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Bloat/Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus


Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) is a life threatening disorder most commonly seen in large, deep-chested dogs. The term refers to a gas-filled stomach (bloat) that then twists upon itself. It is a medical emergency that usually requires surgery to correct.


The definite cause is still unknown. The most common history is a large breed dog that eats or drinks rapidly and then exercises. In recent studies, stress was found to be a contributing factor to GDV. Dogs that were found to be more relaxed and calm were at less risk of developing GDV than dogs described as “hyper” or “fearful”. Sometimes the condition progresses no further than simple dilatation (bloat) but in other instances the huge, gas-filled stomach twists upon itself so that both entrance and exit (cardia and pylorus) are occluded.


Are some dogs more prone than others?


Yes, statistically we know that large, deep chested breeds are more prone to GDV. These include Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters, Gordon Setters, Standard Poodles, Basset Hounds, Doberman Pinschers, and Old English Sheepdogs. Most commonly the condition occurs two to three hours after eating a large meal.


These are the facts:


The condition almost always occurs in giant or large breed dogs with narrow, deep chests. Gastric dilatation, usually without volvulus, occasionally occurs in elderly small dogs. The distended stomach pushes the posterior rib cage so that the dog appears swollen or "bloated". This is the most obvious on the left side and gentle tapping of the swelling just behind the last rib often produces hollow, drum-like sounds. The enlarged stomach presses on the diaphragm and breathing becomes labored. The swollen stomach also presses on the larger blood vessels in the abdomen and circulation is seriously compromised, resulting in shock. Ultimately, the dog collapses and the huge size of the abdomen can be appreciated as the dog lays on its side.


Why does the dog collapse?


The gas filled stomach presses on the large veins in the abdomen that carry blood back to the heart. Tissues become deprived of blood and oxygen resulting in shock. In addition, the pressure of the gas on the stomach wall results in inadequate circulation and the stomach tissues will begin to die and may rupture. Digestion ceases and toxins accumulate in the blood, exacerbating the shock.