Ask The Vet: Bloat Awareness by Stefanie Wong, DVM

Have you ever heard of GDV or bloat? Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV) is a life-threatening emergency that we frequently see at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center. To learn what it is, how we diagnose it, how we treat it and how you can prevent it, keep reading.

What is GDV?
First, let's start by breaking down the meaning of GDV. Gastric is the medical term for stomach. The stomach will fill with gas (dilate), and then flip on itself (called volvulus). Once that happens, a one-way valve is created – as your pet breathes, large volumes of air/gas can enter the stomach, but not exit. The stomach continues to expand and fill like a balloon. This extreme amount of pressure is not good for the stomach – it can cause damage to the stomach walls, loss of blood supply, and decreased blood flow to the heart. Often dogs will be in shock. It is a condition that if not treated immediately, can be fatal.

Deep-chested large and giant breed dogs (Great Danes, Weimeraners, Setters, German Shepherds, Poodles) are the highest risk for developing this condition, although we have seen it in a large variety of dog breeds, including small breed dogs like Dachshunds.

What are the symptoms that a dog has GDV?
- Firm, hard, distended belly or abdomen
- Restlessness/anxiety
- Unproductive retching – trying to vomit but unable to bring up anything, sometimes can be misinterpreted as gagging or coughing
- Excessive drooling or salivating
- Outward signs of discomfort – pacing, panting, stretching repeatedly, whining
- Pale or brick red gums

If your pet is exhibiting any of these symptoms they should be seen immediately!

How is it diagnosed?
GDV is diagnosed by taking x-rays. If you look below, on the left is a normal set of abdominal x-rays. The stomach is empty and sits within the rib cage easily. On the right is a dog with GDV – you can see the stomach is distended and filled with gas – it extends far beyond the rib cage and is way larger than it should be. It has flipped on itself forming what we call the "double bubble." Seeing this x-ray, we can make an immediate diagnosis – this dog has GDV or bloat. This pet needs immediate emergency surgery and likely will need extended hospitalization afterward. Depending on degree of organ damage, the spleen may need to be removed, a portion of the stomach may need to be resected and the patient will be in highly critical condition for the next 24-72 hours. There is risk that they may not make it through surgery or through the immediate post-operative period.

Can this be prevented?
GDV can be prevented. By performing a procedure called a gastropexy, we can secure part of the stomach to the body wall, thereby preventing it from flipping and turning on itself (preventing the volvulus). Gastropexy can be done via abdominal surgery or it can be done laparoscopically.

What is laparoscopic surgery?
Laparoscopic surgery is also referred to as minimally invasive surgery. We can perform procedures using multiple small (0.5-1.5 cm) incisions. Benefits of laparoscopic surgery include: smaller incisions (the standard gastropexy incision is 8-12cm), less pain, quicker recovery time and less scarring. A camera and instruments are inserted through small keyhole incisions, which allows us to perform surgery with clear views of the organs, allowing for greater precision.

At Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center, we have been performing preventative laparoscopic gastropexies for over 20 years. We are also able to offer laparoscopic spays or combined laparoscopic gastropexy and spay procedures.

A preventative laparoscopic gastropexy can provide a tremendous benefit to the appropriate patient. It avoids the possibility of a life threatening crisis, sparing the patient pain and suffering as well as saving the client a significant financial expense. It is best to consult with your veterinarian at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center to see if your dog is a good candidate for this procedure.

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