Bloat (GDV)

Bloat is a rare but extremely serious condition where the expanded stomach twists and cuts off the blood supply, causing death of the stomach wall (necrosis). From there, perforation and fatal peritonitis can occur. Bloat is extremely painful for dogs and it can kill in a matter of hours without veterinary intervention. The condition is also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV).

Gastric dialation is where the stomach distends, or becomes full of fluid and gas. There is a rapid enlargement of the stomach that could be due to overeating or eating too quickly. It may even be due to the fermentation of carbohydrate food. This will cause the abdomen to become distended and tense. There may well be increased abdominal gurgling noises or the dog could vomit. In deep chested breeds of dog there is a chance the distended stomach or intestines could twist, causing an obstruction (volvulus).

Symptoms can appear quickly, and will usually include one or more of the following:

  • A swollen, hard belly
  • Retching but not able to vomit
  • Drooling
  • Pain in the abdomen when touched
  • Other signs of distress such as panting and restlessness

The causes of bloat are not really understood but there are preventative measures that may reduce risk:

  • Spliting their food into two meals instead of one
  • consider using a slow feeding bowl if they eat really quickly
  • maintain a healthy weight as over and under weight dogs are more susceptible
  • do not exercise for 30 mins before or after feeding

It is usually related to being exercised too close to being fed. Either after walking, when the dog is still panting and therefore gulping in air whilst eating or where the dog has a full stomach and runs around and the stomach twists.

Bloat is a medical emergency and your dog should be taken straight to your vet if you suspect it. Your vet may reposition the stomach and fasten it to the inner abdominal wall to help prevent it happening again.


Turner, T., 1990. Veterinary Notes for Dog Owners. Random House.

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