A lot of people are familiar with the condition known as “bloat,” which we in the field call “GDV,” or Gastric Dilitation Volvulus. Often, if a dog is acting odd, or not wanting to eat, owners will hop online, read about bloat, and panic. Yes, this is a very serious condition that requires immediate attention.
Thing is, I see a lot of false alarms. If your dog has shown symptoms for a few days, it isn’t bloat – he or she would be dead already if it was. If your dog is having diarrhea, that is not a symptom of bloat. If your dog vomited a couple times, then ate well and kept it down, no bloat there! If your dog is less than 30 pounds, the statistical likelihood of your dog getting bloat is extremely low.
What is bloat then? Medically, it describes the twisting of the stomach (sometimes taking the spleen with it) that prevents escape of contents (or gas!) from either direction. The stomach expands dramatically, to the point of compressing major blood vessels. These dogs often have a large belly visible from across the room, may vomit up clear foam, and are very lethargic.
Treating is a big deal! It first involves stabilizing the dog on IV fluids, checking an EKG for secondary heart problems, then performing surgery to literally untwist the stomach. Often the spleen has suffered so much damage from lack of blood flow, it must be removed. However, once surgery is done, the fight is not over! Careful monitoring of electrolytes, heart rhythm, blood pressure, and general well-being are key for the next 24-48 hours.
Bottom line – if your large dog has a distended abdomen, won’t eat, and just feels crummy, bloat is a good possibility. Do not wait until the next day, as every hour is critical! Go to a 24 hour clinic ASAP!