stomach. In surgery, we assess the GI tract to see whether it's all viable or if parts of the stomach or spleen are beyond repair and need to be removed. Post operatively, dogs need to be constantly monitored because they can be quite unstable for the first 48 hours, prone to forming blood clots and having arrhythmias of the heart.

What can we do to prevent this disastrous occurrence in our dogs? If you have a dog breed that's predisposed to GDV, consider having your veterinarian perform a gastropexy. Gastropexy is a surgery that tacks the bottom of the stomach to the body wall so that it can't wiggle away where it's not supposed to go. It can be performed during your pet's spay or neuter procedure, and the cost generally will add a couple of hundred dollars to the spay or neuter bill, as opposed to thousands of dollars for emergency surgery and a prolonged stay in the veterinary hospital. Gastropexy can give you peace of mind that your best bud won't bloat.

Any questions or comments? Leave them below and share with a friend who you want to save from the dreaded bloat!


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