Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) is also known as “bloat“, “stomach torsion” or “twisted stomach”.

Bloat is an extremely serious condition, and should be considered a life-threatening emergency when it occurs.  Dogs can die of bloat within hours, and even with aggressive treatment, has a significant death rate.

There are no home remedies for bloat, therefore dog owners must contact their veterinarian immediately if they suspect that their dog has bloat.

What dog breeds are susceptible to GDVs?

GDV_0Breed:  GDV is much more likely to occur in large breeds with deep, narrow chests, for example Great Danes, Weimeraners, and Dobermans. The problem can occur in small dogs, but only rarely.

Genetics:  In addition to breed predilection, there appears to be a genetic link to this disease. The incidence is closely correlated to the depth and width of the dog’s chest. Several different genes from the parents determine these traits. If both parents have particularly deep and narrow chests, then it is highly likely that their offspring will have deep and narrow chests and the resulting problems that may go with it. This is why in particular breeds we see a higher incidence in certain lines, most likely because of that line’s particular chest conformation.

Age:  Dogs over 7 years of age are more than twice as likely to develop gastric dilatation and volvulus as those who are 2-4 years of age. But age is not a factor to consider if you think your dog may have a twisted stomach.

Gender:  Male dogs are twice as likely to develop gastric dilatation and volvulus as females. Neutering does not appear to have an effect on the risk of bloat.

Eating Habits:  Some studies have found that dogs fed from a height are a increased risk of developing bloat.

Temperament:  Dogs that tend to be more nervous, anxious, or fearful appear to be at an increased risk of developing bloat.

What causes Gastric Dilation and Volvulus?

There is not one particular activity that leads to the development of GDV. It appears that it occurs as a combination of events. Studies of the stomach gas that occurs in dilatation have shown that it is similar to the composition of normal room air suggesting that the dilatation occurs as a result of swallowing air. All dogs, and people for that matter, swallow air, but normally we eructate (burp) and release this air and it is not a problem. For some reason that scientists have not yet determined, these dogs that develop bloat do not release this swallowed gas. There are currently several studies looking into what happens physiologically in these dogs that develop GDV.

Facts about GDVs

  • Owners of susceptible breeds should be aware of the early signs of bloat and contact their veterinarian as soon as possible if GDV is suspected.
  • Vigorous exercise, excitement, and stress should be avoided one hour before and two hours after meals.
  • Diet changes should be made gradually over a period of three to five days.
  • Susceptible dogs should be fed individually and, if possible in a quiet location.
  • Some studies suggest that dogs who are susceptible to bloat should not be fed with elevated feeders; other studies have not found this to be true. It is recommended, however, that dogs at increased risk be fed at floor level.
  • Some studies have associated food particle size, fat content, moistening of foods containing citric acid, and other factors with bloat. At this time, no cause-and-result relationships between these factors and bloat have been verified.
  • Dogs that have survived bloat are at an increased risk for future episodes; therefore prophylaxis in the form of preventive surgery or medical management should be discussed with the veterinarian.

Written by Solange Newton

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