Gastric dilatation and volvulus syndrome (GDV), otherwise referred to as bloat, is one of the top causes of fatality in dogs, yet many dog owners are not aware of how serious the condition is.

What? Why? How?
GDV is an extremely serious, and life-threatening medical condition which causes a dogs stomach to overstretch and rotate due to excessive gas content. If the stomach dilates but does not rotate it is known as gastric dilatation. Gastric dilatation generally occurs if a dog has overeaten or swallowed excessive air, however they are able to relieve their stomachs by vomiting or belching.
When the stomach begins to twist it is referred to as gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), and it becomes life-threatening. The twisting of the stomach causes the esophagus and intestine openings to become closed off, preventing the dog from vomiting or belching.
It can also result in a number of other serious conditions including:
Damage to the cardiovascular system.
Prevention of adequate blood return to the heart from the abdomen.
Insufficient nutrients being delivered to the body’s tissues.
Rupture of the stomach wall.
Pressure on the diaphragm effecting the dogs ability to breathe normally.
The dog going into shock due to the effect it can have on their entire body.

There is no known reason as to what causes GDV in dogs, but it is generally the result of a combination of factors. It has been found that there are certain dogs who are at greater risk. This includes dogs who:
Are large and deep-chested, with a small waist.
Eat one main meal a day.
Eat from a raised food bowl.
Eat fast, causing them to swallow excessive amounts of air.
Drink a large amount of water after eating, especially after eating dry food as it tends to expand when water is added.
Play or exercise vigorously 1 hour or so before and after eating.
Are stressed, nervous, anxious or fearful.
Have a parent or litter-mate with a history of GDV.

Dogs at risk:
While it can happen to any dog, it has been found that dogs who are at greater risk are large dogs with a deep chest and small waist. This includes:
Great Dane
St Bernard
Gordon Setter
Irish Setter
Standard Poodle
Irish Wolfhound
Doberman Pinscher
German Shorthaired Pointer
German Shepherd
Rhodesian Ridgeback
English Sheepdog
Golden Retriever
Bernese Mountain Dog
Basset Hound (greatest risk for dogs under 23kg)

Swollen abdomen
Retching without any belching or vomiting
Appearance of discomfort
Pale gums
Cold body temperature
Shortness of breath
Rapid heartbeat
Excessive salivation

Dogs can die of GDV within several hours, therefore if you suspect your dog has GDV you should get your dog to a veterinarian immediately. As there is no direct cause for the problem there are very few treatment options available. If the stomach has not rotated yet the vet may insert a tube down the dogs throat making a passage for the gas to escape. However if the dogs stomach has twisted then surgery is the only option.

Make yourself and other dog owners aware of the problem.
Know the risk factors.
Know the symptoms so you are able to recognise them.
Know what to do if you suspect your dog has bloat.
Ensure your dog maintains an appropriate and healthy weight.
Limit rigorous exercise and playtime for 1 hour before and after eating. Crate the dog if necessary.
Feed your dog several smaller meals throughout the day instead of one or two larger meals. This will help stop your dog from eating too much at one time.
Most dry dog food expands when water is added, meaning if your dog eats dry food then drinks water the food will expand in its stomach. If you feed your dog dry food you can test how much it expands by adding water to a bowl of the food and leaving it out for a while.
Include canned food in your dogs diet.
Consider feeding your dog a premium dog food if you don’t already. Premium dog food contains higher nutrients which allows you to feed your dog smaller portions whole still meeting all their nutritional needs.
Invest in a Go-Slow Bowl. The bowl contains large interior indentations which forces the dog to move their snout around in the bowl and pick up their food at a slower rate, reducing excess air intake. These bowls are available at most pet stores.
Avoid using a raised bowl when feeding your dog, unless advised to do so by your vet due to other health reasons.
Limit water intake after eating.
Have a product containing simethicone available at home, this can be given if your dog is attempting to belch or vomit as it helps break up gas bubbles. Always talk to your vet before administering anything to your dog though.
If you have a dog that’s at a higher risk consider talking to your vet about prophylactic gastropexy surgery, which attaches the stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent it from twisting.

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