Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is also known as “bloat,” “stomach torsion,” or “twisted stomach” and if your dog has it, it is extremely serious business.
This acute condition can affect any breed of any age at any time. When it does occur, it is truly an emergency as your pet could die very quickly!
How It Happens
Your dog gobbles up his meal, chases it down with lots of water then goes out for some strenuous exercise. He bloats up with the food, water and gastric juices and the stomach fills with gas — which can become as taunt as a basketball. Next, the stomach twists upon itself, cutting off blood vessels and oxygen to the stomach.
This is a recipe for disaster. If the oxygen is not restored to the stomach and the pressure reduced, the risk is that the stomach will rupture and your dog will die.
Signs and Symptoms You Have an Emergency Situation
Your dog will show various symptoms — anxiety, restlessness, pacing and whimpering. He may try to vomit or he’ll drool (more than usual), breathe rapidly and pant in distress. If you observe these symptoms, there is no time to waste getting to a vet office or emergency vet if your vet’s office is closed.
First, the vet will treat for shock. Then, she’ll probably do surgery to see the extent of the damage to the stomach. Once inside, the stomach will be untwisted. Depending on how long the torsion has gone on, part of the stomach tissue may have died and will need to be removed. If the prognosis is good, then the vet will attach the stomach to the abdominal wall so it cannot twist in the future.
Is Your Dog Susceptible?
There has been good research on this condition that can help owners know if their dog is susceptible to bloat. Certain breeds and builds of dog are more likely than others to get GDV. Large and giant breeds (like Great Danes and standard Poodles) top the list, but all dog owners should know the signs and symptoms because it can happen to any breed or size if the circumstances are ripe. Even small dogs can get gastric bloat and torsion, but it happens rarely.
Age is also a factor. Dogs over 7 years of age are more than twice as likely to develop GDV as those who are 2-4 years of age. Male dogs, even those who’ve been neutered, are twice as likely as females to develop GDV.
Steps To Prevent Gastric Torsion
The exact causes of GDV are unknown, but many of the risk factors are known. Research studies confirm that dogs fed once a day are twice as likely to develop GDV as those fed twice a day. So first, feed your dog more than once a day. Don’t feed twice as much – just divide your pet’s meal into several smaller meals.
And if your dog is one who inhales his food, train him to s-l-o-w down! Some people place a tennis ball (or two) in the food dish to slow the dog down. There are also plenty of special dishes that slow down how fast dogs eat their meals. To find them online, Google “slow food bowls for dogs.” Most local pet specialty stores also carry one or more varieties of food bowls that will slow down food consumption.
Second, do not allow your dog to drink large amounts of water immediately after eating. You can provide unlimited drinking later, after a few hours. Also do not exercise your dog after eating. A safe rule of thumb is to wait two hours after eating for strenuous exercise and large water consumption.
If you follow these guidelines your dog shouldn’t experience gastric bloat and torsion.
Carole Tomas is the owner and president of Pet Pleasers, Inc. She is a graduate of Ohio University and a Charter Member of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters. When she began Pet Pleasers in 1985, business was conducted Old School via a landline, snail mail and an answering machine the size of a breadbox. No internet, email, text messaging, digital photos, social media or mobile phones! What has remained constant over three decades: Carole’s love of animals and an unwavering passion for professional pet sitting.