Canine Bloat

By Dr. Kristel Weaver for the Danville Press, Danville, CA

Bloat, or gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), is when the stomach fills with gas and flips over. This twists blood vessels, blocks blood flow and traps gas. The gas and pressure builds up, forcing the stomach to expand. Within a few hours or less the stomach is extremely stretched and hard, and the stomach tissue begins to die. Circulation is cut off, causing the dog to go into shock. Without emergency treatment GDV is fatal. Even with aggressive therapy, some dogs do not survive.
What does a dog with GDV look like? Dogs with GDV are very uncomfortable – as you can just imagine! They act restless and try to vomit but nothing comes up. As their stomachs fill with gas, their abdomens appear bloated just behind the ribs. If you think your dog has these symptoms, regardless of the breed, take him or her to your veterinarian immediately.
What causes GDV and what breeds are at risk? No one knows exactly what cause GDV. Past cases show the biggest risk factor is a big, deep chest. The risk increases as a dog gets older and the ligaments around the stomach stretch out. The breed most at risk is the Great Dane; about 2 out of every 5 have GDV. Some other breeds at risk are St. Bernards, Setters, Weimaraners, Standard Poodles, German Shepherds, and the list goes on.
What can be done to prevent GDV? A surgery called a gastropexy can prevent GDV. In it, the stomach is sewn to inside of the body wall, preventing it from flipping over. This surgery can be done safely with either a laparoscope or traditional surgical method. It’s typically done at the same time a deep-chested or large breed dog is spayed or neutered. Aside from a gastropexy, there is no guaranteed method to prevent GDV. Another factor to consider is that emergency GDV treatment and surgery can range from $3000 to $7000, depending on the hospital, while a preventive laparoscopic gastropexy is about a third of that cost.
If you’re concerned about bloat, talk to your veterinarian about a gastropexy. In my opinion, it is absolutely worth the peace of mind!

Dr. Kristel Weaver is a graduate of the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis where she received both a DVM and a Master’s of Preventative Veterinary Medicine (MPVM). She has been at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care in San Ramon since 2007.

9 Responses to “Canine Bloat”

  1. Octavia Mercado says:

    My dog daughter recently passed of GDV, and it was devastating for both my husband and I. We are still in mourning. Once I discovered what she passed from, I started doing research and discovered this happens a lot in canines. I spoke to a lot of other animal lovers, and they had not heard of this acute illness either. Is there any current research that you all are doing in order to help prevent or educate people on this?
    Thank you,
    In Shasha Mercado’s Honor,
    Octavia mercado

    • We are very sorry for your loss. It is very hard to lose a member of your family.
      We are not a research organization, but GDV (also called torsion and bloat) is most common in larger dogs. It’s been around for awhile.
      Usually, when you have a larger breed dog, your veterinarian tells you about the potential and what to look for.
      Unfortunately, it can be very quick and, from what we’ve read, usually comes on when a dog has eaten and then exercises or plays too soon thereafter, not allowing proper digestion of the food. When larger breed dogs are spayed they can go in and staple the organ to keep it from being an issue.

      There are many articles on torsion and canine bloat on the internet, which would have a much better explanation than ours.

      Again, we are very sorry for your loss.

  2. john taylor says:

    i’m writing this in memory of my springer spaniel and my best friend cooper of 10 1/2 joyful years who left me in total shock on the morning of 05-06-2016.i brought cooper in for his checkup on 02-24-2016,xrays blood work,the vet told me coopers blood work was good and no cancer recurrence on the xray,had a cancer mass removed from his hind leg in 09-2014,doctor says he’s doing better than most dogs his age,on 05-05-2016 cooper and my other springer grace and i were outside all day enjoying the nice weather they were playing chasing birds off the lawn following me while i cleaned and did some raking,great day outside with my dogs,next morning i wake up at 6.00 am,get dressed go to the bathroom make coffee,go see what coopers doing out in the fenced yard i call his name he follows me inside the house,then he go back outside through the doggy door as i was walking to my bedroom i looked out the window and cooper was trying to vomit,so i went to see whats wrong,he started walking to me,he tried to vomit again so i went to him and i noticed his stomach was all bloated,i called the vet clinic told them what happened,they told me to bring him in right now,what they said took me for a loop,so they take cooper to start sucking the gas from his stomach and take a xray not even 5 minutes later a vet assit came and told me they;re doing cpr on him,he never made it,i never even got to say goodbye to my friend,last time i cried that hard was my fathers funeral over 40 years ago,all that happened in less than two hours,and to a very healthy dog,hell i never even got to finish my 1st cup of coffee, never ever heard of canine bloat(gdv)or seen it,when vets are brought a emergency for gdv they need a better way of releasing the gases from the stomach needles are not enough and to slow,i,ve had dogs all my 57 years of life and they all lived good long lives,COOPER was my favorite dog of all of them and the way he died should never happen to any pet,i am in total shock of this instant killer,COOPER YOU WILL ALWAYS BE IN OUR HEARTS my tears haven’t stop yet, grace will miss you most of all when she realizes you are not coming back home

    • ed coogan says:

      very sorry, it just happened to my special Sasha. I had 5 german sheppards but now only 4. Needless she was my very most favorite. Happened in the night woke up to see her dead. Couldnt believe it . She showed no signs of being sick when i went to bed. Hard to cope right now, so i know feel and felt.

  3. Nicholas Saunders says:

    I wish I would have been aware of this. Our chocolate lab passed last night after being picked up from the kennel. He was home only three hours and when he started having repository issues we raced him to an emergency vet only to have him die in route. Veterinarians should make owners more aware of this concern so families don’t have to suffer the trauma of this avoidable loss

    • We are very sorry for your sudden loss. Many veterinarians recommend doing preventative surgery for this potential problem in larger breeds when they are spayed or neutered. Our thoughts of your sweet furry one are with you.

    • mary hudak says:


      In response to some of the notes above; we have been very lucky today. Our 11 year old Standard poodle woke me up, w/ a crying noise. I came out of my room and I noticed he had thrown up (white foamy/mucous) and still was gagging…
      overall he was acting strange and did not want to come in the house, because he was wretching.

      I called his human Uncle (who is a Vet)…..he stopped by by 9 am; he said he thought he felt something in his stomach; I am aware of ‘bloating’ because a former relatives standard poodle dog’s stomach ‘twisted’.

      Long story short: got him into Emergency Vet Hospital. The put a ‘tube’ down his throat (alot of gas came out)….and underwent surgery around 12:30 pm today Christmas Eve.

      Prognosis is good he will survive and be with us, for some more time. Thankfully!!!

      I am sorry about your losses above; it is truly difficult…. ….

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