VCA Animal Hospitals

Bloating poses risk to larger dogs

Published: Jul 30, 2012

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Large, deep-chested dogs may suffer from stomach bloat—a condition in which the stomach fills with air and can be seen as a distention of the belly just behind the ribs.  Although it may not seem like it, bloat in dogs is potentially life-threatening and the animal should be taken to a veterinarian right away if this occurs.

In many cases, a dog with a bloated stomach will simply return to normal in a short while, as humans do when they are bloated. However, in some instances the bloated stomach may be a sign of gastric dilatation and volvulus, or GDV. This is where the stomach bloats and expands to the point that it begins to twist inside the body, potentially blocking both the entrance and exit to the stomach. Unless a vet intervenes with surgery, this will eventually be fatal.

It can be difficult for pet owners to tell the difference between harmless bloating and GDV. An x-ray or other diagnostic test is needed to confirm GDV, which is why owners of larger dogs need to play it safe. If an owner notices their dog seems uncomfortable or exhibits labored breathing after eating or exercising, or if their dog's stomach appears bloated or their dog is wretching or trying to vomit without success, it's best to bring her to the vet as soon as possible and ensure nothing harmful is happening. If the dog collapses after her stomach has begun bloating, treat it as an emergency situation and seek help right away.

Big dogs with deeper chests are at a higher risk for GDV. In fact, VCA Animal Hospitals reports that dogs over 100 pounds have about a 20 percent chance of suffering from GDV at some point in their life. Owners of Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Doberman pinschers, Gordon setters, Irish setters, Weimaraners, standard poodles, Basset hounds and other large dogs should be on the lookout for GDV. However, small dogs are not completely in the clear - bloating has been reported even in Chihuahuas.

Doctors don't know exactly what causes this potentially life-threatening problem in dogs, but some studies have shown certain risk factors. Dogs who eat only one meal a day, consume their food rapidly, or vigorously exercise after eating may increase their chance of GDV. The condition also tends to occur more commonly in older dogs and those with a close family member who has had bloat.

If detected early enough and surgery is successful, the prognosis is generally good for dogs with GDV. As GDV has been known to recur in dogs who have had it in the past, veterinarians standardly perform a surgical technique to attach the stomach to the abdominal wall, which will prevent the stomach from twisting in the future.


General Practice

We have over 540 animal hospitals in 41 states that are staffed by more than 2,000 fully qualified, dedicated and compassionate veterinarians, with more than 200 being board-certified specialists. The nationwide VCA family of general practice hospitals give your pet the very best in medical care, providing a full range of general medical and surgical services as well as specialized treatments*: Wellness, Spay/neuter, Advanced diagnostic services (MRI/CT Scan), Internal medicine, Oncology, Ophthalmology, Dermatology, Cardiology, Neurology, Boarding, Grooming

*services may vary by location.

Our family of pet hospitals stands out by delivering the greatest resources in order provide the highest quality care available for your pets. By maintaining the highest standards of pet health care available anywhere, we emphasize prevention as well as healing. We provide continuing education programs to our doctors and staff and promote the open exchange of professional knowledge and expertise. And finally, we have established a consistent program of procedures and techniques, proven to be the most effective in keeping pets healthy.

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Specialty Care

Sometimes sick or injured pets need the care of a veterinary medical specialist. When that happens, VCA specialty hospitals work closely with the general practitioner veterinarians who refer cases to us in order to provide seamless veterinary care to your pet. When your pet is facing any kind of serious illness or injury, our specialty referral hospitals will provide the compassionate and expert care your beloved pet needs.

Our goal is to make sure that when you and your pet are in need that you have access to board certified specialists who are up to date on the very latest developments in their field. In our state of the art hospitals, our specialists also have access to the most sophisticated diagnostic and treatment tools and techniques from ultrasonography and endoscopy to CAT scans and even MRI.

We have twenty-eight specialty hospitals across the US so there may be one near you. Our specialized services include: cardiology, critical care, dentistry, dermatology, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, ophthalmology, radiology and surgery.

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Emergency Care

In case of emergency, please call us immediately. If it is after hours, check with a local animal hospital emergency clinic.