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taking a dangerous turn

Bloat (gastric dilatation and volvulus, or GDV) is a terrifying concern of all dog owners, and for good reason — bloat can have a previously healthy dog fighting for his life in a matter of minutes.

The term “bloat” is actually a bit of a misnomer, because a dog’s stomach can bloat with food or air with no long-term negative consequences. The danger with GDV lies in the fact that a bloated stomach is prone to rotate, cutting off its own blood supply and any means of exit for excess food and gas. This is both very painful and very dangerous, as bloated dogs can die within minutes.

distress signals

This is very, very important: If your dog is retching without producing vomit, rush to a veterinarian immediately. Bloated dogs can experience nausea, but their twisted stomach prevents anything from coming up. You may also notice a distended abdomen, but depending on your dog’s body shape and coat, it may not be obvious.

Any dog can bloat, but large-breed and deep-chested dogs are more at risk, especially Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Weimaraners, German Shepherds and Irish Setters.

stopping the spin

While we can’t predict when or if a dog will bloat, veterinarians do have one tool in their arsenal for preventing death in dogs prone to bloat: a surgical procedure called a gastropexy, in which the stomach is tacked to the abdominal wall. This won’t prevent a dog’s stomach from becoming bloated, but it will stop it from rotating.

A gastropexy will very likely be part of the treatment plan for a dog who presents with a GDV, because even if the stomach can be turned non-surgically, up to 90% of dogs will bloat again —sometimes even within hours of the first episode.

Gastropexy may also be recommended as a preventive measure for dogs at greater risk for bloat, and can be done at any time. The surgery can even be done during your pet’s spay or neuter procedure, so ask your vet if your pet is at risk from the very first visit. While the thought of elective surgery may give some pet parents pause, the peace of mind that comes with knowing your dog is safe from the dangers of bloat is a fine prize, indeed.

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