Ask a Vet

Happy 2012 to all of you Charleston doggy lovers!  My name is Dr. Lindsay Kelley; and, I am joining Dr. Jackie Brewer and the wonderful staff at Maybank Animal Hospital.  I graduated from veterinary school at Auburn University and have been a resident of the low country since 2008.  I wish all of you much health and happiness in the coming year and look forward to meeting many of you soon!  The new year is a great time to mark your new calendars for your annual veterinary visit.

Bloat in Canines

Q:What Is Bloat?
Q:Can Bloat Be Breed-Specific?
Q:What Are the Common Signs of Bloat?
Q:What Should You Do If You Suspect Bloat?
Q:How Is Bloat Treated?
Q:Can Bloat Be Prevented?

Q.What Is Bloat?
Canine bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is the number-one cause of death for several large and giant breeds.  Bloat occurs when the stomach fills with food, water and/or gas (dilatation). This results in increased pressure that enlarges and compresses the stomach and causes the stomach to rotate or twist into an abnormal position (volvulus). When the stomach twists, it cuts off the blood supply to the organ causing a cascade of events that can eventually cause death if not properly treated.

Q. Can Bloat Be Breed-Specific?
A: Yes.  The dogs with the greatest risk of developing bloat have deep, narrow chests. Breeds at the highest risk for bloat include the Great Dane, German Shepherd, Akita, Weimeraner, Saint Bernard, Bloodhound, Standard Poodle, Irish Wolfhound, Irish Setter and Boxer. All other deep-chested breeds and deep-chested mixed-breed dogs are also at higher risk.  However, small breeds such as Dachshunds and Chihuahuas are even prone to bloating.

Q: What Are the Common Signs of Bloat?

  • excessive drooling of saliva
  • frequent retching and unproductive attempts to vomit
  • abdominal distension- this is more obvious in some dogs than others depending on their confirmation because some large deep-chested dogs may have a large portion of their stomachs under their rib cage which makes the distention less obvious.
  • anxiousness, restlessness and pacing
  • lethargy/depression

A: Q: What Should You Do If You Suspect Bloat?
If you notice any of the signs listed above, rush your dog to the veterinarian immediately!  Calling ahead to notify the hospital will aid the doctor in having the necessary equipment ready upon your arrival so that treatment can begin right away. 

Q: How Is Bloat Treated?
A: First, an x-ray will be taken to confirm the presence of a bloat.  If a bloat is present, then the stomach must be decompressed.  A stomach tube and stomach pump are generally used for this.  IV catheters will be placed, and rapid IV fluids given to reverse the shock.  Pain medications are also given to calm the patient and slow down the rapid heart rate.  The heart rhythm is assessed and stabilized. All bloated dogs, once stable, should have surgery.  This allows the internal damage to be assessed and repaired.  A procedure called a gastropexy, where the stomach is tacked in a normal position within the abdomen, is performed.  Without a gastropexy, the recurrence rate of bloat may be as high as 75%.    

A: Q: Can Bloat Be Prevented?
Feeding smaller kibble size and smaller more frequent meals may potentially decrease the risk of bloat.  It is also important to slow down dogs who are fast eaters as this can contribute to bloat.  Not breeding animals with a history of bloat in their lineage may also decrease the risk for that animal and for future generations.  Elevated food bowls have been shown to increase the risk of bloat.  This was previously thought to be a “preventative”.
In breeds with a higher risk of bloat, there is a preventative surgery called a prophylactic gastropexy.  This involves surgically attaching the stomach to the inside of the abdomen to prevent rotation.  This procedure is often done at the time of spaying or neutering.  Ask your veterinarian for details and advice if you would like to discuss preventative surgery for bloat.

Written by:
Lindsay Kelley, DVM
Jackie Brewer, DVM
Maybank Animal Hospital