Gastric volvulus, a condition brought on by bloat, is a serious condition for dogs. The condition typically strikes breeds that have broad or deep chests. This can mean any size breed, from St. Bernards to dachshunds, though volvulus can appear in any breed. It usually occurs in healthy, active dogs with big appetites. Left untreated, volvulus can be fatal in dogs.
Bloat and Volvulus
Gastric bloat in dogs typically stems from gulping down a huge meal or a lot of water all at once. Dogs fed only one big meal a day, therefore, are especially prone to bloating. Bloat itself can lead to one of two conditions: gastric dilatation, in which gas and fluids distend the belly, and volvulus, in which the stressed stomach twists, along with the spleen. Full volvulus can twist the stomach a complete 360 degrees.
What Happens in the Body
Along with the pain, the twisting of a dog's stomach prevents an adequate amount of blood from returning to the heart. This can also cause a loss of blood flow to the lining of the stomach. The twisting can lead to a rupture of the stomach wall and put severe pressure on the diaphragm. This, in turn, will likely prevent the lungs from being able to function, leading to difficulty breathing. The decrease in blood and oxygen circulation then begins suffocating tissue cells around the body.
Symptoms of Bloat
Signs that your dog is suffering from bloat may be obvious or subtle. The most visible and common signs include chronic pacing or restlessness, salivation, dry heaves and a noticeably distended abdomen. Subtle symptoms may include lethargy, head-hanging, anxiety, a stilted walk or awkward posture. But even if her belly is not distended, it will probably be tight to the touch. These symptoms do not necessarily mean volvulus, but they are precursors to the condition.
If your dog can belch or vomit, bloat will not likely turn into volvulus. But if bloat progresses to volvulus he will display the effects of a stressed cardiovascular system. Pale gums and tongue are the most visible outward signs. He may also have a rapid heart rate, a weak pulse and labored, rapid breathing. If left untreated, he may become weak and collapse or go into shock.
Treatment and Prevention
Obviously, if your dog is showing any symptoms of bloating you should take her to the vet right away. Only X-rays will confirm whether she's suffering from volvulus or just a bad bout of gas. Volvulus will likely require surgery to reposition the stomach and spleen. Older dogs are particularly vulnerable to volvulus. To reduce the risk, avoid elevated feeding areas for your dog, as well as dry foods that list fatty oils, such as sunflower oil, among the first four ingredients.