This post should be referred to for educational purposes only. I would always advise that you consult your veterinarian to discuss your pet’s health or concerns you may have.
Have you ever experienced that “bloated feeling” in your stomach? This can sometimes happen when we eat a bit too much food or swallow excess air (chewing and talking at the same time). This one-off, uncomfortable feeling tends to resolve by itself with little or no medical intervention. In our furry friends, however, bloat is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate veterinary attention.
Table of Contents
What is Bloat?
Canine bloat is a true veterinary emergency. The dog’s stomach expands past its normal size due to the accumulation of gas and with/without fluid. This alone is an extremely serious condition and greatly increases the chance of the stomach twisting in the abdomen. A twisted stomach subsequently closes off the entrance and exit to the stomach and traps gas and fluid inside.
GDV (gastric dilatation-volvulus) tends to be the term used by veterinarians to describe bloat. Let’s break this medical term down:
What Effects does GDV have on the Poodle?
Although GDV primarily affects the stomach, many other organs can quickly become compromised, especially if left untreated.
Even before the stomach twists, gastric dilation alone has serious health implications due to its increased size and intraluminal pressure. These are:
- Tearing of the stomach wall
- Pressure on the diaphragm – inhibiting the lungs to fully expand making breathing difficult and increasing respiratory rate
- Obstruction of sufficient blood return to the heart from the abdomen
As the stomach twists, the spleen, which sits just below the stomach will often twist with it. This can limit blood supply to the spleen. The spleen is an organ that acts as a reservoir for blood.
Shock is a life-threatening condition in itself. Changes in the distribution of blood and lack of blood supply to the stomach and spleen can cause shock. Dogs can rapidly go into shock due to the effects on their entire body.
What are the Causes of Bloat?
The exact underlying cause is unknown. Several assumptions have been made about diet, exercise, and behavior having a direct link but there is a lack of evidence to support these claims.
The following are some examples that have been associated with increasing the likelihood of a dog suffering a GDV:
- feeding one large meal daily
- eating a meal quickly
- vigorous exercising before or after a meal
- anxiety or stress
- pre-existing gastrointestinal disease or gastric foreign body ( a forgein body is classed as something that should not be in the body, for example a tennis ball!)
- family history-relative with a history of GDV
- history of gastric dilatation
- history of splenectomy
- increasing age
Are Some Breeds of Dog More at Risk of Bloat?
All dog breeds can develop GDV. However, there are certain breeds that are more susceptible. It predominantly affects large-giant breeds and deep-chested dogs (those with an increased thoracic depth-to-width ratio). Standard Poodles and Retrievers are included in the breeds most at risk.
Studies have shown the risk of GDV increases with age and is five times more likely in purebred dogs than in crossbreeds.
Vets Now (an emergency, out-of-hours (OOH) veterinary clinic in the UK)
Signs of Bloat
GDVs are extremely uncomfortable. Symptoms can include but are not limited to:
- restlessness and anxiousness
- difficulty breathing
- excessive drooling
- non-productive retching
- vomiting froth
- swollen and/or hard tummy area
Shock signs may be:
- pale gum colour (healthy gum colour is a pink salmon color)
How to Treat Bloat
There is nothing you, as an owner, can do at home other than contacting your veterinary clinic straight away.
At the Veterinary Clinic
If a dog presents in shock, stabilization and treatment will be performed before or in conjunction with diagnostic testing – such as abdominal radiographs.
Treatment to stabilize involves:
- oxygen supplementation
- intravenous fluid therapy
- gastric decompression: passing a stomach tube down the esophagus (food pipe) into the stomach or inserting a needle into the stomach from outside the body
- pain relief
Once stable, a general anaesthetic will be administered to perform surgery to fully decompress and reposition the stomach and spleen. Part of the stomach may be resected as well as the whole spleen if necrotic tissue is evident.
Intensive postoperative care will follow in the clinic until the vets are satisfied with the dog’s recovery.
Prevention of Bloat
To prevent gastric volvulus from reoccurring, a gastropexy may be performed. This involves the surgical attachment of the stomach to the abdominal wall. According to a 2018 study, gastropexy is reported to be effective and decreases the recurrence of GDV from 80% to less than 5%. However, there is still a low risk of recurrence of gastric dilation itself.
Because little is known about the underlying cause, no home methods have been proven in preventing a GDV from occurring.
However, some veterinarians advise the following to limit the risk of a dog suffering a GDV:
- feed several small meals rather than one big meal
- avoid exercising immediately before and especially after food
- use a slow-feeder dog bowl to discourage fast-eating
- provide a calm environment during meal times to limit stress in nervous or excitable dogs
This slow-feeding bowl from Amazon is a great way to stop your Poodle from wolfing down their food.
What is the Long Term Prognosis?
This is a medical term that describes the likely outcome or course of a disease or condition; the chance of recovery or recurrence. According to the latest research, about 60% of dogs with a GDV will pass away. However, if they are stable enough to undergo surgery, the majority of these (80%) will survive. A poor prognosis is given if complications arise, for example gastric necrosis.
Always have handy the number and address of an emergency, out-of-hours (OOH) veterinary clinic. If you suspect your dog is suffering a GDV, immediately take them to a vet. If there is another person with you, it’s a good idea for them to phone the clinic to warn them you are on your way. That way the clinic may prepare themselves and the necessary equipment. Time plays a crucial role in this life-threatening condition.