Studying Bloat

AKC grant goes towards gastric dilation-volvulus research
By JoAnna Lou, October 2013

For almost everyone with a deep-chested or large breed dog, gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), commonly known as bloat, is always lurking in the back of their mind. Bloat causes the stomach to fill with air or fluid, which can progress to GDV, a twisting of the stomach. GDV is one of the leading causes of death in dogs, second only to cancer for some breeds. The scariest thing is how fast GDV can become fatal. The condition can progress to a critical level in a matter of minutes or hours.

Despite its prevalence, the cause of bloat remains unknown but is generally thought to be influenced by both genetic and environmental factors.

Laura Nelson, assistant professor at the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine, has been awarded a two year grant to fund research on the causes of GDV in dogs. The money was awarded by the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation earlier this month.

Not every dog, even those with a high predisposition, will get bloat and Laura wants to know why. Her team will be looking at the relationship of motility--contractions responsible for the digestion of food--with increased GDV risk, and hopes to define the biochemical and genetic alterations that may be associated with hypomotility--abnormally weak contractions. The researchers also will evaluate the expression of the hormones motilin and ghrelin--regulators of GI motility--as a predictor of predisposition to GDV.

The research team hopes to use their findings to help veterinarians make informed decisions about how to treat dogs at risk for bloat, increasing survival rates. Given how common bloat is, it would be amazing to have a better understanding on how the condition develops and how to treat it.

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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