If your dog’s stomach is looking a little bloated, you might not think anything of it, but it can be a red flag that they’re suffering from a health condition.
There’s also “dog bloat,” a condition that can put your dog’s life at risk.
What is “dog bloat?”
Dog bloat is a condition known as Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV). It’s when your dog’s abdomen is so swollen that it causes ruptures and organ damage.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at GDV. But first, let’s look at some common reasons why your dog’s stomach could be swollen, bearing in mind that not all swelling will be a life-threatening condition.
- Reasons Why Your Dog’s Stomach Is Swollen
- Understanding Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus
- What are the causes of Gastric Dilation-Volvulus?
- How To Spot GDV In Your Dog
- How To Treat GDV
- What Are The Mortality Rates Of GDV?
- Post-Operative Care Tips For Your Dog
- How To Check For Abdominal Problems In Your Dog
- Can You Prevent Dog Bloat?
- What’s The Difference Between Gastric Dilatation And Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus?
- Related Questions
Reasons Why Your Dog’s Stomach Is Swollen
There are many different reasons why your dog’s stomach could be bloated. Here’s a rundown of some common ones.
- Eating too fast: If your dog has the tendency to wolf down his or her food, this can cause it to have digestion problems that can include bloating. Chewing and swallowing too fast creates air that can accumulate in the stomach.
- Internal bleeding: This can be as a result of trauma or internal obstructions, such as tumors.
- Roundworm infections: This can cause the stomach to swell up. The good news is that roundworms are quite common and can easily be treated with deworming solutions.
- Peritonitis: This is an infection that can be quite serious. It’s basically when the dog’s stomach or intestine has been ruptured, such as if it’s got an ulcer, tumor, or has eaten bones or other sharp items that have splintered during digestion.
- Cushing’s Syndrome: This is when the dog is producing too much of the cortisol hormone. It usually happens to dogs older than six years old, but it will have many symptoms, such as hair loss, increased thirst, increased appetite, and increased urination.
- Ascites: This is the accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, which can be caused from health conditions such as liver disease, kidney problems, intestinal disease, or heart problems.
- Gastrointestinal issues: If your dog’s abdomen has swollen after eating, there are many possible causes for this, such as tumors that prevent the stomach from emptying normally. This can lead to gas accumulation. Other types of issues include the problem of a foreign body in the stomach or pancreatitis. This is when the pancreas becomes inflamed and it can be triggered by some foods.
Understanding Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus
While there are less serious conditions that can cause bloating in your dog, there is an important condition that you need to know about: Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV). This is an emergency situation as it can kill your dog within just a few hours.
So, what is GDV?
It’s when your dog’s stomach is so bloated by food or gas that it stretches.
The swollen stomach can actually rotate, which causes gas to get trapped inside it. The result is that the stomach’s blood supply is cut off. It’s a very painful emergency, so you’ll see immediately that your dog needs to be taken to the animal hospital.
What makes GDV so painful is that the stomach builds up with gas but also fluid and food.
When the stomach becomes twisted, this traps all the stomach contents and the dog affected by GDV will be in a lot of pain because he or she won’t be able to belch, defecate, or even pass air. Everything is blocked, which is why it can be fatal if not treated promptly.
GDV has a variety of horrifying consequences, such as:
- A lack of blood flow to the heart;
- Loss of enough blood circulation to the stomach lining;
- Rupture of the stomach wall;
- Pressure on the diaphragm that inhibits the lungs from expanding, which prevents normal breathing functions.
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus isn’t a condition that will resolve on its own or respond to home remedies. It will only get worse, causing your dog to go into shock and possibly even die.
What are the causes of Gastric Dilation-Volvulus?
There’s no clear reason why your dog will get Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, but some things have been found to cause or contribute to it. Here’s a rundown of some of them.
- Eating too quickly, which can also result in the gulping of air.
- Being a deep-chested breed, such as a Weimaraner or Great Dane. These dogs tend to be at greater risk for this condition. “Deep-chested” refers to how these dogs have a greater thoracic height as compared to their width.
- Eating only one meal a day.
- Genetics. Some dogs can be prone to GDV because it runs in their families. If a dog has a first-degree relative who’s experienced GDV before, this puts them at greater risk of getting it.
- Eating a dry diet. If you only give your dog a dry diet with no wet food in it, this could also put them at greater risk of getting GDV.
- Having previously had spleen removal.
- Stress. Try to reduce stress in your dog, such as if it’s scared of visitors or thunderstorms. Research has found that a high-stress environment can contribute to GDV, as Veterinary Practice News reports.
- Running or playing after meals.
- Being of older age. Senior dogs between the ages of 7-12 are more at risk of this condition.
- Being a larger dog. Larger dog breeds are at a higher risk of getting GDV, with dogs who weigh more than 100 pounds having a 20-percent risk, as VCA Hospitals reports.
How To Spot GDV In Your Dog
If your dog has GDV, you’ll be able to tell by their discomfort, but there will be other signs so make sure that you keep an eye out for the following:
- Anxious look in dog’s face
- Dog looking at their abdomen a lot
- Bloated abdomen
- Retching but nothing comes up
When the disease worsens, you’ll likely see the following symptoms:
- Elevated heart rate
- Elevated breathing rate
- Poor pulse
- Abdominal distention
You really need to get your pet to the vet as soon as you notice the early signs of GDV otherwise your pet risks other serious health problems or even death.
Once the disease spreads, your dog will experience less oxygen in their tissues, which can cause cell death in organs such as the kidney and liver. The lack of oxygen will cause abnormal heart rates. Toxins can also be released into the body, which can lead to organ failure.
How To Treat GDV
When you rush your dog to the animal hospital because you suspect that he or she has GDV, what will probably occur is that he or she will have to be stabilized, with their stomach decompressed. They’ll have to be treated for shock if they’re in shock.
Your pet will need to be administered to the hospital, where it will be put on IV fluids. He or she will have to be monitored for any organ damage, and tests will be conducted, such as x-rays to check if the dog’s stomach has become twisted.
The vet might put a tube down your dog’s throat and stomach in order to release the pressure that’s in the stomach.
If your dog’s stomach is twisted, this could prevent the tube from smoothly passing through, so a hollow needle that’s put through the dog’s belly and into the stomach can help to release the pressure.
If the dog’s stomach is twisted, surgery will be required to return the dog’s stomach to its normal position. This surgery is known as a gastropexy. Vets will also need to check the dog’s abdominal organs for any damage. If there is any, these will probably also be treated during the surgery.
What Are The Mortality Rates Of GDV?
It’s said that mortality rates of this health condition are 15 percent, as American College Of Veterinary Surgeons reports. As the disease progresses, this increases your pet’s chance of dying. Other things can also increase the risk of death, such as:
- If the pet was showing symptoms of the disease that have been experienced for over six hours;
- If the pet had cardiac arrhythmia before surgery;
- If loss of blood supply has resulted in the surgeon having to remove part of the stomach;
- If the dog’s spleen has had to be removed.
However, it’s also worth bearing in mind that putting the dog under general anaesthesia is also a risk, especially in the case of older dogs whose bodies might not be able to handle the anaesthesia.
In fact, due to natural aging, experts have said that the risk of dogs dying under anaesthesia is seven times higher for dogs older than 12 years of age than younger dogs, as American Kennel Club reports.
Your dog will probably have to stay in the hospital for a few days or longer to be monitored after surgery.
Post-Operative Care Tips For Your Dog
Your dog has been treated for GDV and is ready to go back home with you. Great news! However, there are some important things you’ll need to do to ensure that they properly heal.
- You’ll have to prevent your dog from exercising. This should be avoided for a few weeks as it will encourage the surgery incisions to heal properly.
- You’ll have to adjust your dog’s diet. It’s important for you to feed your dog two or three small meals per day instead of one large meal. Ask your vet what foods you should give your dog. If a complete diet change is in order, never change your dog’s food overnight as this can cause gastrointestinal problems. You need to make the transition slowly, such as by adding new food to their current food every day so that by the end of seven days your dog is eating 100 percent of their new food.
- You’ll have to be vigilant with your pet’s vet check-ups to ensure that he or she has healed and that there are no further signs of the disease.
- Make sure you closely monitor your dog for any signs of complications after surgery. These include a lack of energy, vomiting, bloating, or a lack of appetite.
How To Check For Abdominal Problems In Your Dog
Even if your dog hasn’t had GDV, it’s still important to check your dog’s abdomen on a regular basis so that you can immediately spot any problems as soon as they arise.
Pay attention to any swelling, lumps, stickiness, and heat. If your dog yelps in pain in general or when you try to pick it up, that’s also a red flag that something is hurting him and needs to be checked out by a vet. Don’t delay!
Can You Prevent Dog Bloat?
While it’s not always possible to prevent dog bloat from striking your beloved pooch, there are some important things you can do to reduce your dog’s risk of getting stomach bloat. These include:
- Stick to feeding your dog a few times over the course of a day instead of feeding them all at once.
- If your dog has the tendency to gulp down food, it’s a good idea to feed the dog slowly, such as by feeding them bit by bit so that you give your dog the chance to slow down and chew their food properly.
- You should ensure that your dog gets enough exercise, as this will help to keep their bodies healthy and will keep many health conditions at bay.
- You should strive to keep your dog at a healthy body weight.
- If your dog is a breed that’s at risk of stomach bloat, you should ask your vet about a procedure that can be done to prevent it from happening. This is known as prophylactic gastropexy. It’s when the dog’s stomach is tacked in place, and can be done when the dog goes in to be neutered. The surgery is non-invasive and can prevent GDV from occurring. Based on how horrible the condition can be, this is definitely something to consider if you own an at-risk breed.
- You should feed your dog a combination diet that’s filled with both dry and wet, or canned, food.
- Avoid feeding your dog food that contains high amounts of fat as this is a risk factor for the condition. You can tell if your dog’s food is too high in fat by checking the ingredients list. If fat is listed as one of the four top ingredients, then it’s too fatty for Fido and should be avoided.
What’s The Difference Between Gastric Dilatation And Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus?
These are both serious conditions. Gastric Dilatation is when a lot of gas or fluid accumulates in the dog’s stomach. Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus is when this accumulation causes the stomach to twist. Both of these are highly dangerous and can be life-threatening.
They cause the compression of major blood vessels located in the abdomen and inhibit blood circulation to the heart and other organs. This can cause the dog to experience shock, and possibly lose their life.
While both conditions are highly dangerous, Gastric Dilatation will take longer to become critical.
But that doesn’t mean you can take your time when getting your pet the help he or she needs. You need to act quickly and take your pet to the vet or hospital as soon as you suspect dog bloat so that the situation doesn’t get worse.
Can GDV affect any dog?
While deep-chested breeds and large dogs are at greater risk of the condition, GDV can happen to any dog breed so it’s something that every dog owner should know about and keep an eye out for.
Can elevated food bowls prevent GDV?
There has been some talk about elevated food bowls as a reason for why some dogs avoid getting GDV. This is because elevated food bowls are said to prevent large dogs from gulping air while they eat their food, but this theory hasn’t been properly evaluated.
How much does GDV treatment cost?
Treatment that includes surgery, anaesthesia, post-operative management, and supportive care can cost anything between $2,500 to $5,000.
If your dog’s stomach is looking bloated, it’s essential to observe them for other symptoms but check in with your vet as soon as possible to find out what could be causing it.
As can be seen in this article, there are many different reasons why your dog might be suffering from a bloated stomach, with some being easily corrected and others requiring interventions.
GDV is a condition that is an emergency for your dog, so we’ve outlined how you can check your dog for symptoms of this condition and get it the help it needs, fast.
Heather Abraham is an owner of two dogs, one cat, a leopard gecko, and a parrot (who her dad still cannot teach bad words to), and an avid blogger. From the time she was a young girl, she always felt a connection with pets. She brings her love of every type of pet to you, with information on animal nutrition, medication, toys, beds, and everything else in between. Along with newly-on-board veterinarian DVM editor Elena, she puts pups first while offering other various fun tidbits along the way.