Overview of GDV or Bloat

Gastric dilatation and volvulus syndrome (GDV), known as bloat, occurs in dogs when the stomach dilates and twists into an abnormal position, causing nonproductive retching, a bloated abdomen, and other symptoms.

GDV is a serious, life-threatening condition that requires emergency treatment. Without prompt medical attention, dogs with bloat can die very quickly; about 30 percent of dogs that suffer bloat die from it.

Gastric Dilatation

When the stomach dilates and maintains its normal position, the condition is known as gastric dilatation. Gastric dilatation can occur in any dog, and is quite common among young puppies that overeat.

Dogs are usually able to relieve the built-up pressure in their stomachs by vomiting or by belching. When belching and vomiting don't provide relief, emergency treatment similar to that for GDV may be necessary. It may be difficult to determine whether a dog is experiencing simple dilatation, or dilatation and volvulus until x-rays of the stomach are taken. Pet owners should be cautious if their dog experiences bouts of gastric dilatation.


In gastric dilatation and volvulus, the stomach rolls, or twists, closing off the openings leading in from the esophagus and out to the intestines. This prevents the dog from vomiting or belching (one of the most common symptoms of GDV is nonproductive retching). Sometimes the word torsion is used to describe the twisting. Torsion prevents outflow from the stomach by closing off the pylorus, the opening from the stomach to the duodenum.

If the stomach twists enough, the spleen and major blood vessels in the area twist as well. Twisted blood vessels cause a loss of blood flow (ischemia) to the stomach and other abdominal organs which can cause considerable tissue damage. When blood flow returns, the damaged cellular material from the traumatized tissues is released into the blood and can be harmful to other organs.

When the blood supply in the abdomen's major arteries is cut off, blood flow to the heart and cardiac output decrease, leading to low blood pressure, and eventually, shock. Shock occurs when organs do not get enough blood, and it is usually severe.

In some cases, the stomach ruptures from the buildup of pressure and leads to life-threatening peritonitis (inflammation of the peritoneum, the membrane that lines the abdominal cavity).

Risk Factors for Bloat

Bloat can occur in any dog, but it's more common in large, deep-chested breeds such as:

  • Akita
  • Great Dane
  • Bouvier
  • Irish Setter
  • Boxer
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • St. Bernard
  • English Sheepdog
  • Standard Poodle
  • German Shepherd
  • Wolfhound
  • Golden Retriever

Dietary risk factors include the following:

  • Drinking large amounts of water immediately after eating
  • Eating a single, large meal daily
  • Eating from a raised feeding bowl (In one study, about half of the dogs with GDV had a history of eating from a raised feeding bowl.)
  • Exercising vigorously on a full stomach
  • Gulping down food very quickly

GDV has been associated with increasing age and having a first-degree relative with a history of GDV.

Smaller dogs that have a higher incidence of bloat than the general dog population include dachshunds and Pekingese.

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 01 Mar 2001

Last Modified: 05 Jan 2015