Petriage Clinical Insights

IMPORTANT: This article, which is provided for educational purposes only, is based on published veterinary data and decades of work with pets and pet parents. The information provided here is not designed to be comprehensive but to help you avoid the pitfalls of online misinformation and most importantly, to frame the conversation you should have with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian’s perspective may differ from what is expressed here. Always consult with your veterinarian.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) & Bloat

Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) occurs when a dog’s stomach fills with abnormal amounts of food, liquid and gas and then twists on itself. GDV is an extremely serious condition that can become fatal very quickly. It should always be addressed as an emergency. If the stomach is twisted it rapidly creates a dangerous impact on blood flow throughout the body, with severe consequences. Once this has happened, every minute counts!

So-called simple bloat in which the stomach becomes abnormally distended with no twisting should still be addressed immediately, because of the potential for becoming life-threatening GDV at any moment.


  • Any dog can bloat and develop GDV, however certain breeds are at a much higher risk--with Great Danes at the top of the list. (See below.)
  • The specific cause of GDV is not known, however research indicates a few risk factors:
    • Genetics are the dominant risk factor. This includes the dog’s breed (see below) and family history of bloat/GDV.
    • Deep chested dogs.
    • Dogs over 100 lbs.
    • Anxious, fearful and nervous dogs.
    • Exercising after eating.
    • Middle age or older.
    • An episode of overeating or drinking increases risk.
    • Male dogs are more at risk than females.
  • It is important to recognize the early signs of bloat/GDV since this condition can develop suddenly and progress very rapidly. Once GDV has occurred, every minute counts and quick action is needed to save your dog's life. Signs in the early stages of bloat can include:
    • Restlessness or pacing
    • Signs of distress
    • Excessive drooling
    • Inability to stand
    • Distended or swollen abdomen
    • Painful abdomen
    • Repeated retching (attempting to vomit without success).
    • Increased breathing rate
  • Treatment of bloat/GDV is always an emergency and should be sought immediately. The longer the delay in treatment the worse the prognosis is, even with treatment.
  • Dogs that only have bloat without GDV can typically be treated without surgery by releasing the gas trapped in the stomach. However, for dogs that develop GDV surgery is required to untwist the stomach. Depending on the specifics of the case, removal of the spleen and part of the stomach may be necessary.


  • GDV is a very serious and life-threatening condition that requires immediate emergency surgery in order for your dog to survive. Most dogs (80%-85%) that get prompt care survive and do well. Unfortunately, dogs with cardiac complications and significant circulatory compromise to the spleen and stomach have a significantly higher mortality rate.
  • The best place in most dogs to look for signs of bloat is on the left side, just behind the last rib.
  • While genetics are the dominant risk factor, a few things can be done to lower the risk for your dog:
    • Feed small meals more frequently, and restrict activity for 2 hours after eating.
    • Avoid significant exercise on a full stomach.
    • Do not let your dog drink large quantities of water at once.
    • For anxious dogs that are at high risk for bloat, try to reduce their stress as much as possible.
    • If you have a dog with a high risk for bloat/GDV, a preventative surgical procedure may be appropriate. The procedure, called gastropexy, is about 95% effective at preventing GDV. Discuss this option with your veterinarian.
    • For young dogs of high-risk breeds, it can be a great idea to perform gastropexy at the same time as a routine spay or neuter procedure.


Dog Breeds with Increased GDV Risk
  • Akita
  • Basset Hound
  • Bernese Mountain Dog
  • Bloodhound
  • Borzoi
  • Boxer
  • Bullmastiff
  • Chinese Shar Pei
  • Chow Chow
  • Collie
  • Curly Coated Retriever
  • Dachshund
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • German Shepherd
  • Gordon Setter
  • Great Dane
  • Great Pyrenee
  • Great Swiss Mountain Dog
  • Greyhound
  • Irish Setter
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Leonberger
  • Mastiff
  • Neopolitan Mastiff
  • Newfoundland
  • Old English Sheep Dog
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback
  • Saint Bernard
  • Scottish Deerhound
  • Standard Poodle
  • Weimaraner