Bloat Gastric Dilatation Volvulus GDV

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus aka GDV or “bloat,” in laymen’s term is a life threatening condition all large breed dog owner’s need to be aware of .

In a patient with a GDV the stomach first fills with gas (dilatation) and then twist on itself (volvulus) preventing the gas from escaping. This will lead to a compromised blood supply  to the stomach and organs in close proximity to the stomach which can  lead to parts of the stomach dying off and  rupture. In severe cases the excess pressure on the lungs can lead to breathing difficulty and  decrease return of the blood to the heart leading to collapse and death.

The scary facts:

  • Without treatment the condition is usually fatal.
  • Death can occur within 2 hours.
  • Even with intensive treatment 1 out of 3 dogs with GDV will die.
  • Recurrence can be as high as 80%.

Risk factors for developing GDV

The exact reason why certain dogs develop GDV is not known but several risk factors have been identified:

  • Large breed dogs like the GSD, Boerboel, Great Dane, Bull Mastiff and St Bernard are at increased risk. The Great Dane when compared to a medium  mix breed dog is 41 times more likely to develop a GDV than the mutt.
  • Genetics – certain lines are more prone to develop GDV. When buying a large breed pup always check if any of  the parents developed a GDV.
  • Age, usually older than 2 years
  • Eating habits – dogs only fed once a day are at increased risk due to the overfilling of the stomach.
  • Temperament more seen in nervous, anxious and fearful dogs which can lead to more airophagia (air swallowing).
  • Exercise shortly before or after feeding
  • Male dogs are twice more at risk compared to female dogs

The signs

The following signs can be seen in dogs with GDV:

  • A suddenly swollen belly
  • Retching repeatedly with or without vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Abdominal pain and restlessness.
  • Eventually leading to collapse

Emergency treatment to save a dog with GDV

GDV if left untreated can be fatal within 2 hours. Get to your vet asap.

Intensive emergency treatment with shock rate fluid administration, i/v antibiotics, stomach deflation and flushing and surgery will be necessary in most cases.

The rate of post-operative complications and  mortality can be high dependant on how severe the stomach was compromised.


Prevention of GDV

GDV can occur in any dog even if all the preventative measures are in place. If you are concerned that your dog shows GDV symptoms do not hesitate to take him to a vet asap.

Bloat Dogma Dog Bowl

In this condition every second counts!

  • Know your dog’s risk – this condition is mainly seen in deep, wide chest, large breed dogs like the Great Dane, German Shepherd, Boerboel, Bull Mastiff and St Bernard. Click here for other breed risk profiles.
  • Always give 2-3 meals per day and not just a single feed.
  • Give your dog a good quality food which is highly digestible
  • Always have water available but prevent excess consumption especially after meals
  • Do not exercise, excite or stress your dog an hour before and two hours after feeding.
  • Do diet changes gradually over 3-5 days.
  • Decrease stress during feeding especially with nervous dogs. Prevent competitive eating by separating dogs at feeding time.
  • If you have a high risk breed or dog who “vacuums” his food consider the Dogma Slow feeding bowl to decrease the eating speed and aerophagia (air swallowing).
  • Some veterinary surgeons will advise preventative surgery (elective gastropexy) in high risk breeds.


~ Article written by: Dr Adel Ferreira


  2. The veterinary information network


A typical Vet Bill for GDV (Bloat). 


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