I love big dogs and have grown up with them all my life. Currently, my family and I have 2 dogs, a female Rottweiler named Cleopatra and a 120 pound Bull Mastiff named Diesel. As you can imagine, our dog food budget is enormous! However, it is worth the cost because the bigger the dog the bigger the kisses. But, owning a large breed dog does require that you consider a few things that owners of smaller dogs generally do not need to worry about: house size and one with a sturdy foundation (Diesel likes to eat drywall), an endless supply of poop bags, and literally being pushed out of the bed in the middle of the night. But, I could not imagine life without my giant companions and that is why it is so important to be aware of BLOAT.
Bloat is a term that is often used to describe the condition GDV. GDV stands for Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus. It is a life threatening condition that can develop in some dogs that causes the stomach to rapidly fill with gas and/or fluid and then flip upon itself. Once rotated, the gas is unable to escape and continues to build up.
Dogs that are at high risk for GDV are large and giant breed dogs and dogs with deep or barrel shaped chests. It has also been suggested that dogs that have nervous temperaments, are in high stress situations, eat too quickly or had a parent or sibling that bloated may also be at higher risk.
German Shepherds Great Danes Weimaraner Chow Chow
Bloodhound Standard Poodle Airedale Irish/Gordon Setter
Labs Goldens Basset Hound Borzoi
Collie Newfoundland Boxer Bull Mastiff
Rottweiler St. Bernard Milinois Cocker Spaniel
Often signs of GDV develop 2-3 hours after eating a large meal. However, it does not need to be associated with eating at all. The classic sign of bloat is unproductive retching (it looks like your dog has to throw up but nothing comes out). The abdomen appears to be swollen and firm to the touch. Breathing may also appear to be labored and they may have a hard time getting up or even collapse.
When the stomach becomes distended and then rotates, both the entrance and exit to the stomach are blocked. Extreme distention of the stomach decreased and blocks the blood supply to the stomach, as well as the blood flow to the rest of the body. Systemic circulation becomes seriously compromised resulting in systemic shock. Without treatment this condition is fatal in almost every case.
Treatment for GDV involves emergency surgery. However, even with emergency treatment and surgery, GDV is fatal in 10-30% of affected dogs.
There are a few things that can be done at home to help decrease the incidence of bloat, for instance, feeding your dog from a bowl on the ground instead of from an elevated bowl on a stand, and feeding at least 2 meals a day is helpful. However, the best way to put your nerves at rest would be to consider a prophylactic surgery called a gastropexy. A prophylactic gastropexy is a procedure that anchors the stomach to the inside of the body wall, preventing it from rotating when it becomes distended. This procedure can be done as a puppy at the time of their spay or neuter. Or even as a laparoscopic procedure in bigger dogs who have already been altered.
Bloat is a very scary and life threatening condition and it is better to try and prevent it rather than to treat it after it occurs.
Talk to your primary care veterinarian with questions about a prophylactic gastropexy.
Dr. Shani Boone graduated from Tuskegee University School of Veterinary Medicine in May 2004. She completed her internship at Friendship before joining us as a full-time staff veterinarian. Dr. Boone works in our Primary Care and Surgery departments.
Gastric dilatation volvulus, or dog bloat, is an extremely painful condition that occurs when the stomach fills with gas, fluid, or food and expands or bloats. When this occurs, the stomach can twist upon itself so that both the entrance and exit are blocked. The twist in the stomach also blocks the blood flow to the stomach leading to tissue damage. Sometimes the spleen flips over with the stomach as well. A greatly distended stomach can press against the main vein (vena cava) that carries blood from the back half of the body to the heart. The resulting decrease in blood flow to the heart can lead to shock, which is often fatal if not quickly treated.
Distended, hard, or bloated abdomen: Dogs suffering from bloat may have a swollen or an enlarged stomach, which may or may not be visible just by looking at your dog. The swelling would be noticed between the rib cage and the hips. In the earlier stages, swelling may not be visible. You can gently touch your dog's belly and if it feels hard, and if your dog appears to be in pain (vocalizes, turns head quickly towards your hand, or tries to get away), he or she could be suffering from bloat or other serious abdominal conditions.
Retching with little to no food coming up: Dogs suffering from bloat may try to vomit without anything or very little coming out. You may see small amounts of water or large volumes of thick saliva. It can appear as if your dog is trying to cough something up or they are gagging.
Abdominal pain: Due to the pain associated with bloat, your dog may be whining or howling, have a difficult time getting comfortable or lying down and may be standing or repositioning frequently. Your dog also may appear to have a hunched back. Pacing and restlessness is often one of the earliest signs.
Excessive saliva/drooling: Dogs suffering from bloat may have an excessive amount of saliva accompanied with lip smacking. This is partially a result of the dogs feeling nauseated and also because saliva cannot enter the stomach.
Fast, heavy, or otherwise difficult breathing: The enlarged stomach pushes on the diaphragm resulting in decreased space that’s available for the lungs to expand, thus breathing is often shallow and fast. The pain and distress caused by bloat also contributes to these breathing changes.
Pale mucous membranes: The color of your dog’s gums can be an indication of the health and function of their circulatory system (their heart and blood vessels). Pull back your pet's upper lip and examine his or her gums. Normal mucous membranes are pink but in the case of bloat and shock, your dog’s gums may be a pale color or white.
Collapse: Collapse is a late sign of bloat. Many conditions in dogs can result in collapse, and collapse is always a sign of a serious problem that warrants immediate evaluation by a veterinarian.
Not all dogs with GDV/bloat will exhibit all of these symptoms. In the earlies stages of the disease, the symptoms may be mild and not easy to see. If you are noting any of these symptoms or suspect your dog may be suffering from GDV, your dog needs immediate veterinary attention. If your veterinary clinic is not open, contact the closest veterinary emergency clinic. It’s important that you recognize this condition and act quickly.