Bloat in dogs-what can we do

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), commonly called bloat, is an emergency medical condition that is seen most commonly in large and giant breed dogs. This is a life-threatening situation that occurs when the stomach fills with gas and/or food, expands, and then rotates, trapping gas inside the stomach and cutting off blood supply to the stomach and spleen.

    Signs the dog may demonstrate:


  • Distended (bloated) abdomen
  • Unproductive retching / heaving
  • Excess salivation
  • Heavy panting
  • Restlessness/pacing

Many studies have been done to determine the causes of GDV, but researchers are still not completely certain why the condition occurs. However, most experts agree that the following circumstances may increase a dog’s risk for GDV:

  • Breed (large or giant)
  • Large, deep chest
  • Gulping food / eating too quickly
  • High activity following large meals
  • Feeding only one meal a day
  • Stress/anxiety
  • Thin body condition
  • Genetic predisposition

Different preventative measures are up for debate. Not all experts agree on the efficacy of the following methods, so please discuss them with your veterinarian:

  • Eating two or more meals per day
  • Eating more slowly (some dog bowls are designed to slow down eating, but do not always work)
  • Avoiding vigorous exercise after meals or just before exercise. I like to recommend feeding more than 4 hours prior to exercise and more than 2 hours after.
  • Adding canned food to the regular diet
  • Elevating the food and water bowls (some research shows that this may actually increase the risk for GDV)
  • Prophylactic gastropexy, or tacking the stomach in place

So, if you have a dog that suddenly gets very large, tries to vomit but cannot, panting and drooling - call your vet, as quick action can save these dogs. Preventative measures I recommend are a consistent feeding program in relation to exercise, avoidance of quickly fermenting human foods such as pasta and not overfeeding. Sometimes these can occur with no rhyme of reason as well. Know the signs and use your veterinarian as a consult if in doubt.