Bloat in Dogs aka GDV


Dog Bloat

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

Triggered by stress, canine bloat is a life threatening situation which can become deadly in less than an hour.

It is the second leading killer of dogs, after bone cancer in dogs.

The technical term for the consition is Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV). It actually refers to two issues which can occur together.

A bloated stomach (Gastric Dilatation) is an accumulation of air, fluid, and/or foam in the stomach.

Volvulus (or Torsion) is when the stomach actually twists. When the stomach swells, it can rotate and twist between its two attachment points:

  • esophagus - "food tube"
  • duodenum - upper intestine

This traps air, water and food in the stomach. This belly bloat, in turn, obstructs veins in the abdomen, which can lead to:

  • loss in blood pressure
  • shock
  • damage to internal organs


Symptoms of stomach bloating in dogs include:
  • Attempting to vomit (usually unproductive - nothing comes up or just foam/mucous) - hallmark symptom
  • Doesn't act like usual self (unusual behavior coupled with vomit attempts = get to vet immediately) - earliest warning sign
  • Abdomen severely enlarged and/or hard to the touch
  • Anxious or Restless Behavior
  • Absence of gurgling or digestive sounds in the tummy
  • Accelerated heartbeat (increases as the condition progresses)
  • Cold mouth membrane
  • Collapse
  • Coughing or gagging
  • Curling up in a ball or into a crouching or praying position
  • Drinking excessively
  • Eating small stones or twigs
  • Foamy mucous around the mouth
  • Gums that are not pink (dark red early on, white or blue in later stages)
  • Heavy or rapid panting
  • Heavy salivation or drooling
  • Hunched Up Appearance
  • Inability to defecate
  • Licking the air
  • Looking at their side (the source of pain)
  • Pacing
  • Refusing to lay down or sit down
  • Shallow breathing
  • Standing spread-legged
  • Unable to stand
  • Weak pulse
  • Whining

What Causes It?

Unfortunately, there is no valid research information on the cause. Nor on its prevention.

Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine conducted a research study. But, it is somewhat misleading. It appears to be scientific research, when it is purely based on statistical research. The problem is that it was not peer evaluated. So, it is difficult to consider the conclusions as scientific truth.

The study did not take into account:

  • ph levels in the gut
  • existence of pathogenic yeast
  • presence of bacteria

All of which can contribute to GDV. And all of which are preventable. They are affected, among other things, by overuse of grain based food, antibiotics and excessive vaccinations.

Great Danes are most susceptible to to GDV. Many Dane breeders no longer dump money into this project. They've realized that the true problem lies primarily in the environment of the gut.

Changes in dog food along with the use of probiotics over the past 15 years has severely decreased the number of cases.

Preventative Surgery

Stomach Tacking or Prophylactic Gastropexy Surgery is a procedure which attaches the stomach to the body wall. It is much less expensive than an emergency trip to the vet once your dog has developed a distended stomach.

Many people advise that this should be done at the same time as a spay or neuter surgery. Otherwise, there is a laparascopic procedure which is minimally invasive, but much more expensive.

It may buy some peace of mind. Your dog may still bloat, but the tacks are supposed to keep the stomach from twisting. But, be aware that the stomach tack anchors don't always hold. There are cases where a dog who has had the preventative tacking surgery develops bloat and the stomach still twists.

I decided not to have the surgery done on my German Shepherd puppy. Rather than worry about elevating the food bowl or not, calculating the chest depth/width ratio, etc., I opted to take a more holistic approach.

Tips for Preventing Canine Bloat


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The information and products recommended by german-shepherd-lore.com are not intended to take the place of expert veterinarian care. Please consult with your vet and ask about using a natural and alternative approach for the healthcare and treatment of your pet. Find a holistic vet.

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