Monday, June 4, 2012

Ask the Vet - Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV) AKA Canine Bloat by Kristel Weaver, DVM, MPVM

I just adopted a Great Dane puppy and my breeder mentioned some precautions to prevent bloat.  What is bloat?

Bloat, or gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), is when the stomach fills with gas and flips over. This twists blood vessels, blocks blood flow and traps gas. The gas and pressure builds up, forcing the stomach to expand. Within a few hours or less the stomach is extremely stretched and hard, and the stomach tissue begins to die. Circulation is cut off, causing the dog to go into shock. Without emergency treatment GDV is fatal. Even with aggressive therapy, some dogs do not survive.

 What does a dog with GDV look like?

Dogs with GDV are very uncomfortable – as you can just imagine! They act restless and try to vomit but nothing comes up. As their stomachs fill with gas, their abdomen appears bloated just behind the ribs. If you think your dog has these symptoms, regardless of the breed, take him or her to your veterinarian immediately.

What causes GDV and what breeds are at risk?

No one knows exactly what cause GDV. Past cases show the biggest risk factor is a big, deep chest. The risk increases as a dog gets older and the ligaments around the stomach stretch out. The breed most at risk is the Great Dane; about 2 out of every 5 have GDV. Some other breeds at risk are St. Bernards, Setters, Weimaraners, Standard Poodles, German Shepherds, and the list goes on.

What can be done to prevent GDV?

A surgery called a gastropexy can prevent GDV. In it, the stomach is sewn to inside of the body wall, preventing it from flipping over. This surgery can be done safely with either a laparoscope or traditional surgical method. It's typically done at the same time a deep-chested or large breed dog is spayed or neutered. Aside from a gastropexy, there is no guaranteed method to prevent GDV. Another factor to consider is that emergency GDV treatment and surgery can range from $3000 to $7000, depending on the hospital, while a preventive laparoscopic gastropexy is about a third of that cost.
If you're concerned about bloat, talk to your veterinarian about a gastropexy. In my opinion, it is absolutely worth the peace of mind!  

Dr. Kristel Weaver is a graduate of the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis where she received both a DVM and a Master’s of Preventative Veterinary Medicine (MPVM).  She has been at Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center & Urgent Care in San Ramon since 2007.  She currently lives in Oakland with her husband and their daughter, Hayley. If you have questions you would like Dr. Weaver to answer for future articles, please email


  1. Is there anything preventative that can be done, short of surgery? I was told long ago by a large-dog breeder that feeding dry kibble was a possible trigger. Since then I've always moistened kibble and mixed in some wet food.

  2. There are certain preventive measures that can be taken such as eating moist food and not exercising your pet directly after eating but unfortunately none of these 100% protect your dog from bloating. We have treated dogs for bloat that have adhered to a strict wet food diet and were also crated directly after eating. So while it doesn't hurt to take these precautions - your dog could still be at risk. The scary thing about GDV is how little is known about what causes it exactly and how fast it can happen. Gastropexy is truly the best preventive measure we know of.