Bloat and Gastric Torsion in Dogs

What is BGT?

Bloat, or gastric dilatation, and torsion, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), are severe and often life-threatening conditions affecting dogs. These conditions involve the stomach filling with gas and potentially twisting on itself, which can cut off blood supply to vital organs and lead to shock and death if not treated promptly. Understanding the causes, recognizing the symptoms, and implementing preventive measures, including the surgical procedure known as gastropexy, are crucial for dog owners.

Understanding Bloat and Gastric Torsion

Bloat occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with gas, fluid, or food, causing it to expand. This distension can lead to increased pressure on other organs and the diaphragm, making it difficult for the dog to breathe. When bloat progresses to GDV, the stomach twists around its short axis (volvulus), which traps the gas and prevents the stomach from emptying its contents. This twist also cuts off blood flow to the stomach and spleen, leading to tissue death and a systemic inflammatory response.

GDV is a medical emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention. Without prompt treatment, GDV can result in the death of the affected dog within hours.

Risk Factors

Certain factors can increase the likelihood of a dog developing bloat and GDV, including:

Breed and Size: Large and giant breeds with deep chests, such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, and Standard Poodles, are more prone to GDV.

Age: Older dogs are at higher risk, although bloat can occur at any age.

Genetics: A familial history of bloat increases the risk.

Eating Habits: Dogs that eat rapidly, consume large meals, or drink excessive amounts of water before or after meals are more susceptible.

Stress: Stressful situations, such as boarding, traveling, or new environments, can precipitate bloat.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

Early recognition of bloat and GDV symptoms is critical for survival. Symptoms may include:

A distended abdomen

Unsuccessful attempts to vomit

Excessive drooling

Restlessness and pacing

Rapid, shallow breathing

Signs of pain when touched around the abdomen

If GDV is suspected, immediate veterinary intervention is necessary. Diagnosis typically involves a physical examination, radiographs (X-rays) to confirm stomach distension and twisting, and possibly blood tests to assess the extent of the condition and organ function.

Emergency Treatment

Emergency treatment for GDV involves stabilizing the dog and preparing for surgery. Initial steps include:

Decompression: Removing the gas from the stomach using a stomach tube or needle to relieve pressure.

Intravenous Fluids: Administering fluids to combat shock and support blood pressure.

Pain Relief and Antibiotics: Providing medications to manage pain and prevent infection.

Surgery is required to untwist the stomach and assess any damage to the stomach and spleen. In severe cases, part of the stomach may need to be removed if the tissue is necrotic. The surgeon may also perform a gastropexy during this procedure to prevent recurrence.

Prevention Strategies

Preventing bloat and GDV involves several management strategies:

Diet and Feeding:

Feed smaller, more frequent meals rather than one or two large meals.

Use slow-feeder bowls to reduce the speed of eating.

Avoid vigorous exercise immediately before and after meals.

Provide a calm environment during feeding times to reduce stress.

Hydration:

Ensure the dog has access to water at all times, but limit excessive drinking immediately after meals.

Encourage hydration throughout the day in smaller amounts.

Routine Veterinary Care:

Regular veterinary check-ups can help monitor the dog’s overall health and catch any early signs of digestive issues.

Gastropexy as a Preventive Treatment

Gastropexy is a surgical procedure that involves attaching the stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent it from twisting. This procedure can be performed prophylactically (preventively) or during emergency surgery for GDV. There are several techniques for gastropexy, including:

Traditional (Open) Gastropexy: Performed through a larger abdominal incision, often during spaying or neutering.

Laparoscopic Gastropexy: A minimally invasive approach using small incisions and a camera to guide the surgery.

Endoscopic-Assisted Gastropexy: Combines endoscopy and surgery for a less invasive procedure.

Benefits and Risks of Gastropexy

The primary benefit of gastropexy is the significant reduction in the risk of GDV recurrence. For dogs at high risk, such as those with a familial history or breeds predisposed to GDV, gastropexy can be a lifesaving preventive measure.

Conclusion

Bloat and gastric torsion are serious conditions that require immediate attention. Understanding the risk factors and symptoms can help dog owners take prompt action to save their pets’ lives. Preventive measures, such as proper feeding practices and stress reduction, are crucial in minimizing the risk. For high-risk dogs, a prophylactic gastropexy can provide significant protection against GDV. By staying informed and vigilant, dog owners can help ensure the health and safety of their canine companions.

Any other doubt? We are here to help, Contact us now.