Canine Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus: RIP Barbie

Veterinary Partner calls bloat the Mother of all Emergencies.

According to some sources, bloat is the number two dog killer, right after cancer!

Gastric dilatation is a distention of the stomach from an accumulation of gas and fluid. Gastric dilatation can be further complicated by volvulus, in which the distended stomach rotates on itself (gastric torsion), cutting off its blood supply. The gas and fluid become trapped in the closed-off stomach.

Having Rottweilers, bloat is always in the back of my mind, and I try to take all possible precautions to prevent it from happening to our guys.

If there are any monsters in a closet, bloat is certainly one of them!

My friend and fellow blogger of Dog Training San Diego agreed to share Barbie’s story with us.

Canine Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus: RIP Barbie

Barbie’s story

The other night, we lost one of our canine friends. Barbie came to us from Labrador Rescuers, a group that saved her from an unknown fate.

When they broke her out of doggy jail, they realized she suffered from a bad case of separation anxiety so they called The Collared Scholar for help. Barbie joined us for some rehabilitation and confidence-boosting.

Barbie’s symptoms

The other night, Barbie started displaying some abnormal behaviors that led us to believe she was suffering from a condition called bloat.

We rushed her to the emergency clinic where the grim diagnosis was confirmed.

What is bloat?

Bloat is a condition where the stomach fills with gas and becomes incredibly painful. In some cases, the stomach can torsion, in essence flipping over.

Bloat and Gastrointestinal Torsion primarily affects deep-chested dogs. Predominant breeds are Rottweilers, Great Danes, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Labs, Basset Hounds, and Pit Bulls among others.

We have had experience with the disease in the past as our Great Dane suffered a bad case of bloat and torsion several years back.

When the stomach torsions, surgery is typically the only option. Our Dane was saved by the surgeons at the Animal ER in La Mesa, CA.

Barbie didn’t make it

Very sadly, Barbie couldn’t have been saved.

When bloat happens, you must seek veterinary care immediately as it can be fatal and can progress to life-threatening in less than an hour!

Time is of the essence when dealing with bloat!

Common symptoms of GDV

In dealing with the condition twice now, I’ve noticed the same symptoms pop up consistently.

  • Bloated, Hard Abdomen
  • Excessive Salivation
  • Dog finds it uncomfortable to lay down. If they do lay down, will arch their back and assume the “Sphinx” position
  • Several unproductive attempts at vomiting – wretching, gagging

Other symptoms have also been noted including coughing, whining, pacing, licking the air, drinking excessively and shallow breathing.

There are articles abound regarding prevention of bloat in dogs.

Common prevention recommendations

The most common tips at prevention are:

  • Feed several small meals
  • Limit water intake immediately after feeding
  • Restrict exercise, excitement, and stress before and after feeding

I can also tell you from experience that in both cases of bloat, we did everything right – followed the prevention guidelines to the letter.

Stress triggers

In Barbie’s case, the vet suspects the condition was triggered by the stress of a change in environment coupled with a change in diet. 

This a great reason to provide your pet’s food if you plan to put them in boarding. In Kira, my Great Dane’s case, the vet had no idea what may have triggered the condition.

After my experiences, my thought on bloat is this – no one really understands why it happens.

I believe there to be a genetic component to the disease. Sure, there are the dogs who break into a bag of treats and devour the entire thing, leaving a food bolus that torsions the stomach. But in many cases, owners are prepared and follow the rules and GDV still rears its ugly head.

Related articles:
Abdominal Distention in Dogs: Why Is My Dog’s Stomach Swollen?

Further reading:
Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) – The Dreaded Bloat in Dogs

Categories: EmergenciesGastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat):Real-life Stories

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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