Tech Talks: Gastic Dilation Volvulus

 Tech Talks by Emily Harbury, LVT

I would like to discuss a serious, often fatal, condition in dogs called Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV). GDV, often called bloat, is a rapidly progressing and life threatening condition in which the stomach fills with gasses and food (dilatation) and twists upon itself (volvulus).

This condition is most prevalent in large, deep chested dogs. Some examples of dogs most at risk include; German Shepherds, Great Danes, Bloodhounds, and Akitas.

It is imperative that this condition be recognized early. Your dog’s abdomen may not have a bloated appearance to begin with. Most often the dog has been fed a full meal and exercised shortly afterwards.

Signs of GDV include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Frequent retching and attempts to vomit (no food or bile will be seen, though frothy foam will be produced)
  • Anxiousness
  • Restlessness
  • Pacing

If the stomach has a hard bloated appearance it has most likely entered the volvulus stage. This aspect of GDV is much more serious because when the stomach twists on itself, not only is there no food or fluid matter passing to the intestines, but the blood supply has been cut off. If left this way for too long the stomach, intestines and possibly some organs will die. The chance of survival is best when medical intervention begins before volvulous occurs.

Much has been learned about bloat in the past decade. Dogs over 7 years of age are more than twice as likely to develop GDV as those who are 2-4 years of age. With early intervention, the survival rate is better than 80% (2009). The earlier the veterinarian gets started with treatment, the better chance there is for survival. Aggressive medical and surgical intervention early in the course of the disease has the most dramatic impact on overall treatment success. An x-ray can confirm bloat and then surgery will be needed as soon as possible.


No one protocol has been shown to prevent this disease process. Elevated feeding bowls may actually increase the risk of GDV in some patients. Smaller kibble size, feeding smaller more frequent meals, and not breeding animals with a history of GDV in their lineage may potentially decrease the risk of GDV for the animal and future generations.

In breeds with a high risk of bloat, there is a preventive surgery called a prophylactic gastropexy that can often be performed when the dog is being spayed or neutered. This involves surgically attaching the stomach to the inside of the abdomen to prevent rotation. This procedure can be done through minimally invasive surgery or laparoscopy. Ask your veterinarian for details and advice if you would like to discuss preventive surgery for bloat.

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