Meet Arthur, a 10-year-old male Weimaraner who made a visit to our clinic during emergency hours. He was suffering from a condition called GDV – gastric dilatation and volvulus. His owners, Mr. and Mrs. Cheek, noticed that Arthur had been trying to vomit but not bringing anything up and also observed that his stomach was starting to swell. They were familiar with the lay term for GDV, “bloat”, and knew it was an emergency if it occurred. We received a call on during emergency hours and had them come in immediately. After a brief evaluation of Arthur and a couple of x-rays, GDV was confirmed. Arthur was taken to surgery as soon as possible, and his stomach was untwisted and sutured to the inside of his abdominal cavity to prevent future twisting.
Patients suffering from GDV often die because they are not seen soon enough by a veterinarian. Many animals require removal of parts of their stomach or spleen if the tissue has already died. Arthur, unlike many dogs in his situation, made it to the vet in time and made a full recovery, minus a few hiccups along the way. Thanks to Arthur and his owner’s willingness to pursue surgery, we were given the opportunity to save a life and promote awareness of this emergency situation.
How does GDV (bloat) happen?
GDV can happen in multiple ways. Large to giant breed dogs with deep chests are the most commonly affected (Great Danes, Weimaraners, Saint Bernards, Setters, Dobermans, and Standard Poodles). Eating large amounts of food very quickly and then exercising afterward can cause GDV. Even jumping around a playing with another dog should be avoided.
Once the stomach twists, it prevents any gas from escaping either up the esophagus or down through the intestines. As a result, the stomach fills up with gas much like a balloon. Another side effect of the stomach twisting is that it completely occludes veins that bring blood from other abdominal organs back to the heart. This causes life-threatening problems to the heart, arrhythmias and animals often go into shock. Signs to watch for if you think your dog is starting to bloat include: trying to vomit but not bringing anything up, abdominal pain and discomfort, abdominal distention, sudden collapse. GDV does not resolve on its own and must be corrected surgically. Unlike Arthur’s case, many dogs will need to have parts of their stomach and spleen removed if the tissue has become devitalized from lack of blood supply. Patients also require hospitalization, extensive fluid therapy, and close monitoring for heart arrhythmias after the surgery.
How you can prevent your dog from getting GDV (Bloat)
To prevent the chances of GDV occurring in your own deep-chested dog there are a few simple guidelines to follow:
- Feed at least twice a day.
- Try to slow the speed of eating food or drinking water.
- Do not allow these dogs to exercise (running around, fetch, hiking, playing with another dog, etc.) for at least 2 hours after a meal.
These guidelines will not prevent GDV from occurring but will reduce the likeliness of the stomach bloating and twisting. If you think your dog could be suffering from GDV, please call a veterinarian immediately as this is a life-threatening problem and dogs will not survive without treatment.