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Vail Daily column: If you suspect your dog is ill, act quickly

Karen Dolamore
Pet Talk
Vail, CO Colorado

Recently my friend asked me what bloat was and if her dog should have a surgery to prevent him from getting it.

Bloat is excessive distention of the stomach with gas and or liquid. When the stomach turns or twists because of the condition, it’s called volvulus. Together the term is gastric dilatation/volvulus or GDV. Or it’s simply called bloat.

Large and giant breed dogs with deep chests, such as Great Danes, Weimaraners and Irish Wolfhounds are predisposed to developing gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV) or bloat. But many other breeds are prone to it as well.



The exact cause is still unknown. When the dog’s stomach fills up with a large amount of air or dilates, it may be due to excess swallowing of air associated with being nervous or certain eating habits, for example dogs that are fed only once a day versus dogs that eat rapidly or gulp its food, and dogs that exercise right after a meal tend to be at increased risk for GDV. Some people feel it may be caused by feeding dogs exclusively dry-food diets. Other possibilities include abnormal stomach muscle motion and genetic predisposition.

As the stomach dilates there is increased pressure on the diaphragm, which may make it hard for the dog to breathe. The air-filled stomach also compresses blood flow to the intestines, stomach and heart. Because the stomach is filled with air and fluid, it can flip or turn over more easily. This is the torsion or “volvulus.” When the stomach rotates, it further twists off blood supply to vital organs and to the heart. Without prompt intervention, the dog will die.



Unfortunately, symptoms may be vague. A dog may be unwilling to lay down or seem to be in extreme discomfort for no apparent reason. Other symptoms include a bloated looking belly, weakness, difficulty breathing, gagging or retching without vomiting, salivating and pale gums.

Gastric dilation is a life threatening condition that requires immediate emergency treatment and if associated with torsion, emergency surgery.

Surgery can prevent volvulus from occurring. A gastropexy is done by tacking the stomach to the body wall. This is accomplished using minimally invasive techniques (two small incisions and the assistance of cameras that look inside the abdominal cavity) or can be performed when you spay or neuter your animal. We recommend this procedure for any large or giant breed dog that may be at risk, including dogs with a history of “food bloating,” and large and giant breed dogs with a deep chest that had a relative with GDV.



The take-home message here is be aware of the symptoms. And as always, don’t ignore even subtle signs of illness in your dog. Remember, by the time you notice he is sick, he has probably been ill for longer than you think. Dogs are great at covering up their symptoms, so don’t discount your intuition. If you notice behavior changes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take the animal in and haveit checked out.

Dr. Karen Dolamore is a veterinarian based in Summit County and sees patients at Buffalo Mountain Animal Hospital in Silverthorne. E-mail questions or concerns to askdrdolamore@gmail.com.


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