Understanding canine bloat for better treatment

Assistant Professor Laura Nelson awarded grant by the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation to research causes of bloat in dogs.

Laura Nelson, assistant professor in the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (SCS), has been awarded a 2-year, $233,774 grant to fund research on the causes of Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) in dogs. The grant was awarded by the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation (CHF) on October 4, 2013.

GDV, or bloat, is one of the leading causes of death in dogs, second only to cancer for some breeds, and the number one killer of Great Danes. Despite its prevalence, the cause of bloat is unknown. …

Nelson’s team is investigating 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. 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 addition to investigating gastric motility as a predictor of GDV, researchers will evaluate the expression of the hormones motilin and ghrelin—regulators of GI motility—as a predictor of predisposition to GDV. This information will support an investigation of the disease’s genetic foundations.
Nelson, the primary investigator of the project, is joined by a team of co-investigators from the Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine: John C. Fyfe, DVM, PhD; Dr. Joe Hauptman, DVM, DACVS; Kent Refsal, DVM, PhD; William Horne, DVM, PhD, DACVA; Bryden J. Stanley, BSc, BVMS, MACVSc, MVetSc, DACVS; Michele Fritz, LVT; and James Galligan, PhD.

bloat in dogs: AVMA podcast