Gastric Dilation (GDV/Bloat)
This condition affects mainly large deep chested breeds of dogs and is a very serious and life threatening condition. It warrants immediate veterinary attention and surgery to prevent recurrence. It is expensive to treat due to the need for intensive care and surgery. Owners have to make an early decision as to whether or not to start on treatment which can run into thousands of dollars.
Bloat appears to be caused by a combination of a number of factors:
Once a day feeding and greedy eaters
Feeding one large meal a day causes stretching of the stomach wall and damage to the nervous supply to the stomach. Research suggests that the stomach has a "pacemaker" (just like the heart) which coordinates the contractions and emptying of the stomach. If the pacemaker is damaged by stretching of the stomach wall, uncoordinated stomach contractions and emptying occur.
Most of the affected breeds are large and deep chested have a 22% chance of developing GDV during their lifetime:
- Old English Sheep Dogs
- Standard Poodles
- Irish Setters
- Alaskan Malamutes
- Basset Hounds
- Great Danes- almost 40% chance of GDV in their lifetime
Feeding too close to exercise
Exercised dogs, being very thirsty and hungry, may gulp both food and water down together in a short time.
Dry dog foods
Although not proven, dry dog foods have been suggested to be a cause of bloat.
What probably happens is a combination of most of these factors e.g. continual once daily feeding of dry food to a greedy &/or thirsty dog who quickly wolfs it all down followed by a large drink of water. The food swells up and stretches the stomach wall damaging the pacemaker.
The following symptoms in sequence are:
- Suddenly very quiet
- Lot of abdominal pain e.g. crying out
- Possibly attempts to vomit
- Panting excessively
- Pale mucous membranes, poor refill times & weak pulse (severe shock)
- Stomach "bloats" - a very large swelling behind the ribs which when tapped on looks & feels like an over inflated soccer ball
- Collapse and sudden death
What’s happening to the stomach in bloat?
The stomach ferments food which produces gas. When over- stretched, the food and gas can not empty out the normal way because the "pacemaker" has been damaged.
Dogs go into severe pain and swallow large amounts of air adding to the gas build-up.
For unknown reasons, a large percentage of these bloated stomachs then rotate 180 - 360 degrees cutting off their own blood supply as well as that of other body organs e.g. spleen.
The shear size and pressure of a bloated stomach can block off the flow of blood returning to the heart from the whole of the lower body. This blood is travelling in a large blood vessel situated just above the stomach. This means:
- 50% less blood going back to the heart
- 50% less blood going out to the lungs
- 50% less blood circulating around the body
- 50% less oxygen carrying ability to the brain, heart, kidneys, muscles etc.
All this within 5-10 minutes- a catastrophe!
Unless treated immediately, the decreased blood supply leads to severe shock, abnormal heartbeats, death of parts of the stomach wall and possibly spleen as well as damage to oxygen deprived organs and muscles.
In high risk breeds e.g. Great Danes, preventative surgery at the time of desexing is a great idea.
For larger breeds of dogs, that mature a bit slower than small breeds, this is usually around 8 months of age (when they are approx. 3/4 of their adult size).
This surgery is called a Gastropexy which entials ataching the stomach wall to the right side rib cage.
Other measures include:
- Not feeding claose to exercise
- Feeding 3-4 smaller meals during the day, rather than one large one
- Using speical food bowls with prongs in them that slow down the rate in which dry food is swallowed
Gastric dilation case