Bloat and Gastric Torsion in large breed dogs

Bloat, also known as Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), is a serious condition that can happen to any large breed dog.

Bloat (dilation) is a condition of an abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and/or foam in the stomach and can occur with or without the twisting (volvulus) of the stomach. When the stomach twists, the passageways become blocked and trap gases and contents inside the stomach. This silent killer is the second leading cause of death in dogs behind cancer.

Who is at risk?

Large dogs with deep chests are prone to this condition, for example, but not limited to: Great Danes, Dobermans, and German Shepherds. Males, older dogs, and those who are particularly large for their breed have a greater risk. Dogs with bloat in their hereditary background also face a higher risk of the condition. While it can occur at any age, it typically occurs in middle-aged and older dogs.


Rapid eating followed by exercise is the main cause of bloat, however stress and anxiety can also cause it. Drinking lots of water before or after eating, as well as eating very fatty foods can also cause the stomach to bloat.


A dog with a bloated stomach will have a chest that feels very tight to the touch. They will act uncomfortable, restless, and anxious and may also have foamy saliva along and attempt to vomit. Other signs include lethargy, coughing, gagging, pacing, whining, and shallow breathing.

Dogs with volvulus are unable to belch or vomit and will ultimately experience other complications such as dehydration, circulatory shock, gastric perforation, bacterial septicemia, or death.


When bloat is suspected, the dog should be rushed to the veterinary hospital immediately. Dilation is treated by inserting a long tube through the dog's mouth to relieve the pressure in the stomach. If the dog has volvulus, treatment requires timely surgery to correct the situation. Untreated pets will typically pass away within less than 24 hours. The cost of surgery is around $2,000 - $6,000.


Bloat can easily be prevented when the pet owner is knowledgeable and prepared. To prevent this condition, meals should be fed multiple times per day, rather than one large meal. Feed low-fat meals, do not use raised food bowls, and do not allow rapid eating. Most importantly, be sure that the dog waits at least an hour after eating before exercising or getting into stressful situations.


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