Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus) in Dogs

Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) is also known as "bloat," "stomach torsion," or "twisted stomach." Bloat is an extremely serious and life threatening condition and should therefore be treated as an emergency.
The gastric dilatation is one part of the condition and the torsion is the second part. In bloat (dilatation), due to a number of different and sometimes unknown reasons, the stomach fills up with air and puts pressure on the other organs and diaphragm. The pressure on the diaphragm makes it difficult for the dog to breathe. The air-filled stomach also compresses large veins in the abdomen, thus preventing blood from returning to the heart. Filled with air, the stomach can easily rotate on itself, thus pinching off its blood supply. Once this rotation (volvulus) occurs and the blood supply is cut off, the stomach begins to die and the entire blood supply is disrupted and the animal's condition begins to deteriorate very rapidly.

While bloat is much more common in deep-chested, large breeds, it can happen to any dog at any age. Also corgis have died of stomach torsion.

Bloat usually comes on very quickly. The most obvious symptoms are
  • vomiting (but nothing comes up) and retching.
  • swollen belly
  • restlessness,
  • rapid shallow breathing.
  • profuse drooling
  • pale gums
If the dog's condition continues to deteriorate, especially if stomach torsion has occurred, the dog may go into shock and eventually collapse.

If you suspect that your dog has bloat you must contact your vet immediately and get him to a clinic right away. If he doesn't get treatment in time, the condition can kill him.

The type of treatment a dog gets depends on how severe his condition is. First, the vet will put a tube into your dog's throat and down to his stomach to release the pressure that has built up. Sometimes, a twisted stomach can keep the tube from passing through. If that's the case, the vet will put a large, hollow needle through his belly into his stomach and release the pressure that way. If your dog is in shock, the vet may give him fluids through an IV, antibiotics, or steroids.
Then, the vet will take X-rays to see if his stomach is twisted. If it is, your dog will have emergency surgery to untwist it and put it back in its normal position.

What you can do to prevent bloat
- It is recommended that dogs be fed 2 or 3 smaller portions daily instead of just one. Dogs that eat fast, gulping down the food as quickly as possible, tend to swallow a lot of air while eating and are thus more prone to stomach torsion.
- Drinking a large amount of water after eating may cause dry food to expand in the stomach to a mass that the stomach was not intended to hold. Add to this the air that was swallowed and the stomach can swell to a dangerous size. Water may also dilute the digestive juices in the stomach to a point that they cannot do their job, which may cause gas to build up.
- Playing vigorously, running, jumping and especially rolling over after eating increase the risk of stomach twist. A leisurely walk around the neighborhood is fine and may aid digestion, but more active exercise should be restricted for one hour before and two hours after eating.