Bloat and GDV in Dogs

A complete guide for understanding Gastric Dilation and Volvulus in Dogs


This article is written by Pet Circle's qualified veterinarian, Dr Carla Paszkowski, BVSc (Hons)

Have you heard about 'bloat' or 'GDV' in dogs, and not sure what it is? Or maybe you are a prospective puppy owner researching your favourite dog breed, and have discovered they are a breed prone to developing GDV? This handy guide should provide you with everything you need to know about GDV in dogs.


What is GDV?

Which dog breeds are prone to GDV?

Symptoms of GDV

Treatment of GDV

Prevention of GDV

What is GDV?

Source: PDSA

Gastric Dilation and Volvulus, also know as 'bloat', refers to a life-threatening condition in which the stomach fills up with gas, fluid, or food, and becomes enlarged and dilated. The stomach then twists 180-360 degrees on itself - this twisting is known as 'volvulus'. (Hence, the 'D' and 'V' - dilation and volvulus - in'GDV')

As it continues to twist and enlarge, the distended stomach can press into large blood vessels, disrupting the blood flow to internal organs. Eventually, the flow of blood to the stomach and spleen can be completely cut off, and this causes shock very quickly. The huge distended stomach can also impede breathing, as the chest is restricted from expanding fully.

What causes GDV in dogs?

While the cause of GDV is still unknown, there are a number of factors which increase you dog's risk. These include:
• Eating one large meal per day
• Foreign body obstruction (eg. swallowing toys, corn cobs, clothing)
• Ingesting bones which can block the passage of food, fluid and gas through the stomach
• Eating quickly or too large a quantity of food
• Exercising after eating
• Breed predispositions (see below)

Dog breeds that are prone to GDV

Doggos: @zephyrthedobermann, @bec.grintell

Which dog breeds are prone to GDV?

Large breed dogs with deep chests are particularly prone to GDV. Specific breeds that are most at risk of developing GDV include:

Signs and Symptoms of GDV

Bloat in dogs is is incredibly painful. Clinical signs of Gastric Dilation and Volvulus include:

  • A distended, bloated abdomen
  • Retching (the dog may attempt to vomit or burp but is not able to)
  • A hunched posture with a lowered head
  • Vomiting (in some cases)
  • Collapse
  • Excessive drooling
  • Pale gums

Diagnosis of GDV in dogs

If you suspect your dog may be suffering from bloat, take them to the vet immediately. GDV is a medical emergency and requires immediate veterinary action. To diagnose bloat, your veterinarian will be able to palpate your dog's abdomen, perform xrays, and may perform an ultrasound. Your vet will need to examine the xrays in order to determine if a foreign body may be present. Bloodwork is also likely to be done in order to assess the extent of your dog's condition and level of shock.

Based on the radiographs and bloodwork, your veterinarian will be able to assess the severity of the condition and determine the requirement for surgery.

Treatment of GDV in dogs

How is GDV treated in dogs?

Surgery - unfortunately, GDV requires a surgery. Your dog will need an operation to untwist their stomach, deflate it, and check the stomach walls for damage. After untwisting it, your vet may decide to suture your dog's stomach into place to reduce the chance of it recurring. They will also check the spleen, which sits very close to the stomach and can get wrapped up in the twist. The spleen may need to be removed if any damage is present.

Many vets recommend a preventative procedure (usually during desexing) to reduce the risk of GDV occurring. This procedure involved tacking the stomach wall to the lining of the abdomen, to secure it in position and prevent twisting later in life.

Prevention of GDV in dogs

Puzzle feeders and slow feed bowls can help slow down feeding and prevent bloat.

How to prevent GDV in dogs

If your dog is a high risk breed, or has suffered from mild bloat in the past, there are ways to prevent this disease. And thankfully, most of the prevention methods can be done easily at home by making some simple changes at feeding time.

1. Feed them slowly

Dogs who 'inhale' their food are at a huge risk of GDV, as one of the risk factors is eating a huge portion of food too rapidly. Ensuring your dog eats slowly is a must. No more guzzling big bowls of food in one go! Puzzle feeders and slow feeding bowls can work incredibly well to not only slow down your dog's eating but also keep them occupied.

Top slow-feeding bowls and puzzle feeders to reduce bloat

What about elevated bowls? It used to be a common theory that elevated food bowls were better for dogs. However, some research - including a multi-year study at Purdue University - suggests that elevated bowls may actually increase your dog's risk of developing GDV and bloat. While further research is needed, it's best to avoid elevated bowls if your dog is a high risk breed!

2. Do not feed before or after exercise

Leave at least 30-60 minutes between food and exercise. The danger with exercise actually comes from the gulping of air - if your dog is panting and inhaling while they eat, their tummy can fill up with air and cause bloat.

3. Reduce Stress

Reducing stress, particularly around meal time, is important for reducing the occurrence of bloat. This is especially essential for dogs who are protective of their food and wolf it down quickly to prevent somebody else stealing it! To reduce stress, you may wish to keep your dog separate in a gated-off area such as their crate or a separate room.

4. Feed small portions frequently

Rather than feeding one large meal a day, break up their daily food into multiple small meals. This makes the stomach function slowly throughout the day. One large meal will force the stomach it to digest a lot quickly, which can lead to a larger quantity of gas and digesta, and consequently can cause bloat.

5. Slow down water intake

Hydration is important, but you don't want your dog to gorge themselves on water. A stomach distended full with water can promote bloat, particularly if your dog has eaten recently or is doing vigorous exercise. If your dog is out exercising - such as at the dog park or on a long walk - you may need to 'monitor' their water intake and restrict their drinking to encourage smaller sips.

When at home, you may like to invest in a slow drinking water bowl. A water fountain can help slow down your dog's drinking and encourage sipping. See our top recommendations below.

What are the best water fountains to prevent GDV?

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