Bloat, or gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), is when the stomach fills with gas and flips over. This twists blood vessels, blocks blood flow and traps gas. The gas and pressure builds up, forcing the stomach to expand. Within a few hours or less the stomach is extremely stretched and hard, and the stomach tissue begins to die. Circulation is cut off, causing the dog to go into shock. Without emergency treatment GDV is fatal. Even with aggressive therapy, some dogs do not survive.
Dogs with GDV are very uncomfortable – as you can just imagine! They act restless and try to vomit but nothing comes up. As their stomachs fill with gas, their abdomens appear bloated just behind the ribs. If you think your dog has these symptoms, regardless of the breed, take him or her to your veterinarian immediately.
No one knows exactly what cause GDV. Past cases show the biggest risk factor is a big, deep chest. The risk increases as a dog gets older and the ligaments around the stomach stretch out. The breed most at risk is the Great Dane; about 2 out of every 5 have GDV. Some other breeds at risk are St. Bernards, Setters, Weimaraners, Standard Poodles, German Shepherds, and the list goes on.
A surgery called a gastropexy can prevent GDV. In it, the stomach is sewn to inside of the body wall, preventing it from flipping over. This surgery can be done safely with either a laparoscope or traditional surgical method. It’s typically done at the same time a deep-chested or large breed dog is spayed or neutered. Aside from a gastropexy, there is no guaranteed method to prevent GDV. Another factor to consider is that emergency GDV treatment and surgery can range from $3000 to $7000, depending on the hospital, while a preventive laparoscopic gastropexy is about a third of that cost.
If you’re concerned about bloat, talk to your veterinarian about a gastropexy. In my opinion, it is absolutely worth the peace of mind!