Bloat - GDV
gastric dilatation volvulus
Bloat the Mother of All Emergencies
There is no quicker way to jump to the front of the ER line than if you walk into the hospital with a distended dog. Bloat is a life-threatening condition that I treat frequently, and a good outcome is time-dependent.
Bloat is a condition when the stomach fills with air and/or fluid (dilatation). This can progress to a twisting of the stomach upon itself, called GDV (gastric dilatation volvulus). Bloat is often used to describe GDV, but there is a vast medical difference. We’ll get to the details of GDV in a moment, but let’s start with the most important take-home message:
What NOT to do:
Do not give anything by mouth.
Do not attempt to relieve gas from the stomach with medications or by other means.
A note about the use of Gas X - This medication may help to reduce the amount of stomach gas in the case of “simple” bloat, but it will do nothing to help your pet in the case of GDV. The problem with GDV is not the gas, but the actual twisting of the stomach (think of a balloon being twisted in half, like when a clown makes an animal figure).
It is the twist that kills, and a medication will not undo the deadly rotation of the stomach. Please do not waste valuable life-saving moments waiting to see if the medication helps! Taking an x-ray of your pet’s abdomen is the only way to tell the difference between bloat and GDV, allowing for appropriate intervention.
What is GDV and why is it so serious?
The twisted and bloated stomach presses on the major blood vessels that carry blood back to the heart, stopping normal circulation and sending the dog into shock.
Making matters worse, the stomach tissue is literally dying because it is
stretched tightly and blood cannot circulate through it. Intense pain is
associated with this disease, causing the heart to race at such a high rate
that heart failure will result.
There can be no recovery until the stomach is surgically untwisted and the gas is
released. A dog with GDV will die in a matter of hours unless surgery is
performed. For each hour that goes by, there is a greater risk for
complications during surgery as well as during the recovery period.