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The Seriousness of Stomach Aches
It may seem like Sparky has a
cast-iron stomach, but even he could be susceptible to "bloat."
The technical term is gastric
dilatation-volvulus (GDV), an extremely serious condition that can
result in death.
"Gastric dilatation-volvulus, also known as 'bloat', primarily
occurs in deep-chested, large breed dogs," said Dr. Michael
Willard, professor at Texas A&M University College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.
Willard explained that bloating of the stomach is sometimes also
associated with twisting (volvulus) of the stomach. Signs may
include unproductive gagging and retching, abdominal discomfort
and/or distention, shock, difficulty breathing, and in some cases
Diet, exercise, and the size and depth of a dog's chest may be
predisposing factors. While GDV is less common in pets than
many other emergency conditions, owners of large breed dogs should
be aware of the rapid and often fatal effects of GDV.
GDV is a significant cause of death in large breed dogs.
Animals with GDV that are diagnosed and treated early have a
survival rate of about 70 percent, whereas survival for those that
are diagnosed and treated late is less than 30 percent.
Willard advises any dog owners who believe that their dog has
developed this condition to take it to a veterinarian immediately.
He or she will decompress the stomach and treat the animal for
shock by administering fluids.
When the patient has been stabilized, the veterinarian may need
to perform surgery to untwist the gut, if twisting has
"GDV cannot reliably be prevented. In some cases, the twisting
of the gut can be avoided by a surgical procedure (called
gastropexy), in which the stomach is sutured (stitched) to the
abdominal wall," said Willard. "Prophylactic gastroplexy may
greatly lessen the risk of recurrence, but it is does not
completely eliminate it."
Unfortunately, there are no medications that will cure GDV. It
can become fatal in as little as four to six hours, and it is
costly to treat. Willard estimates the average cost of treating a
GDV case with surgery to be between $2,000 and $5,000, but if there
are complications, the cost could be much higher.
Dogs that have had GDV in the past are at a higher risk of
developing it again. Given the rapid and fatal effects of GDV,
owners should not wait to see if the ailing dog improves on its
own. If the dog is gagging unproductively, Willard advises taking
the dog to a veterinarian immediately. Early detection and
treatment just might save Sparky from this often-fatal tummy
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