Posted on 12-06-2015
A little over a month ago my Standard Poodle "bloated" and almost died. I realized when talking to clients over the next couple weeks that no one knew the signs to look for. The proper medical term for bloat is Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV). This is when the stomach fills with gas and rotates or twists on itself. The stomach torsion/twisting causes other organs and structures in the abdomen to lose blood supply. This causes damage to the organs.
This is fatal if not treated both promptly and appropriately. Even with the best treatment it is estimated 20% of patients will die. Fast recognition that there is a problem and early treatment are the keys to survival.
We don't know the cause of GDV, but it happens most often (but not exclusively) to larger deep chested dogs such as, Standard Poodles, Labradors, Great Danes, Boxers, Rottweilers, Shepherds, and more. Other risk factors include eating rapidly, intestinal disease, foreign bodies (when they eat something that isn't food), cancers and old age. It hasn't been proven, but exercise after eating has been discussed.
My dog didn't eat dinner well but when I examined him he seemed normal, and came to bed just like every other night. That evening he paced a little then gagged/retched. Nothing came out. One of the big signs of GDV is frequent retching or trying to vomit. I've seen one patient that made several small piles of foamy saliva. Other dogs will have drooling. Most will seem anxious early on in the process, often pacing or seeming restless. As they progress, they get lethargic, depressed and go into shock. Some owners notice their stomach seems bigger or bloated. For an owner the important part is to get them to an emergency vet ASAP. DON’T feed your dog anything and DON’T try to relieve the gas yourself.
There are only a few true surgical emergencies. This is one of them. The quicker the dog is given IV fluids and it’s stomach surgically un-rotated, the better prognosis it has. My dog was in surgery in about an hour. He lost his spleen because it went too long without blood; that’s how quick it happens, but he survived. I'm hoping that by writing this article more people will know the signs of bloat and be able to save their own dogs.
Tail wags 'till next time,
Dr. Kim Bercovitz, DVM