Aug 22, 2009
What is bloat?
Bloat is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach becomes bloated with gas (occasionally liquid, occasionally too much food) and may twist on its own axis. This results in a series of complex changes that affect virtually every organ and can cause death. “Bloat” is also called Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV), stomach torsion, flipped stomach or twisted stomach.
We don't know how to prevent bloating, but we can prevent the stomach from twisting.
Gastropexy is a technique that allows the stomach to be sutured to the wall of the belly. Short-term, it is held in place by sutures (stitches). Long-term, it is held in place by scar tissue.
The nice thing about gastropexy is that it can be done to prevent twisting, before a patient bloats. This is called preventive or prophylactic gastropexy. It is done in a healthy, stable patient. A great way to do it is while a female of an at-risk breed is being spayed. Think about it: the belly is already opened! All that would be needed, is to make a longer incision in the belly, and to do a gastropexy. How brilliant. Yet sadly, hardly ever done.
Of course, in most males, the belly is not opened up to do a neuter. But since they are already under anesthesia, it would make sense to take advantage of it.
Contrary to the urban legend, performing a gastropexy in a young dog should not affect the growth of the stomach. Only a tiny portion of the stomach is tacked, so fear not. Your Mastiff won’t end up with the stomach of a Chihuahua!
Some surgeons who have the equipment & experience may be able to do the gastropexy via laparoscopy (kind of a scope), through a few tiny incisions.
In an older pet, already spayed or neutered, you would need to weigh the pros and the cons and discuss this option with your vet or surgeon.
Recently, some Akita lovers came to our practice to discuss prophylactic gastropexy. They had lost 2 Akitas to bloat. They knew how bad and costly the condition can be. So they decided to have the procedure done on their older female and her young male pup. At the same time, we neutered the male and spayed his Mom.
It a smart medical and financial decision.
Phil Zeltzman, DVM, DACVS
Pet surgeon and author of a free, weekly newsletter for true pet lovers, available at DrPhilZeltzman.com