If you have a Bloodhound, then you’ve likely heard of gastric dilatation with volvulus (GDV)–commonly known as bloat. Bloat is one of the most serious and life-threatening diseases that can affect a Bloodhound and any other deep-chested large or giant breed dogs.
In this article, we’ll look at what exactly bloat or GDV is and how it affects bloodhounds specifically. We’ll discuss signs and symptoms so that you can recognize it in your own pet quickly, plus possible preventive measures against it happening in the first place!
What is bloat or Gastric dilatation with volvulus (GDV)?
Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) is a life-threatening condition most commonly observed in large-breed dogs with a deep, narrow chest. Commonly affected breeds include Bloodhounds, Great Danes, German Shepherds, Standard Poodles, Basset Hounds, Weimaraners, and Irish Setters.
GDV occurs when the stomach becomes bloated with gas or food and then twists on itself. This prevents the dog from being able to expel the gas or food and can lead to shock and death if not treated quickly.
Symptoms of bloat in Bloodhounds include anxiousness, looking at their abdomen, dry heaving, and a distended abdomen. If you notice signs of GDV in your Bloodhound, immediately take them to the vet for treatment.
It is important to be aware of the signs of GDV so that you can act quickly if your dog shows any symptoms.
What are the symptoms of GDV?
Common signs of bloat in dogs include a bloated and painful abdomen, retching, restlessness, shallow breathing, weakness, rapid heart rate, and collapse.
If you notice any of these signs in your dog it is important to seek veterinary attention immediately as this condition can be fatal if not treated promptly. The bloated stomach may be caused by a range of conditions from mild to severe, so any dog that appears bloated should be taken to the vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
It is important to note that GDV is different than food bloat which occurs when a dog eats 2-5 times their normal daily intake.
When Are You Most Likely to See Symptoms of Bloat?
Bloat has been linked to eating, and usually takes a few hours to show symptoms. It is quite common for dogs to show strong symptoms around 11 pm-midnight after their evening meal. So if your dog starts showing symptoms in the hours after meals, be sure to take action.
Prompt emergency care and surgery are necessary for the successful treatment of GDV in dogs. If left untreated, GDV can lead to shock or death within hours due to a lack of oxygenated blood supply to the stomach wall.
So if you see any of the signs and symptoms of GDV, seek immediate medical attention.
Causes of Bloat in Dogs
The exact cause of bloat in dogs is not fully understood, however, research has identified potential genetic factors associated with GDV susceptibility.
Some researchers have suggested that immune dysfunction or inflammation may play a role in GDV development, but more research is needed to confirm this hypothesis. There is a correlation between inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and GVD, which has led to conjecture that GDV may be immune-derived. However, so far, there is no direct evidence that the disease is immune-mediated.
While the exact cause is not yet known, there are known risk factors for GDV including age, diet, inherited susceptibility, weight, some environmental factors, and breed.
Research has shown that the risk of GDV increases significantly in older dogs, with the highest risk occurring in dogs aged 7-12 years old. Dogs over 12 years old are also at an increased risk, although the overall incidence of GDV in dogs of this age is relatively low.
There is some evidence to suggest that diet can affect the risk of developing GVD, although the exact mechanisms are not well understood.
Some studies have suggested that feeding large meals, especially meals high in fat, may increase the risk of GVD. Additionally, feeding a dry food diet, especially one that is low in fiber, may also increase the risk of GVD.
So avoid any dry food with fat or oil listed in the first 4 ingredients.
Inherited Genetic Risks
There is evidence to suggest that having a first-degree relative (parent, sibling, or offspring) with a history of GDV increases the risk of a dog developing the condition.
According to the study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs with a first-degree relative that had a history of GDV had a 63% greater risk of developing GDV themselves compared to dogs without such a history. This suggests that there may be a genetic component to the development of GDV.
If you want to know more about the science they used to show this, read on, otherwise skip through to the next section!
The study on GDV disease in dogs identified genetic variants associated with the development of the disease, suggesting that genetics may play a role in its development in addition to environmental factors.
The researchers used a multiplatform genomic analysis of 147 GDV cases and 106 unaffected controls from 10 different breeds, controlling for population stratification due to a large number of breeds, relatedness, and previous family history of GDV in the cohort.
They detected a candidate significant protective SNP in an intergenic region on chromosome five associated with GDV in all breeds (rs851737064), with the minor allele (G) significantly higher in controls than in affected GDV patients and restricted to Collie, German Shorthaired Pointer, and Great Dane breeds.
Additionally, the study identified candidate GDV-associated variants in intergenic regions, including two CNVs (copy number variants) – a duplication on chromosome 26 and a deletion on chromosome 33, and found that the genes in which the identified SNPs were located have notable roles in the enteric nervous system and GI motility.
The study highlights the importance of further studies to validate the SNPs identified in this study and their association with GDV susceptibility, as well as to explore potential breed associations.
Several studies have found that large and giant breed dogs that are overweight or obese have an increased risk of developing GDV.
One study found that dogs that were classified as overweight or obese based on body condition score (BCS) had a significantly higher risk of developing GDV compared to dogs that were classified as being at ideal body weight. Another study found that each unit increase in BCS was associated with an increased risk of GDV.
It’s believed that being overweight or obese can increase the risk of GDV because excess fat in the abdomen can put pressure on the stomach, making it more likely to rotate and cause GDV.
Large Meals and Gulping Food
Eating large meals should be avoided as it is believed this puts pressure on the stomach, increasing the risk of GVD. Instead, try to feed them two or more smaller meals during the day, and keep water consumption before meals to a minimum (preferably no water for an hour before feeding)
A slow feeder bowl can also be used to restrict the speed at which they eat.
Free feeding can be a preventive if a puppy continues to graze as an adult. Puppies free-fed will usually eat small amounts throughout the day. If the dog remains a grazer of food as an adult then the risk of GDV is reduced.
Regular exercise and physical activity have been shown to have a positive effect on a dog’s overall health and well-being. However, there is limited research on the specific impact of exercise on the risk of developing gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV).
One study suggested that dogs who engage in light to moderate exercise are at a lower risk of developing GDV compared to those who engage in minimal or no exercise.
However, the study also found that dogs who engage in high-intensity exercise may have an increased risk of GDV. However, further research is needed better to understand the relationship between exercise and GDV risk.
Exercise After Eating
There is some evidence to suggest that exercise immediately after eating may increase the risk of GDV in dogs. This is because exercise can cause the stomach to twist or flip, especially if it is full.
Therefore, it is generally recommended to avoid exercising your dog immediately after they eat a meal, particularly a large one. It’s a good idea to wait at least an hour or two after feeding before engaging in any strenuous activity with your dog.
This is another reason that feeding multiple smaller meals throughout the day rather than one large meal will help reduce the risk of GDV.
What are the Most Susceptible Breeds?
Unfortunately, large breeds with narrow, deep chests like bloodhounds are particularly at risk.
According to The National Library of Medicine, large and giant breeds are at the greatest risk of GDV mortality. Unfortunately, the bloodhound, Grand Bleu de Gascogne, German longhaired pointer, and Neapolitan mastiff were those with the highest risk
Breeds at greatest risk of morbidity were the Grand Bleu de Gascogne, bloodhound, otterhound, Irish setter, and Weimaraner.
Is Bloat in Dogs Curable?
Simple bloat can sometimes be managed without medication but may require fluids or other treatments. GDV and other degrees of bloat can be curable if diagnosed early and usually require surgery.
The mortality rate for bloat is around 30% for dogs that are afflicted, accounting for 2.5% of all canine deaths and it is the largest cause of death in Bloodhounds. However, prompt treatment sees the rate climb to 80% of dogs surviving a case of GVD
So it is curable, but be alert, and take action if you suspect your dog may be experiencing it.
How is GDV diagnosed in bloodhounds?
The first step in diagnosing GDV is looking for the symptoms including a rapidly filling stomach, abdominal distention, restlessness, and attempts to vomit without producing anything.
Once your vet sees your dog, they will do further physical checks before taking further steps, which may include urine and blood tests and abdominal X-Rays
The veterinarian will also seek to eliminate other possible causes such as:
- inflammation of the membrane that lines the inside of the abdomen (Septic peritonitis) which is caused by a bacterial infection.
- Intestinal twisting (intestinal volvulus)
- An irritated digestive tract, otherwise known as the stomach flu (Sudden gastroenteritis)
In some unfortunate dogs, spleen torsion (twisting) is also diagnosed.
X-rays are also used to examine the abdomen.
Abdominal X-rays are a common diagnostic tool used to identify and assess the severity of bloat as it is possible that a distended stomach can be hidden by the rib cage..Simple bloat can be identified by an X-ray showing a distended, round stomach full of food or gas.
In more severe cases, such as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), the X-ray will show a very distended stomach with a bubble on top. This bubble is actually the stomach twisted around itself and filled with air and fluid.
The use of abdominal X-rays is essential for diagnosing and assessing the severity of bloat in animals. It allows veterinarians to quickly identify the type and severity of the condition so they can provide appropriate treatment. In some cases, surgery may be required to correct GDV; however, simple bloat can often be
How is Bloat Treated?
Treatment of bloat may involve several steps, depending on the severity of the condition.
The first step is to stabilize the dog and deflate the stomach. It is then determined if surgery is needed to realign the organs and/or remove any damaged sections of the stomach.
A gastropexy procedure may also be performed to prevent the stomach from twisting again in the future. There is no at-home treatment for dogs with bloat; therefore, it is important to seek professional medical attention as soon as possible if you suspect your dog has bloat.
Step 1. Emptying the Stomach
Emptying the stomach is an important step in treating a twisted stomach, or gastric torsion. Sedation is used to pass a tube down to the stomach to pump out its contents (orogastric intubation) and the stomach is washed out.
If a tube cannot be placed through the mouth, an alternative procedure involves inserting a needle through the skin into the stomach to release air (percutaneous gastroenteric) can be attempted. The veterinarian will use a catheter or a large needle.
The goal of these procedures is to relieve mounting pressure in an untwisted stomach. The dog cannot drink or eat for 36 hours after these procedures, followed by intravenous fluids only.
Antibiotics will be used in cases where an infection has taken hold. In dogs that triggered a heart problem, an anti-arrhythmic may also be required.
Step 2. Stabilization and Diagnostic Tests
IV fluids ensure that the pup has enough fluid and nutrients in its system to support its vital organs and maintain normal body functions.
After stabilization, diagnostic tests such as x-rays can be taken to determine if the stomach is bloated or twisted. An echocardiogram (ECG) may also be considered to evaluate heart function since bloat can cause abnormal heartbeats in 40% of dogs.
The ECG will provide information about the size and shape of the heart, its electrical activity, and how well it is functioning. This test can help identify any underlying cardiac issues that may have been caused by bloat as cardiac arrhythmias were detected in 40% of dogs with GDV.
Once all of these tests have been completed, a veterinarian can make an informed decision on how best to treat the pup’s condition.
Depending on the results of these tests, treatment options may include surgery, medications, dietary changes, or other interventions. If there are no signs of internal damage, the dog is often allowed to resume a normal diet.
Step 3. Surgery
If the stomach has twisted (volvulus), the organs have moved or there appears to be damage, then surgery will be required.
Dogs that have an occurrence of bloat will often get a second case. The rate that this happens is estimated between 75% and 90% depending on the research you read – either way it is very high! To reduce the risk of bloat reoccurring, a gastropexy is often done while the dog is under anesthetic
Gastropexy is a surgical procedure that attaches the stomach to the abdominal wall of the dog to help prevent the stomach from moving around. This procedure has seen the reoccurrence rate of a bloat drop to 6%. The stomach is attached to the abdominal wall using sutures or staples.
Additionally, any damaged tissue in the stomach or spleen may be removed during this procedure. Antibiotics are used to mitigate the infection risk associated with surgery.
Step 4 Recovery
Post-operative care for emptying the stomach is similar to that of a routine spay or neuter, with activity restriction for 7 days and pain medication as directed.
A gastropexy performed on an emergency basis requires more involved post-operative care.
- Blood flow to the cardiovascular system needs to be monitored.
- In some dogs, a change in heart function (premature ventricular contractions) occurs and needs to be monitored.
- Kidney and liver function will also be checked after surgery.
- Fluid therapy is used based on the health of the patient.
Dogs should have their activity restricted for 2 weeks after treatment. Once the patient has recovered, food can be provided orally.
Activity restriction and keeping the incision clean and dry are important for a successful recovery after either type of treatment. It is important that pet owners follow their veterinarian’s instructions carefully during this time in order to ensure their pet’s full recovery from this condition.
What are the long-term prognosis and outlook for dogs with GDV?
Bloat/GDV is 95% fatal if left untreated or detected too late, however, survival rates for dogs treated promptly and appropriately can be as high as 85%. For dogs that do not have damage to the stomach (necrosis) have a 98% survival rate.
So follow your vet’s instructions dilligently
After successful treatment, it is important to monitor your dog closely for any signs of recurrence. Reoccurrence is a risk and, as mentioned above, a preventative gastropexy is likely to be recommended by your vet.
This includes regular checkups with your veterinarian to ensure that your dog’s health remains stable.
Recovery and Management of Bloat in Dogs
To help prevent bloat in dogs, owners should avoid leaving large bags or bins of food accessible to their pet, do not use raised food bowls unless advised by a veterinarian, feed small meals multiple times a day instead of large meals, avoid drinking large amounts of water at once, and discuss preventative surgery with their veterinarian for breeds at higher
How Can Bloat Be Prevented?
There are several recommended things that will reduce the risk:
The first recommendation is that dogs being fed once per day have been shown as twice as likely to develop bloat than those fed more frequently. So feed your dog smaller meals throughout the day instead of one large meal to reduce the risk of bloat/GDV. So if you can provide them 3 meals a day instead of each meal being 1/3 the size, slow meal consumption. If you can get your dog to graze rather than to feast, that is even better
Do not let them drink water 1 hour before and after meals
Epminate foods from the diet with citric acid or soy-bean, and do not give them any high-fat foods (fat or oils is in the first 4 ingredients psted) as we know that foods containing soybean meal or having oils or fats in the first four ingredients increase the risk by fourfold
Soak dry food in water before giving it to your dog
Slow meal consumption, use a slow feeder bowl if required, and do not allow the drinking of large quantities of water in one sitting either!
Wait until 1 hour after eating before letting your dog exercise.
There are reports of raised bowls being better, but according to the AKC, this has now been disproved
Also certain dietary ingredients have been blamed over the years, but the data is inconclusive. This is because most large-breed dogs are fed a cereal-based diet, so making a statement that those diets are to blame is difficult.
What Is The Cost of Treating Bloat in the UK?
For a typical case, involving surgery you can expect a vet bill of around £2500 to £3000 but can be higher if there are complications.
If there is no surgery required, it will be significantly lower.
In conclusion, bloat or GDV in Bloodhounds is a serious health concern that should never be overlooked. Therefore it is important for Bloodhound owners to learn about this condition and take the necessary steps to protect their dogs during meal times, exercise, and other activities.
By doing so, Bloodhound owners can reduce the risk of bloat or GDV and give their beloved pets a long and healthy life.
Sam is an award-winning canine photographer and runs Farlap Bloodhound breeders and Kennels in Devon and is the secretary of the Bloodhound Club.
Sam Clark has a passion for bloodhounds and their amazing ability to track a scent, and was one of the first in the UK to train her dogs to either track humans or other dogs for canine rescue.
- 1 What is bloat or Gastric dilatation with volvulus (GDV)?
- 2 What are the symptoms of GDV?
- 3 Causes of Bloat in Dogs
- 4 Risk Factors
- 5 Is Bloat in Dogs Curable?
- 6 How is GDV diagnosed in bloodhounds?
- 7 How is Bloat Treated?
- 8 What are the long-term prognosis and outlook for dogs with GDV?
- 9 Recovery and Management of Bloat in Dogs
- 10 How Can Bloat Be Prevented?
- 11 What Is The Cost of Treating Bloat in the UK?
- 12 Summary