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Bloat in dogs

“Bloat” or Gastric dilation–volvulus (GDV), is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach fills with air and becomes twisted.

  • GDV can occur in any breed of dog, but it is more commonly seen in larger-breed dogs.

  • Mortality rates are between 20 – 45% amongst dogs that are diagnosed and treated.

  • One study showed that Great Danes, St. Bernards, and Weimaraners were the breeds most commonly affected.

  • If not treated immediately it can become fatal.

What Is It?

Gastric dilation–volvulus (GDV), or “bloat,” is a life-threatening condition in which a dog’s stomach fills with air and becomes twisted. Gas builds up in the twisted stomach and stretches it. This stretching, also called distention, is extremely painful and limits the amount of blood that can reach other parts of the body. When blood can’t reach body tissues to supply oxygen, those tissues can die. GDV is an emergency situation, and if not treated immediately, it can be fatal. While any size or breed of dog can develop this condition, it is more common in larger-breed dogs with deep chests, like German shepherds, golden retrievers, and Great Danes.

Signs of Gastric Dilatation–Volvulus

A dog with GDV may be found collapsed and in severe pain. The dog may try unsuccessfully to vomit and may have a very swollen belly.

The most common symptoms are listed below :

  • Frequent attempts to vomit

  • Anxiousness, restlessness, and pacing

  • Lethargy (tiredness)

  • Depression

  • Vocalizing (a sign of pain)

  • Arched back (a sign of pain)

As the symptoms progress the dog goes into shock which if left untreated will become fatal. The sooner this condition is diagnosed the better the prognosis.


GDV is an emergency condition and must be treated by a veterinarian immediately. At the hospital, the veterinarian will take steps to gently decompress the stomach and relieve the bloating. Dogs with GDV may be in shock and great pain. The veterinary team will make every effort to stabilise the patient as much as possible. This may include intravenous fluids and pain medication. The patient may require emergency surgery to correct the twisted stomach and check for any internal damage. Sometimes, the twisting of the stomach damages the spleen, intestines, and other nearby organs.

Once the dog’s stomach is untwisted and repaired, the surgeon usually performs a surgical procedure called gastropexy. In this surgery, the stomach is returned to its normal position and attached to the inside of the abdominal wall, which helps prevent it from twisting again. A gastropexy greatly reduces the chances of your pet getting GDV in the future.


In breeds with a high risk of GDV, veterinarians often recommend performing gastropexy as a preventive measure. A surgeon may perform this surgery when the dog is being spayed or neutered.

Below are some tips to help prevent GDV in your dog:

  • Feed smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day instead of one big meal.

  • Restrict exercise for at least an hour after feeding.

  • Always feed your dog from ground level.

  • If your dog tends to eat very quickly there are special ‘slow feeding bowls’ which may help slow them down. If you have a multidog household feed all dogs separately. Feeding time for your dog should be as stress-free as possible.

  • If you own a high-risk breed ask your veterinarian about performing a prophylactic gastropexy in your pet.

  • If you notice any of the above symptoms in your dog get him/her to your veterinarian as soon as possible. The sooner the animal is treated the better the prognosis.

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