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Bloat – Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

Bloat is a very serious health risk for many dogs, yet many dog owners know very little about it. It is frequently reported that deep-chested dogs, such as Labrador Retrievers are particularly at risk. This article has been put together to provide you, the Labrador owner with information on bloat and it will summarize some of the key points that you should know.

Remember – quick action helps! Always keep your vets telephone number & emergency number handy.

What Is Bloat?

The technical name for bloat is “Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus” (“GDV”). Bloating of the stomach is often related to swallowed air (although food and fluid can also be present). It usually happens when there’s an abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and/or foam in the stomach (“gastric dilatation”). Stress can be a significant contributing factor also. Bloat can occur with or without “volvulus” (twisting). As the stomach swells, it may rotate 90° to 360°, twisting between its fixed attachments at the esophagus (food tube) and at the duodenum (the upper intestine). The twisting stomach traps air, food, and water in the stomach. The bloated stomach obstructs veins in the abdomen, leading to low blood pressure, shock, and damage to internal organs. The combined effect can quickly kill a dog.

If the pressure on the dog’s stomach is relieved, or if it is rushed to surgery to correct a twist, the dog will stand a better chance of survival.

Typical symptoms often include some (but not necessarily all) of the following. Unfortunately, from the onset of the first symptoms you have very little time (sometimes minutes, sometimes hours) to get immediate medical attention for your dog. Know your dog and know when it’s not acting right. Your dog may show any of the following signs:

– Attempts to vomit (usually unsuccessful); may occur every 5-20 minutes
– Doesn’t act like usual self
– “Hunched up” or “roached up” appearance
– Bloated abdomen that may feel tight (like a drum)
– Pale or off-colour gums (Dark red in early stages, white or blue in later stages)
– Coughing
– Unproductive attempts to vomit
– Heavy salivating or drooling
– Whining
– Licking the air
– Looking at their side or other evidence of abdominal pain or discomfort
– Accelerated heartbeat (Heart rate increases as bloating progresses)
– Apparent weakness; unable to stand or has a spread-legged stance (Especially in advanced stage)
– Heavy or rapid panting
– May refuse to lie down or even sit down
– Drinking excessively
– Pacing

Despite years of study, veterinary scientists are unable to pinpoint the cause of bloat. Generally, it is believed that excessive eating and drinking of water followed by exercise can cause bloat. It is thought that exercise causes food or fluid in the stomach to cause a build up of gas. The severity of this condition is more serious when the stomach twists upon itself within the abdomen in a clockwise rotation causing the inlet and outlet of the stomach as well as blood vessels which supply the stomach to become constricted at both ends. As a result, the constriction will cause the stomach tissue to die. In a very short time, the stomach becomes restricted of nutrients and oxygen.

These factors have been suggested causes:

– Eating habits
– Stress
– Exercise
– Disposition
– Heredity

– Never feed your dog immediately before or after exercise. Allow at least one hour resting time after feeding your dog before exercising them.
– Do not allow your dog to become overweight.
– If you plan on changing your dogs diet, start slowly. Sudden diet changes will cause gastric problems.
– Feed 2 or 3 smaller meals throughout the day, rather than one large meal.
– Watch your dog for any abnormalities, abdominal swelling or any of the symptoms above.
– If you have a nervous dog, feed them in a quiet, relaxed atmosphere.

If you believe your labrador is experiencing bloat, please get them to a vet immediately! Bloat can kill in less than an hour, so time is of the essence. Notify your vet to alert them you’re on your way with a suspected bloat case. Better to be safe than sorry!

Although we have summarized information in the above article, it is to be used as a guideline only. Please consult with your vet for medical information if you are at all unsure.