Preventing Bloat in Large Breed Dogs

Gastric Dilitation and Volvulus (GDV), commonly known as “Bloat”, is a potentially fatal and costly emergency condition that occurs in large breed dogs. Breeds that often are affected are the giants, such as the Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound, Newfoundland, Saint Bernard and Great Pyrenees, but all deep-chested, large breed dogs are at risk. Some breeds frequently affected are the German Shepherd, Bloodhound, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Standard Poodle, Akita, Bernese Mountain Dog, Doberman, Rottweiler, Setters, Collie, Basset Hound and Weimaraner.

During GDV, the stomach expands with gas and twists, displacing and damaging nearby organs and compromising its own blood supply, which soon leads to disruption of the circulation and chemistry of the body. The causes of GDV remain unclear despite decades of research. Special feeding programs provide no guarantee against the acute onset of this condition and some, such as a raised feeding bowl, actually increase risk.

Prophylactic Gastropexy, the surgical tacking of a portion of the stomach to the inner wall of the abdomen, has been shown to be a reliable method of preventing GDV in dogs. This procedure fixes the stomach in place, and if dilation of the stomach with gas does occur, the life- threatening volvulus is prevented.

Preventative gastropexy has been recommended in at-risk breeds for many years and is occasionallly done in females during spay procedures. Unfortunately, the traditional approach requires a large incision with significant surgical and recovery time; therefore, many owners whose dogs may benefit from gastropexy are hesitant to proceed with this invasive surgery for their pet. Unfortunately, if GDV does strike, the risks and costs of treatment are many fold those of preventative tacking.

Laparoscope-assisted Gastropexy now allows this procedure to be performed through small incisions with decreased surgical discomfort and time. While gastropexy can be done during a spay, the minimally invasive nature of the laparoscopic approach means that both male and previously spayed or neutered, or breeding dogs, can also benefit from gastropexy without having to undergo an involved surgery with extended recovery time.
Laparoscope-assisted gastropexy is performed by placing a camera through an incision less than a half-inch long, near the belly button. The stomach is sutured to the abdominal wall through a 1.5 to 2 inch incision on the right side of the abdomen, just behind the ribcage. The procedure takes 30 to 45 minutes and patients can go home the same day.

If you would like more information about gastropexy and other minimally invasive procedures, or would like to schedule an appointment, please contact your veterinarian or Dr. Keith Gunby at Veterinary Laparoscopic Services.