Symptoms and Treatment of Dog Bloat (GDV)
Table of Contents
"Dog bloat (GDV, food bloat or gastric
dilation-volvulus) refers to a condition where a dog's stomach bloats
and can twist. A normal stomach should be contracting and releasing
A dog with bloat takes in excess air or food, causing the stomach to
be distended. It cuts off the blood supply and keeps the food and air
exiting. It is a life threatening disorder with fatalities
from 10% to 60%. The disease primarily occurs in large deep-chested
dogs between the age of 2 to 10 years. No one knows what causes the
condition. It frequently occurs several hours after a large
evening meal with symptoms occuring around midnight.
Signs of GDV (dog bloat) are:
- abdominal pain
- increased heart-rate
- blue color to tongue or gums
Risk factors for bloat include being a large breed dog (highest percentage of dogs) that is deep chested such as a Great Dane (long length chest with small width). Other risk factors are age (over age 7), rigorous exercising after eating or eating too quickly. It is a myth that a elevated dog food bowl will decrease the risk of developing GDV (2015, Cornell Veterinary). In fact, the risk increases with an elevated bowl. Food bloat refers to bloat without the stomach twist. The twist is referred to as volvulus.
The exact reasons why dogs suffer from bloat are not understood and not
all cases are associated with the identified risk factors.
Always contact a veterinarian if you aren't sure or if there is any
that your dog is suffering from bloat (see second video on page for dog
suffering from bloat symptoms). Veterinarian's will work to
remove any air or food from the stomach. Surgery is needed if the
stomach moves out of its' normal position, such as a twist or
volvulus. Prevention includes having a dog eat slowly and rest
after eating a meal (1 to 2 hours). Free feeding
Video on Dog Bloat
Video describing dog bloat symptoms and Treatment
Bloat (gastric dilatation volvulus) is a very serious condition that requires immediate care. It is the condition showcased in the movie Marley and Me. Approximately 50% of dogs with the condition do not survive. Dog bloat is usually seen in middle aged and older dogs. The exact cause of the condition is not completely understood although contributing factors can include (but not always):
- Ingesting large amounts of water and food
- Delayed emptying of the gastric system
- Too much activity after eating
There is no direct genetic predisposition. Risk factors include:
- Dogs that have a first-order relative that had bloat
breeds dogs, with an incidence in this population of
- Dogs over 100 pounds have a 20% higher risk
- The condition can happen at any age, although middle aged and older dogs have a higher risk.
Dog Bloat Patient
Large, deep chested dogs have breed predilections towards bloat such as Great Danes and German Shepherds
Breeds at higher risk include:
- Great Danes (highest risk)
- Saint Bernard
- Irish Setters
- Gordon Setters
- Standard Poodle
- Bassett Hounds
- Doberman Pinschers
- Old English Sheepdog
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- German Shepherds
- Airedale Terrier
- Alaskan Malamute
- Chesapeake Bay Retriever
- Labrador Retriever
- English Springer Spaniel
New research (2015) shows that IT IS NOT TRUE that a lowered food bowl can lead to the swallowing of air (aerophagia) which could lead to GDV. Abnormal tumor or cell growth may also lead to GDV. More research needs to be conducted.
With bloat, the stomach fills with fluid. Gas and fluid continue to build before the stomach rotates. As the stomach enlarges (becomes distended), pressure increases in the abdomen leading to compressed blood vessels in the abdomen. The reduced blood flow can put the dog into hypovolemic shock.
The disease can be characterized in three stages of dog bloat. The
goal of course is to stop the disease before it proceeds to stages II
- Pre-bloat: Stomach function is normal, but gas accumulates in the
stomach and it is not emptying as it should.
- 'Stage 1: Stomach starts to dilate
- Stage 2: Blood supply to part of the stomach is cut off and stomach tissue is damaged
- Stage 3: Spleen and stomach tissue become necrotic (start to die
off). Heart failure and shock set in and is irreversible. Can
result in death.
Your emergency veterinary center will drain the stomach and then attempt to reposition the organs. Half of dogs with bloat do not survive making early diagnosis and treatment critical.
Bloat is actually made up with two conditions. The first, called gastric dilation refers to the stomach filling with food, fluid and gas or air. The second part of the condition is called volvulus, which refers to a stomach that rotates. The twisting can range from 180 to 360 degrees in a clockwise direction. The stomach twist causes part of the stomach, the pylorus to move out of position. This prevents air and fluid from leaving the stomach, through what is called pylorus canal.
The twisting prevents fluids from leaving your dogs body, not just stomach fluids, but the ability to vomit as well. The condition cuts off blood flow to the stomach tat causes cells to start dying. Since the stomach cannot drain, it becomes distended, interfering with circulation in the stomach and the death of cells in the wall of the stomach (called necrosis).
As the stomach starts to fill or become distended, pressure
This compresses the abdominal blood vessels such as the portal vein and
caudal vena cava. The lack of blood flow results in less blood going to
the heart and a condition call hypovolemic shock, where there is less
blood circulating in the body. Shock can occur from the low blood
pressure and endotoxins that rapidly develop. If the stomach ruptures,
a condition call peritonitis can occur, which is an inflammation of the
membrane that lines the wall of the abdomen and covers the abdominal
This in turn causes problems throughout the body such as organ death, inflammation and blood clotting (coagulation).
Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs
Video: Bloat Symptoms in Dogs
Bloat symptoms include:
- Salivation (Ptyalism)
- Attempts to vomit that are not successful
- Acting uncomfortable
- Walking with stiff legs
- Head hanging
- Anxious behavior
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal distension (may be hidden by the rib cage)
- Excessive salivation
Late symptoms of dog bloat include:
- Pale tongue
- Pale gums
- Rapid heart rate
- Labored and rapid breathing
- gastrointestinal (stomach necrosis or cell death due to decreased blood supply)
- cardiovascular (decrease in blood return to the heart causing organ problems and tissue damage)
- lymphatic system problems.