Gastric Torsion, “Bloat” Information

BLOAT: Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV)

Prevention and Treatment

A prophylactic gastropexy is a preventative surgery to tack the stomach to the body wall. This procedure prevents a bloat / GDV.

There are many injuries and physical disorders that represent life-threatening emergencies. There is only one condition so drastic that it overshadows them all in terms of rapidity of consequences and effort in emergency treatment. This is the gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV)- the bloat.

What is Bloat and Why is it so Serious?

In the bloated stomach, gas and/or food stretches the stomach many times its normal size, causing tremendous abdominal pain. For reasons we still do not fully understand, this grossly distended stomach tends to rotate, thus twisting off not only its own blood supply but the only exit routes for the gas inside. This condition is extremely painful and it is also rapidly life-threatening. A dog with a bloated, twisted stomach (the medical term: gastric dilatation and volvulus or GDV) will die in a matter of hours unless drastic steps are taken.

What are the Risk Factors for Developing Bloat?

Classically, this condition affects dog breeds that are said to be deep chested. Examples of deep chested breeds would be the Great Dane, German Shepherd, Labradors and Golden Retrievers, Greyhound, and the Setter breeds. Still, any dog can bloat, even Dachshunds and Chihuahuas!

Dogs weighing more than 99 pounds have an approximate 20%-30% risk of bloat.

Classically, before bloating the dog had eaten a large meal and exercised heavily shortly thereafter. Still, we usually do not know why a given dog bloats on an individual basis. No specific diet or dietary ingredient has been proven to be associated with bloat. Some factors found to increase and decrease the risk of bloat are listed below.

  • Factors Increasing the Risk of Bloat
  • Feeding only one meal a day
  • Having family members with a history of bloat
  • Eating rapidly
  • Being thin or underweight
  • Feeding from an elevated bowl
  • Restricting water before and after meals
  • Fearful or anxious temperament
  • History of aggression
  • Male dogs are more likely to bloat than females
  • Older dogs (> 7 yrs) were the highest risk group
  • Factors Decreasing the Risk of Bloat:
  • Inclusion of canned dog food in the diet
  • Inclusion of table scraps in the diet
  • Happy or easy-going temperament
  • Feeding a dry food containing a calcium-rich meat meal (such as meat/lamb meal, fish meal, chicken by-product meal, meat meal, or bone meal) listed in the first four ingredients of the ingredient list.
  • Eating two or more meals per day
  • Contrary to popular belief, cereal ingredients such as soy, wheat or corn in the first four ingredients of the ingredient list does not increase the risk of bloat.


All bloated dogs, once stable, should have surgery. Without surgery, the damage done inside cannot be assessed or repaired. Bloat may recur at any point – even within the next few hours – and the patient must be restabilized.
The surgery, called gastropexy, allows the stomach to be tacked into normal position so that it may never again twist.
Without gastropexy, the recurrence rate of bloat may be greater than 75%.

Assessment of the internal damage is also important to recovery. If there is some dying tissue on the stomach wall, this must be discovered and removed or the patient will die despite the heroics. Also, the spleen, which is located adjacent to the stomach, may twist with the stomach. The spleen may need to be removed too.

If the tissue damage is so bad that part of the stomach must be removed, the mortality rate jumps to 28 – 38%.

If the tissue damage is so bad that the spleen must be removed, the mortality rate is 32 – 38%.

Without surgery there is a 24% mortality rate and a 76% chance of re-bloating at some point. The best choice is to take the patient to surgery and have the abdomen explored. If the stomach can be surgically tacked into place (gastropexy), the recurrence rate drops to below 6%.

It is our recommendation if you have a large breed dog to have the stomach tacked during the spay or neuter. It is such an easy, fast procedure and will save your dog's life! Ask us for more details if you have any questions.

Gastric Torsion, “Bloat” Information