DR. DARA JOHNS / Daily News columnist
Dear readers: Being involved with the emergency clinic always serves to remind me of health concerns that owners need to be especially vigilant for. One particular condition is bloat.
Deep-chested dogs such as German shepherds, retrievers, Great Danes, and Doberman pinschers are all candidates for bloat and GDV. GDV stands for Gastric Dilatation Volvulus. When a dog with a deep chest experiences a lot of gas in the stomach, the stomach can distend to such a degree that it pushes on the diaphragm, making it hard for the pet to breathe. It can also push against the aorta and caudal vena cava. These are the main blood vessels moving blood back and forth to the lower part of the body. When these are pinched, the body’s circulation is compromised, causing death to vital tissue.
The greatly enlarged stomach can also float in its space like a balloon, twisting around on its own axis and causing the condition known as GDV. The words Gastric Dilation represent the “bloat” component. The word Volvulus represents the twisting of the stomach. GDV is particularly life threatening. The blood vessels supplying the stomach and the spleen are immediately pinched off. The tissue of the stomach is compromised and begins to die. This will cause the release of endotoxins that can cause fatal heart arrthymias. The spleen begins to pool with blood as soon as the vessels are twisted.
Symptoms of bloat and GDV are drooling, vomiting, dry heaves, and signs of extreme stomach upset. The mucous membranes of the mouth are typically pale from shock. The abdomen will be distended and tight. Sometimes the distension is not as noticeable because the bloated stomach is up under the rib cage, so abdominal enlargement cannot be the only sign watched for.
There is no treatment for this at home. The dog must be rushed to a veterinarian immediately. Death can occur in hours if left untreated. Your veterinarian will have to pass a tube and relieve the gas in the stomach. If a tube cannot be passed, the gas cannot be relieved, and surgery will have to be performed to turn the stomach around and assess it for damage. The spleen may have to be removed.
During surgery for bloat, a procedure is performed to tack the stomach down so that if the dog bloats in the future, at least the stomach won’t twist. The dog may still bloat, but it lessens the chances of the pet dying. If a dog has bloated before, the chances that it will happen again are greater. Older dogs and dogs with anxious personalities are also more at risk for bloat.
If you own a dog that is a deep-chested breed, I hope you never have to deal with this disease, but if you notice symptoms, be sure and get to the nearest doctor. With this disease, it is better to be safe than sorry.