A study has “blown the myth” gastric bloat is generally a death sentence for dogs affected by the condition across the UK.

Gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV, or bloat) is an acute, life-threatening condition and because it often presents as an extreme emergency, many practitioners assume the prognosis will be grim.

However, an epidemiological study from the Veterinary Companion Animal Surveillance System (VetCompass) at the RVC revealed 80% of dogs that underwent gastric bloat surgery survived, therefore shedding new light on the frequency, risk factors and survival of GDV.

The study was based on a population of 77,088 dogs attending 50 Vets Now clinics across the UK. Overall, 492 dogs had GDV, giving a prevalence of 0.64% among the emergency caseload.

Of the cases presented alive, approximately half of owners chose to pursue surgical treatment and, of these, 79.3% survived to discharge.

“This study has blown the myth GDV is almost always a death sentence for affected dogs,” said VetCompass researcher Dan O’Neill.

“Four out of five dogs operated on at primary emergency practices survived. This simple statistic alone can change how primary care vets view the prognosis for GDV cases.

“This study shows surgery can often be successful, which means more dogs can potentially be given an increased chance of survival by having it.”

 

Dr O’Neill is keen for vets to initiate conversations with owners to raise advance awareness of the condition and various treatment options based on VetCompass’ large-scale evidence.

“When I was in practice, I dreaded being presented with a dog with GDV because I believed the prognosis to be extremely grim,” Dr O’Neill, who is an RVC veterinary epidemiologist, said.

“There aren’t many true emergency diseases in veterinary medicine, but GDV is one of them. Therefore, it is important we raise awareness of the condition and its presenting signs, so owners recognise the condition as soon as it strikes; GDV doesn’t offer the luxury of time to wait and see what happens.”

Some owners may choose not to take the surgery route, but this is down to varying factors and may be perfectly justified, he explained.

However, at least now, vets can present hard facts to owners regarding probabilistic outcomes that can assist them to make better informed decisions, he added.

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