GDV or "bloat" Facts and Prevention


Gastric Dilitation Volvulus (GDV), Gastric Torsion or "Bloat" occurs when the stomach of a dog inverts (flips or twists) and ends up pinching off the openings on either end of the stomach, constricting the natural peristalsis (flow) of the stomach contents such as food, water, bodily fluids and gasses, causing the stomach contents to be trapped so the stomach starts to fill with gas and appear distended or "bloated". The stomach can actually rupture, which would put the dog in a very critical and life-threatening situation.

This is a life-threatening emergency requiring immediate and rapid emergency veterinary treatment, assessment and likely emergency surgery to correct. 

Without immediate intervention, the stomach and certain other important structures and tissues like the heart can start to die due to lack of blood supply and oxygenation, causing tissue death (necrosis) and this can be irreversible. This process can happen quickly, within a few hours. Also, these dogs will most likely have a heart arrhythmia or can be in shock.

This most commonly occurs at night, when their stomach is empty and they are at rest. Not necessarily during or after exercising.

Which dogs are at highest risk?

"From the research performed to date, we can list several factors that, added together, can characterize the typical dog that develops bloat: a deep and narrow chest; leanness; a relative that has had a bloat episode; eating quickly; a dry-food diet; a single, large daily meal; stress; and a fearful, nervous, or aggressive temperament."

Large breed dogs and deep chested breeds are at the most high risk, but this can happen to any dog. The reason these types of dogs are at the highest risk is due to their anatomy. The way their digestive tract and stomach naturally exist in their body can make it easier for this rotation to occur during normal movements and play. The stomach sort of hangs and can swing back and forth and eventually up and over, like a swing. It often can't untwist itself.

Commonly affected breeds include: German Shepherds, Great Dane's, St. Bernards, Irish Wolfhounds, Mastiffs, Golden Retrievers, Vizsla's, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Bearded Collies, Setters, Akitas, Boxers, Basset hounds, Blood Hounds, Standard Poodles and Weimaraners.

What are the risk factors:

-Breed size and anatomy (see above)

-Tall, thin build, deep chest, low body fat

-Age (risk increases as they age)

-History of relatives and genetics

-Eating large quantities of dry dog food or drinking a large volume of water at one time

-Eating/drinking too quickly

-Playing, running, rolling around right after eating/drinking

-Stress, anxiety or aggression

How can we prevent this from happening? We can do a few things but there is never a 100% guarantee as each of these can fail.

-Don't use a raised food bowl unless your vet has advised you to do so

-Have your vet perform a Gastropexy (stomach tack) at the time of your dogs spay or neuter

-Feed small meals and amount of water at a time, slowly, multiple times a day. Don't feed only once a day.

-Avoid playing for 30 minutes after eating