Dogs GDV or Bloat in Dogs

Published on December 18th, 2014 | by Debbie Martin


GDV Bloat in Dogs

One of the most dangerous threats to dogs is that posed by Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus, GDV bloat in dogs. You might also have heard of it under the more colloquial term ‘bloat’. An afflicted dog’s stomach will have warped as a result of the gases inside. In some cases it twists – a condition known as torsion. In others it does not and merely expands – this is simply called ‘bloat’.

So what’s so serious about that? We’ve all felt bloated from time to time, haven’t we?

In this case, the term can be misleading. GDV is among the most serious afflictions a dog can face. The warping of the stomach will have dire consequences for the rest of the body. When a dog’s stomach distends, it places pressure on the rest of the animal’s internal organs. Affected organs will invariably include those of the circulatory and respiratory systems. This will cause the dog to have trouble breathing and prevent blood from being delivered to every part of the dog’s body. This will cause the dog to quickly go into shock.

One of the most severe consequences is that it limits the body’s ability to deliver nutrients to the organs via the blood – causing cell damage and organ failure. Mortality rates are in the low teens for dogs affected by the condition. Without medical treatment, the overwhelming majority of such dogs will unfortunately die.

What are the causes?

This information will undoubtedly alarm dog owners, who will want to know exactly what causes this to occur. Unfortunately, the precise causes of the condition are widely disputed.

But while no-one knows exactly what causes the problem, we do know a little about the factors which contribute to the likelihood that a dog will suffer from the condition and so can identify which dogs are of higher concern than others.

Genetics undoubtedly play a role; dogs with a first relative with a history of the condition have been demonstrated to be at greater risk of suffering from it themselves. Similarly, certain breeds of dog – specifically those with deeper chests, such as Great Danes and German Shepherds – have been shown to be at greater risks than their cousins. Older dogs are also more likely to suffer from the condition.

There are also a number of activities which seem to precede the onset of GDV. The problem usually occurs shortly after a meal. It is also more likely to occur if the dog has undergone intense exercise, or if they have recently ingested a large quantity of water. This is not always the case, however – sometimes GDV appears completely out of the blue. Despite the uncertainty over what actually causes GDV, there are ways of stopping it from occurring. We will look into those a little later.

What are the symptoms?

There are few symptoms of a twisted stomach – which you should be aware of, particularly if you own a dog of a breed vulnerable to GDV. A dog suffering from GDV will have trouble breathing. Their breath may become shallow and faster. Afflicted dogs may droll excessively, or attempt to vomit. If they succeed in vomiting, they may produce only a white foam.

As the disease progresses, further symptoms may arise:

  • Pale gums
  • Rapid heart rate
  • The dog may collapse.

If your dog should display any of these symptoms, then it is critical that you seek the aid of a vet at the earliest possible opportunity. Any delay could mean the difference between life and death for your dog.

How will the vet treat the condition?

Because GDV is such an extremely serious condition, it is necessary that afflicted dogs are treated aggressively in a hospital. Often, the dog will be fed fluids on a drip in order to address the symptoms of shock. Since GDV affects a dog’s cardiovascular functions, the next step may be to stabilise the dog’s heartbeat. Then the vet can perform gastric decompression.

Gastric decompression involves removing gas from the stomach, in order to alleviate the stress on the stomach walls. This is done by inserting a tube into the stomach, usually via the mouth and allowing the gas to escape. Once this is done, corrective surgery will be required in order to repair the stomach and return it to its correct position. It will almost always be attached to the wall of the dog’s body, thereby preventing the stomach from twisting again. This procedure is called gastropexy.

A number of problems might have resulted from the GDV and these will be corrected by the surgeon if required. The spleen may have been damaged – and if so, it will need to be removed. Blood tests will also need to be run in order to screen for various other problems; heart and blood problems are common in a dog which has recently suffered from GDV. Tests will need to be conducted.

After the problem has been corrected, a regime of aftercare will need to be implemented. Dogs who have been affected by GDV will be in a lot of discomfort and so a programme of painkillers will often be prescribed. Unsurprisingly, the amount of activity a dog can undergo after the surgery will be extremely limited.


Prevention, as the saying goes, is better than cure. Fortunately there is a way of ensuring that GDV doesn’t happen: the aforementioned gastropexy. Unfortunately, this involves surgery, which carries its own risks – and monetary cost. For a few species of dog, however, vets consider these risks worthwhile.  If you are considering getting gastropexy for your dog, then speak to your vet about this in more detail.

Short of gastropexy, there are a range of recommendations, all of which centre around limiting the stress placed on the stomach. One recommendation is that you should not excessively exercise your dog immediately after they have eaten or drunk. Another is that meals be offered in regular, smaller portions – rather than in one huge feast. This will limit the stress placed on the stomach and thus limit the chance of it warping.

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About the Author

Debbie has worked for Beeston Animal Health for a number of years and although generally involved with the marketing these days she has a great deal of knowledge on many things to do with small animals.

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