Bloat in Dogs

Bloat (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, GDV, Torsion)

Gastric Dilatation with or without volvulus is a life-threatening disease.  It occurs when the stomach of a dog dilates preventing food or gas from exiting.  Symptoms may include a distended abdomen, distended tight abdomen (like a drum), dry retching, dry heaving, or non-productive vomiting.  If caught early enough dogs may still be bright and alert, but if left alone tissue death occurs and some dogs can become comatose and die from the disease. 

Deep-chested breeds seem predisposed to bloat.  This may include but is not limited to Irish Wolfhounds, Great Danes, Dobermans, German Shepherd Dogs, and Greyhounds.  The author has diagnosed bloat in a dachshund and cocker spaniel.

Bloat in dogs may or may not be associated with twisting or torsion of the stomach.  In dogs, the stomach will become distended with air.  If the stomach has not twisted, the pressure from the stomach can be high enough where the stomach walls are squeezed to the point of not receiving any blood flow.  If the intra-abdominal pressure is high enough, blood flow to the heart from the abdomen will be halted.

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See the American College Veterinary Surgeons article for bloat

If the stomach should flip 270-360 degrees, the esophagus and pylorus become twisted shut, the blood vessels become twisted or torn shut, and the stomach will become devitalized and necrotic – it will die. 

Success of therapy is prompt and aggressive therapy which may or may not include surgery.  Any patient suspected of bloat/gastric dilatation volvulus/GDV/torsion must be treated by a veterinarian immediately.  A “wait and see” approach to a patient that has symptoms concerning of bloat may have disastrous consequences. 

Medical therapy may require immediate and aggressive intravenous volume support, possibly trocharization of the stomach, or possible placement of an orogastric tube. 

Surgical therapy may require all of the above including exploratory laparotomy, reduction of the stomach, gastropexy to prevent torsion (THIS WILL NOT PREVENT BLOATING) of the stomach, resection of any necrotic portions of the stomach, and further evaluation of all intra-abdominal organs including the spleen.  If the spleen has been damaged during the abnormal displacement of the stomach, concurrent splenectomy may be necessitated.