Buddy is a 6-year-old Doberman Pinscher whose Minnesota owners were visiting our area to experience the beautiful Northwoods when their dog got sick. They drove up to our clinic just as we were finishing with our last patient of the day. The Dobie was pacing around, looking uncomfortable and the owners told us that he had been gagging on and off for at least an hour. We noticed that Buddy's abdomen seemed to be distended, and that he was licking his lips. We suspected that Buddy was suffering from "gastric dilatation," also called "bloat."
We placed a tube through his mouth to his stomach in order to try to remove the gas that was causing his stomach to bloat. We did get some air out, but we also determined that there was something in the tube's way so that would not allow it to pass all the way into his stomach. Although we still needed to take x-rays to confirm the diagnosis, we determined that Buddy not only had gastric dilatation, he also had "volvulus," a condition known as "GDV" (gastric dilatation and volvulus).
GDV occurs when the stomach is filled with air and it rotates on itself, effectively shutting off the blood supply. Without a blood supply, the tissue begins to die almost immediately. If not corrected immediately, most likely the animal will not survive. Even with treatment, as many as 25-30% of dogs with GDV die.
Common Symptoms of Bloat:
Hard distended stomach
We started treating Buddy for shock by giving him large amounts of intravenous fluids, antibiotics, and additional medications. When he was more stable, we anesthetized him and performed surgery to untwist the stomach, and tack it to the abdominal wall with sutures. This is done because there is a high likelihood of recurrence in dogs that have had this condition. We then closed him up and monitored him very closely in the recovery area since many dogs with GDV will develop heart arrhythmias. Buddy was able to go home a few days after the surgery, and his sutures were removed at a postoperative checkup back at home.
The causes of GDV are speculative at best and it appears that a combination of factors predispose a dog to developing this condition. These factors include genetics, vigorous exercise before and after eating, the shape of a dog's ribcage (incidences of bloat in large breeds with deep chests seem to be high), and eating too much too fast. Composition of diet does not seem to be a factor.
Top Ten High Risk Breeds:
- Saint Bernard
- Irish Setter
- Gordon Setter
- Standard Poodle
- Basset Hound
- Doberman Pinscher
- Old English Sheepdog
- German Shorthaired Pointer
If you have a breed that is at a high risk for developing this serious condition, such as a Doberman Pinscher we recommend the following:
Large dogs should be fed two or three times daily, rather than once a day.
Owners of susceptible breeds should be aware of the early symptoms of bloat.
Owners of susceptible breeds should develop a good working relationship with a local veterinarian in case emergency care is needed.
Water should be available at all times, but should be limited immediately after feeding.
Vigorous exercise, excitement and stress should be avoided one hour before and two hours after meals.
Diet changes should be made gradually over a period of three to five days.
Susceptible dogs should be fed individually and, if possible, in a quiet location.
- Dogs that have survived bloat are at an increased risk for future episodes; therefore prophylaxis in the form of preventive surgery or medical management should be discussed with the veterinarian.