Tag Archives: bloat

The SmartPill: helping to understand canine bloat

Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), or bloat, is one of the leading causes of death in dogs.  Second only to cancer in some breeds, it’s the number one killer of Great Danes. Despite its prevalence, the cause of bloat is unknown.

The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation has given a research grant to Laura Nelson, assistant professor at Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine to change that.

Great Dane photoWhen a dog gets bloat, gas fills the dog’s stomach, the stomach twists completely around, the gas has no way to escape, and blood and air supply to the stomach are cut off. As the stomach swells, it presses against the abdominal wall and pushes against large blood vessels. Shock is usually the cause of death. The whole progression can happen in a matter of minutes or hours, and surgery is required to save the dog’s life.

It’s generally believed that genetics as well as environmental factors play a role in which dog develops bloat.  “We want to know why some dogs get bloat while others don’t,” says Nelson.

Nelson’s team is investigating the relationship of contractions responsible for the digestion of food (motility) with increased GDV risk, and hopes to define the biochemical and genetic alterations that may be associated with hypomotility—abnormally weak contractions. A new diagnostic tool, SmartPill®, makes possible noninvasive assessment of motility. The SmartPill® is an ingestible capsule with an instrument inside that measures acidity and pressure. The team will measure the time it takes the capsule to pass through the dog’s system and the pressure spikes along the way.

In the short term, the research findings may provide clinicians with data that would allow them to make informed decisions about when to use preventative medications or conduct targeted prophylactic surgery—gastropexy—in at-risk dogs. This procedure surgically attaches the stomach to the abdominal wall in order to prevent twisting. It is an effective procedure that is well tolerated, but, Nelson notes, it is an invasive procedure that may not be necessary in some dogs. There currently is not a good way to determine who to recommend it for.

“With bloat, it happens and you treat it. But it would be so much more satisfying if we really understood why some dogs get bloat, and then be able to make more informed treatment decisions and possibly prevent the disease altogether,” says Nelson.

Source:  Michigan State University media statement

Advertisements

Would a raised dog feeder help my dog?

A massage client asked me this question earlier this week.   The dog in question is a Boxer (beautiful boy) who happens to be suffering from degeneration in his spine.

Although he is doing well with regular swimming, acupuncture and massage therapy, his owner knows that he is comparatively young (8) and she wants him to have a good quality of life for a long time.  So that’s when we started talking about changes she could make to his physical environment to make things less stressful for him (ramps, steps, etc.)

Would a raised feeder help my dog?

Raised feeders can be a real advantage for a dog with orthopaedic problems or arthritis.  Eating from a raised feeder helps to relieve strain on the neck and back, allowing the dog to eat without dramatically altering their posture and helping them to retain balance.

But – some studies have shown that dogs who are susceptible to bloat have an increased risk from eating from a raised feeder.  The most notable reference for this link is an article by Dr Larry Glickman in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Vol. 17, No. 10.

Gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV) is known by the common term ‘bloat’  and other terms such as ‘stomach torsion’ or ‘twisted stomach.’  Regardless of what name you use, the condition is life-threatening.  Dogs can die of bloat within several hours.   Even with treatment, as many as 25-33% of dogs who develop bloat will die.

In bloat, the stomach fills up with air and puts pressure on the other organs and the diaphragm. The pressure on the diaphragm makes it difficult for the dog to breathe. The air-filled stomach also compresses large veins in the abdomen, preventing blood from returning to the heart.

Filled with air, the stomach can easily rotate on itself, pinching off its blood supply. This rotation is known as volvulus.  The stomach begins to die and the entire blood supply is disrupted.  A dog with this condition can deteriorate very rapidly – meaning a trip to the vet as an emergency.

Purdue University ranks Boxers as the 16th breed most susceptible to bloat (Great Danes are the highest).  So, in this case, the owner decided not to opt for a raised feeder.  Not only is her Boxer on the higher risk list, but he also is a gobbler – making quick work of his food!

This is just one example where it pays to do a little research.  An idea that seems like a good one may not be so.