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Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS  

Specialties: surgery

Interests: Pet Owner Education
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Bloat, the ultimate life-threatening emergency

Aug 22, 2009 - 10 comments



life threatening













What is bloat?

Bloat is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach becomes bloated with gas (occasionally liquid, occasionally too much food) and may twist on its own axis. This results in a series of complex changes that affect virtually every organ and can cause death. “Bloat” is also called Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV), stomach torsion, flipped stomach or twisted stomach.

We don't know how to prevent bloating, but we can prevent the stomach from twisting.

Gastropexy is a technique that allows the stomach to be sutured to the wall of the belly.  Short-term, it is held in place by sutures (stitches).  Long-term, it is held in place by scar tissue.

The nice thing about gastropexy is that it can be done to prevent twisting, before a patient bloats.  This is called preventive or prophylactic gastropexy.  It is done in a healthy, stable patient.  A great way to do it is while a female of an at-risk breed is being spayed.  Think about it: the belly is already opened!  All that would be needed, is to make a longer incision in the belly, and to do a gastropexy.  How brilliant.  Yet sadly, hardly ever done.

Of course, in most males, the belly is not opened up to do a neuter.  But since they are already under anesthesia, it would make sense to take advantage of it.

Contrary to the urban legend, performing a gastropexy in a young dog should not affect the growth of the stomach.  Only a tiny portion of the stomach is tacked, so fear not.  Your Mastiff won’t end up with the stomach of a Chihuahua!

Some surgeons who have the equipment & experience may be able to do the gastropexy via laparoscopy (kind of a scope), through a few tiny incisions.

In an older pet, already spayed or neutered, you would need to weigh the pros and the cons and discuss this option with your vet or surgeon.

Recently, some Akita lovers came to our practice to discuss prophylactic gastropexy.  They had lost 2 Akitas to bloat.  They knew how bad and costly the condition can be.  So they decided to have the procedure done on their older female and her young male pup.  At the same time, we neutered the male and spayed his Mom.

It a smart medical and financial decision.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Pet surgeon and author of a free, weekly newsletter for true pet lovers, available at DrPhilZeltzman.com

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675347 tn?1365460645
by ginger899, Aug 22, 2009
Hi Phil, Thanks for this.
Could you tell us...which breeds are most prone to Bloat? I've heard it's "deep-chested dogs" but I'm not really sure what that means. A dog with a 'waist',  like mine, could look deep-chested, compared with a slightly plumper dog where the ribcage isn't as defined. So I'm unsure.

Avatar universal
by Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVSBlank, Aug 22, 2009
Bloat can theoretically affect any dog of any breed.  We had a miniature Schnauzer with bloat at our clinic.  It has even been reported in cats.

But it mostly affects large and giant dog breeds, typically “deep chested” as you wrote.

Not sure what deep chested means?  Look at a Doberman.  The chest is much deeper than the belly.

Great Danes were the # 1 breed in a recent study. Other common breeds include (in no particular order) the German shepherd, Rottweiler, Labrador, Saint Bernard, Mastiff, Setter, Doberman, Standard Poodle, Weimaraner, Golden Retriever, Akita etc. Smaller dog breeds may be affected (Schnauzer, Basset Hound).

It can affect males and females, most often middle-aged, but really at almost any age (10 months to 14 years old in one study!).

There you go.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Pet surgeon and author of a free, weekly newsletter for true pet lovers, available at DrPhilZeltzman.com

195469 tn?1388322888
by Heather3418, Aug 23, 2009
Dr. Zeltzman,

After reading your many articles, I sure wish we had a veterinarian of your caliber and compassion, within reach of my neck of the woods.  Lucky is the animal that comes under your care.  I have thoroughly enjoyed reading and learning from your articles.

My Chihuahua is due to be spayed and wonder if gastropexy might be considered for that breed, at the time of her spaying?  My toy poodle (now deceased from old age) was treated for a stomach twist and we almost lost her.  Apparently she was fed a large amount of canned dog food by a neighbor watching our dogs for the weekend. (instead of her usual smaller amount) She ate this all at one sitting and her stomach bloated and twisted upon itself.  Our vet said it was due to the large amount of food that she tried to consume in one sitting.

Can a large amount of food being ingested by ANY breed, cause this condition?  Is it something you would warn your animal 'parents' about; especially with the large breeds?

Thank you so much for educating all of us, in so many areas of animal ownership.

from the MS Forum

Avatar universal
by Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVSBlank, Aug 23, 2009
Wow, I'm sorry about your poodle.

As I wrote above, bloat is unusual in small breeds.  So would I advise it in a Chichi???

That's an impossible question!

I'm enclined to say that it probably can't hurt... as long as it's performed by someone who has the experience (with all due respect to your vet of course).  It CAN cause problems if not done right.

And thanks for your kind words!!!

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Pet surgeon and author of a free, weekly newsletter for true pet lovers, available at DrPhilZeltzman.com

675347 tn?1365460645
by ginger899, Aug 23, 2009
Hi Dr.Phil, and thanks again for this article.  I have another question. Are there things one can do to lessen the chances of a dog getting Bloat?
I've heard a few things about this, such as:
Not giving (or allowing the dog) both food and water at the same time.
Not feeding the dog immediately after exercise.
Not allowing it to bolt its food........ (this one is hard. My dog is inclined to eat very quickly some of the time. Other times she doesn't do this. But when she does it it scares me. I have fed her dinner in 3 or 4 stages to try and prevent this. But she still wolfs down the little bits I give her, and is staring at me for the next bit. In a way, that doesn't help because she's aware I'm withholding some, and wants to get the first portion down quickly to get to the next one!

So is it something can be prevented? (surgery apart) Or is it something which can't really be controlled?

Avatar universal
by Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVSBlank, Aug 23, 2009

The exact cause of bloat is unknown, and there is therefore no certain way to prevent it.  There are NO drugs or supplements, for humans or dogs, known to work.

However, here are a few tips:

. Avoid ingestion of large amounts of food or water.

. Feed smaller meals 2 or 3 times a day.

. Avoid stress.  Good luck!

. Avoid intense activity 1 hour before and after meals.

. Feed in a quiet area.

. If you have several dogs, feed them separately to decrease stress and "competition."

. Feeding from an elevated bowl is controversial.  Some studies say it should not be done, others say that dogs should eat and drink from bowls placed at floor level. Bottom line: we're not sure.

. Do not breed dogs with a first-degree relative that has a history of GDV.  This is really vital for conscientious breeders... as well as current and future dog owners.

. Avoid diets that list oils or fats among the first four label ingredients.

It is very important to remember that gastropexy will prevent the stomach from twisting (in 95% of the cases), but that "bloating" remains a risk for the rest of your dog's life. Therefore, you and anybody taking care of your dog in the future (pet sitter, vet clinic, kennel...) should be aware of the risk of re-bloating.

There you go.

Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Pet surgeon and author of a free, weekly newsletter for true pet lovers, available at DrPhilZeltzman.com

Awesome article Dr. Zeltzman!   This is the kind of stuff that pet lovers really enjoy!   I am so glad that you are here on MedHelp!

Avatar universal
by Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVSBlank, Aug 24, 2009
Gee, thanks Tom!


Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Pet surgeon and author of a free, weekly newsletter for true pet lovers, available at DrPhilZeltzman.com

1111735 tn?1258509071
by ctjodie1, Nov 17, 2009
how do you tell if it is bloating could i be mistaken when i say my dog's stomach looks as if it as grown in size but dropped at the same time seems depressed too and very little appetite

15403689 tn?1440349633
by steele0101, Aug 23, 2015
Doc, I have a question. I know that full bred dfogs are the most desired, but I've read that mixed breed (aka mutts) are actually the healthiest since all full bred dogs are technically inbred. Is this true? I have 3 great pyrenees mix dogs, but I'm always worried about their health. One is half pyrenees, another is a quarter, and we aren't that sure abput the percentage of the youngest, but she does have some in her. I was just curious as to if what I read was true, and also, we are fixing to get our youngest spayed. She is a little over a year old. Do you know if most vets charge extra for the preventative procedure for bloat that you mentioned above. The charge is $115 for just a spay at our vet, based on that, do you have any idea about how much, if any, extra this other procedure would be?

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