A Preventable Nightmare GDV/Bloat

A Preventable Nightmare GDV/Bloat

By Dr. Lisa Aumiller

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, GDV, or more commonly known as Bloat, is a rapidly progressive, life-threatening condition in dogs that can be any kennel’s worst nightmare. Most kennels have had this experience at least once.  It is important to train all your staff so that they know which pets are at risk for experiencing this condition and to be aware of the early warning signs.

What is the Difference Between Bloat and GDV?

Bloat is the expansion of the stomach. This could be from air (excessive panting), overeating, or a combination of the two. Gastric Dilatation Volvulus is when the stomach dilates as in bloat and then rotates on its self.

What Do Pets Experience with GDV?

Pets suffering this condition experience their stomach dilating and expanding, causing the pressure to increase within the stomach. As the pressure increases, the stomach can twist on its axis resulting in loss of blood to the stomach lining and spleen, prevention of blood returning to the heart from the abdomen, rupture of the stomach wall, and pressure to the diaphragm preventing the lungs from expanding making breathing difficult. The condition is very painful and the pet can go into shock very quickly.

What Type of Pets Can Succumb to GDV?

All breeds of dogs have been reported to have bloat or GDV.  It is most commonly seen in large breed dogs with a deep chest such as Great Danes, Mastiffs, St. Bernards, Weimaraners, Dobermans, Setters, Bassets, etc. However, even medium size dogs can succumb to this as well as dogs that have a tendency to over eat like Beagles, Pugs, and Cocker Spaniels.

What Are the Risk Factors?

  • Stress is a huge risk factor.  Large breed, deep chested dogs who are stressed and constantly panting are at extreme risk.  Aerophagia (swallowing air) is, in my opinion, one of the main reasons we see this occur in kennels. If you have a large breed dog that is overly stressed or panting a lot consider finding a situation in your kennel that puts the pet at ease (move pet to a quieter place, larger cage, have the pet hangout with the staff, etc.)  If you cannot make the pet more comfortable please contact the owner or veterinarian on record to ask for help to make the dog more comfortable. The owner will be happy that you are trying to make their pets stay as comfortable as possible.
  • Feeding only one large meal a day. It is better to feed 2-3 smaller meals daily.
  • Age. Older pets are more susceptible.  If the pet has a splenic tumor, the pet will also be more likely to have a GDV. The spleen attaches to the stomach, so if the spleen is pulling abnormally on the stomach, combined with too much air or food in the stomach, a bloat can occur.
  • Excessive drinking.  If you have a pet boarding that is a stress drinker, please make sure your staff offers small and frequent amounts of water - NOT large bowls refilled.   Pets that play hard and then return to their quarters and drink ravenously can have a lethal combination of aerophagia and a heavy stomach from too much water. Consider allowing pets to calm down a little before offering a full bowl of water.
  • Eating and exercising.  Make sure after a meal the pets rest for a few hours prior to playing.  Again, a heavy stomach combined with aerophagia could predispose the pets to bloat occurring.

What are Signs of a Pet Having Bloat?

Bloat occurs very quickly. These initial signs are lifesaving!  If a pet is experiencing these signs, please call a veterinarian ASAP to evaluate the pet, as there is nothing the staff can do if the harmful effects of GDV have already set in.

  • Acting restless, panting
  • Drooling
  • Trying to vomit and unable to vomit
  • Swollen stomach

As with any disease, knowledge is power and prevention is the key to keeping pets safe while they stay with you.  Please post this in your staff room and share at your next staff meeting to help save lives!

Do you have questions that you want the vet to answer? Send your questions to [email protected]. Dr. Lisa Aumiller is a veterinarian that has been serving pets in NJ and PA for over 15 years. She is the founder and CEO of HousePaws Mobile Veterinary Service, the largest mobile veterinary service in North America.

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