Bloat: A Life-Threatening Emergency

Categories: Dog Health

By Amy Wence

What is it?

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV), also known as bloat, is a life-threatening condition that can happen unexpectedly to our canine companions. GDV occurs when the stomach becomes  filled with gas and twists. The blood supply to the stomach is then cut off, causing the organ to die. GDV can kill a dog in less than an hour. It is an extremely serious condition, so it is important to recognize the signs and to seek immediate veterinary help should this traumatic event suddenly strike your dog.

What are the causes and which dogs are at risk?

The causes of bloat in dogs are not fully understood. Some of the more concrete evidence points to breed predisposition, age, and rapid eating as contributing factors. It has been  found that large breed and deep-chested dogs are certainly more predisposed to it. Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Weimaraners have some of the highest incidence of bloat. Dogs older than 7 years, are twice as likely to develop GDV when compared to dogs younger than 4 years of age. There are some other suspected causes as well, such as eating from raised food bowls, exercise after eating, eating only one meal a day, eating small size kibble, and an aggressive or fearful temperament. However, these other factors have not been conclusively proven and some studies even reveal conflicting evidence.

What are the signs?

Since rapid diagnosis is the key to successful treatment of GDV, it is important to recognize the signs. These may include: bloated or swollen belly, restlessness, lethargy,  nonproductive vomiting or retching, shallow breathing, excess salivation, disinterest in food, nausea, and painful abdomen. If your dog exhibits any of these symptoms,
contact your vet immediately. I would suggest keeping an emergency vet phone number stored in your phone. Some veterinary clinics may offer after-hours urgent care for clients. CARE Animal Hospital in Kenosha has an emergency pager number for their clients. Ask your vet if they offer any emergency services. If not, there are two animal
emergency treatment centers in the area.
  1. The Animal ER of Kenosha & Racine, 4333 S. Green Bay Road, Racine, WI 53403, P: (262)553-9223,
  2. Animal Emergency & Treatment Center (AETC), 1810 E. Belvidere Road, Grayslake, IL 60030, P: (847) 548-5300,
Be sure to contact the vet to let them know you are on your way and that you suspect your dog has GDV. You may want to keep a Simethicone based product, such as Gas-X or
Mylanta Gas, in an easy to access place. You can grab this quickly on your way to the vet to administer to your dog. This may reduce the bloating and buy your dog a little time. Talk to your veterinarian about proper dosages. It should be stressed that this is not an alternative to veterinary treatment. GDV is very serious and must be treated by a
veterinarian as soon as possible.

What you can do?

There are some proactive measures aimed at preventing bloat or GDV. These include:

The most important thing you can do in the unfortunate case that your dog should bloat is seek immediate veterinary help. The faster your dog is treated by a veterinarian, the better his chances of survival are.

1) “The Right Tack” by Patty Khuly, VMD, Bark Magazine, Sept/Oct 2009
2) “Bloat (Gastric Dilatation Volvulus) in Dogs” by Holly Nash, DVM, MS, Veterinary Services Dept., Drs. Foster & Smith Inc.,
3) “Minimally Invasive Gastropexy-A Preventative Procedure” by Dr. Daniel A. Degner, Board-certified Veterinary Surgeon (DACVS),