Let’s Talk About Bloat

Let us talk about bloat, (as the general public refers to it). Actually, let us talk about gastric dilatation with volvulus also known as gastric torsion. These are conditions that affect dogs primarily of the larger and deep chested breeds like the Great Dane.

The two conditions are not synonymous, however torsion/volvulus is usually preceded by bloat. Simple distension of the stomach with food, water, air or some combination, while uncomfortable, is not generally a life-threatening condition. Perhaps you have felt this recently with the holiday feasts we indulge in. Volvulus/torsion on the other hand is very serious and frequently leads to fatality if not treated rapidly and aggressively. The latter condition occurs when the full stomach has rotated within the abdomen in such a way that both ends of the stomach are effectively closed off not permitting much of anything to get in or out of the stomach. In addition to the stomach twisting, the vessels that provide blood to, and take blood away from the stomach are also compromised. The cascade of events that takes place both locally at the stomach as well as hemodynamically to the whole body results in pain, depression, shock, collapse and death if not treated.

While this is a simplistic look at the condition, what I want to make people aware of is that there is a simple and effective means of preventing it from happening. We can feed the right foods, in the right amounts and frequency, control post eating activity, etc. but that does not always insure that torsion will never occur. Owners of at risk breeds can have a procedure called a gastropexy performed that very effectively reduces the chances of torsion from occurring. It does not stop bloating from occurring if the pet over eats, or drinks but as I said above bloat is not typically a huge problem unless it is followed by torsion. The key is knowing the difference and that requires examination and radiographs. Any acutely bloated dog should be seen as soon as possible to determine which problem is present.

Here at Pine Bluff Animal Hospital, we perform what is called a laparoscopic assisted gastropexy, LAG for short. This is a minimally invasive procedure that effectively anchors the wall of the stomach to the wall of the body cavity thus preventing the twisting and rotating. Complications are rare and to date, after over 800 LAGS performed there have been no occurrences of torsion. The vast majority of dogs we have done have been Great Danes thanks to working with 2 prominent Great Dane rescue organizations as well as a number of breeders/handlers of show dogs. Torsion does not affect every Great Dane or deep chested dog, but when it does, it is an acute life-threatening condition that if not caught in time usually results in death.

By: Dr. Schmidt
Pine Bluff Animal Hospital