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10 Questions to Ask Your Veterinarian about Gastric Dilatation-Vulvulus: Bloat

Posted January 20, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

1. What is bloat in dogs?

Gastric dilatation-volvulus, more commonly known as “GDV” or “bloat,” is a life-threatening emergency seen in dogs. GDV occurs when the stomach becomes initially bloated (due to gas, food, and/or liquid). Once the stomach becomes distended and bloated, it is more likely for it to rotate out of normal position; after rotating (typically 90-360°) the stomach can twist off to become a gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV).

When the stomach rotates, it is anchored down at the esophagus and intestines. A GDV prevents any stomach contents from moving out of the stomach and into the intestines, and is fatal without immediate treatment. That’s because the dilatation of the stomach compresses major blood vessels in the abdomen (e.g., the caudal vena cava) and results in severe signs of shock.

2. What symptoms of shock will my dog show if he has bloat?

Clinically, signs of shock include the following:

  • An elevated heart rate
  • Collapse
  • Pale gums
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased respiratory rate

3. What if my dog has bloat but doesn’t have surgery?

GDV is a surgical emergency and dogs must be treated with surgery to survive. Untreated, GDV can result in the following:

  • Severe pain
  • Decreased blood flow to the stomach and intestinal tract
  • Necrosis of the tissue
  • Ruptured stomach
  • Sepsis (i.e., when bacteria enters the blood stream)
  • Complications including aspiration pneumonia, abnormal clotting due to DIC, etc.
  • Abnormal heart arrhythmias
  • A distended spleen
  • Abnormal blood loss into the abdomen (e.g., hemoabdomen)
  • Acute death

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.