Bodie the Bassett Hound, the jolly Am-basset-dor for the Bassett Rescue Network, Inc. (BaRNi) in Acton, California, found himself in an awful state of pain right before the holidays. On December 18, Bodie, who has raised funds for BaRNi’s hundred Bassett Hounds as their official rescue spokesdog, fell victim to a very common silent killer that has affected nearly 60,000 dogs nationwide and has taken the lives of 20,000. Commonly known as “Bloat,” Gastric Dilatation/Volvulus Syndrome (GDV) is a condition that gets dogs right where it hurts most, in the gut. The American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) says GDV is “commonly associated with large meals and causes the stomach to dilate because of food and gas and may get to a point where neither may be expelled. As the stomach begins to dilate and expand, the pressure in the stomach begins to increase.”
ACVS goes on to explain that the increased pressure in the stomach can restrict adequate blood flow back to the heart from the stomach. It can limit the blood flow that is supposed to reach the stomach’s lining and can even cause the stomach walls to rupture. The stomach’s expansion due to GDV can also directly affect a dog’s breathing because of increased pressure on the dog’s diaphragm that limits lung capacity.
Volvulus refers to the rotation of the stomach in a dog’s abdomen that may occur when the stomach becomes extremely dilated (as described above, distended with gas and food). “The rotation can occasionally lead to blockage [of] the blood supply to the spleen and the stomach wall, requiring surgical removal of the dead tissues. Most of these patients are in shock due to the effects on the entire body,” says the ACVS. GDV dramatically affects deep chested breeds that have a family history of the syndrome. In a Purdue University study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, led by Dr. Lawrence T. Glickman, it’s described that the top breeds susceptible to bloat include the Great Dane, the Saint Bernard, and the Weimaraner. The Bassett Hound is among those deep chested dogs predisposed to suffer from this condition, as was the case with Bodie.
“At one moment Bodie was happy, and two seconds later he was in full gastric torsion and bellowing,” wrote BaRNi founder Dawn Smith in a recent press release. Bodie’s battle with bloat took him on a rushed ride to Chat Oak Emergency Hospital with two Gas X in his tummy to hold him over until he arrived. While there, Bodie faced intubation and ultimately went under the knife for a prophylactic gastropexy, essentially stapling his stomach lining to his abdomen to prevent rotation of the stomach.
Though various studies have been conducted, many agree that the causes of bloat aren’t fully understood at this point. Nevertheless, the ACVS describes the following as potential causes or indicators of an increased incidence of this condition:
- A deep chest (increased thoracic height to width ratio)
- Feeding a single, large meal daily
- Old age
- Ancestral history of GDV
- Elevated meal bowls
- Previously having had a spleen removed
- Size (large or giant dogs)
When it comes to preventing GDV, because the condition isn’t fully understood, taking precautions based on current studies is highly recommended. Start with spotting the signs of GDV before the condition gets out of hand. Being aware of potential symptoms will help you make the best decision in helping your dog with bloat. The following are symptoms that ACVS describes as indicators of the onset of bloat:
- An anxious look or constantly looking at the abdomen
- Standing and stretching
- Distending abdomen
- Retching without producing anything
- Panting (occurs as the disease progresses)
- Abdominal distension
- Weakness, collapse, or recumbence
Gastric problems can also occur from low quality toys which they chew and leave small traces of plastic in their stomach. Always use certified indestructible dog toys when you play with your dog.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) adds that pet parents may also look for the following symptoms:
- Unsuccessful attempts to belch or vomit
- Shortness of breath
- Cold body temperature
- Pale gums
- Rapid heartbeat
Pet parents of large breeds may be all too familiar with the trials and tribulations of GDV, but all pet parents should be aware of GDV and the potential harm it can cause. Though some dogs are at higher risk for bloat, all breeds can come down with this condition as certain circumstances can lead the condition to rear its ugly head even in the smallest of Chihuahuas. Luckily for Bodie, surgery and some very dedicated Bassett lovers came to his rescue and saved his life. Though recovering, he continues to be the Am-Bassett-dor of the Basset Rescue Network.