BLOAT can kill a dog in
hours and is extremely painful!
Dedicated to Tyler and all the dogs who
died of bloat.
Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) or bloat is a
serious, life-threatening condition of large breed dogs. Deep chested dogs
such as German Shepherd Dogs are particularly at risk.
Bloating of the stomach is often related to swallowed air (although
food and fluid can also be present). It usually happens when there's an
abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and/or foam in the stomach ("gastric
Stress can be a contributing factor also. Bloat can occur with or
without "volvulus" (twisting). As the stomach swells, it may rotate 90° to
360°, twisting between its fixed attachments at the esophagus (food tube)
and at the duodenum (the upper intestine). The twisting stomach traps air,
food, and water in the stomach. The bloated stomach obstructs veins in the
abdomen, leading to low blood pressure, shock, and damage to internal
organs. The combined effect can quickly kill a dog.
Typical symptoms often include some
(but not necessarily all) of the following, according to the links below. Unfortunately,
from the onset of the first symptoms you
have very little time (sometimes minutes, sometimes hours) to get immediate
medical attention for your dog. Know your dog and
know when it's not acting right.
Bloated dog getting ready for surgery. The stomach doesn't
always fill up like this. Know your dog! Be safe; don't wait!
vomit (usually unsuccessful); may occur every 5-20 minutes
This seems to be one of the most common symptoms & has been referred to
as the "hallmark symptom."
like usual self
Perhaps the earliest warning sign & may be the only sign that almost
anxiety and restlessness One of the earliest warning signs and seems fairly typical
or "roached up" appearance. This seems to occur fairly frequently
abdomen that may feel tight (like a drum) Despite the term "bloat," many times this symptom never
occurs or is not apparent
Pale or off-color gums Dark red in early stages, white or blue
in later stages
Lack of normal gurgling and digestive sounds in the tummy Many
dog owners report this after putting their ear to their dog's tummy
Heavy salivating or drooling
Foamy mucous around the lips, or vomiting
Unproductive attempts to defecate
Licking the air
Seeking a hiding place
Looking at their side or other evidence of abdominal pain or
May refuse to lie down or even sit down
May attempt to eat small stones and twigs
Heavy or rapid panting
Cold mouth membranes
Apparent weakness; unable to stand or has a spread-legged stance
Especially in advanced stage
Accelerated heartbeat Heart rate increases as bloating
Akir after surgery
for bloat that saved his life. He was back to normal very quickly
Because no one understands the cause of bloat, there is no real way to
prevent it. However, there are indications that following a few simple
measures may help.
Above all, remember –
Bloat is an emergency situation in which TIME
is the key to a successful management.
Be Safe: Don't Wait!
- Simethicone (store
brand - Phazyme) should be kept in your cabinet at all times. It is an
anti-gas pill that can help to buy your vet some time should you think
your dog is bloating. It may even stop the bloat if in the beginning
stages. If you wait too long, the dog will not be able to swallow the
pill. Make sure you tell your vet you have given the pills.
- Don't exercise your
dog heavily 1 hour before or 1-2 hours after eating.
- Avoid single large
meals. Instead, feed 2-3 small meals a day
- Don’t let your dog
drink large quantities of water at one time.
Studies have shown significant new findings including the
importance of what you feed your dog and that surprisingly the raised dog
bowls are related to an increase in bloat also. Purdue University did a
study that which indicates that raising your dog's bowl
may actually increase your dog's chance of getting bloat by as much as 100%
Age in years
20% increase in risk for each year increase in age
Chest depth/width ratio
(1.0 to 2.4)
170% increase in risk for each unit increase in chest depth/width
First degree relative with GDV (yes vs. no)
63% increase in risk associated with having a first degree
relative with GDV
Using a raised feed bowl
(yes vs. no)
110% increase in risk associated with using a raised food bowl
Speed of eating (1-10 scale)
[for Large dogs only] 1.15
15% increase in risk for each unit increase in speed of eating
score for large dogs
Table from Purdue University
PERDUE BLOAT STUDY-
Studies are shedding more light on
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV), otherwise known as bloat. It is the
second leading cause of death in large-breed and giant-breed dogs. GDV
strikes suddenly and has a mortality rate as high as 30%.
Research primarily at Purdue University has
identified a number of feeding management and dietary factors that increased
the risk of GDV. Following are some of the Study recommendations:
● Feed two or more meals a day
● Feed no more than one cup per 33
lbs of body weight per meal when feeding two meals
● Feed an energy-dense diet to reduce
volume but avoid a diet where a high amount of calories are from fats
● Feed a variety of different food
types, the inclusion of human foods in a dry dog food diet was associated
with a 59% decreased risk while canned pet foods was associated with a 28%
● When feeding dry food also include
foods with sufficient amounts of meats and meat meals, ie: beef, lamb,
poultry and fish
● Fat should not be listed in the
first four label ingredients, nor should corn
● Citric acid should not be used as a
● Feed a food with larger particles
and include larger pieces of meat to the diet
● Avoid moistening dry foods, but
don’t restrict water intake before and after feeding
● Reduce a rapid speed of eating
(Note from GSRNE: Try using a Brake-fast bowl, spreading the kibble on the
floor or on a cookie sheet, or splitting up the food into muffin tins to
slow the dog's eating)
● Avoid raising the food bowl
● Minimize stressful events
● Restrict vigorous exercise one hour
before and two hours after meals
Learn to recognize signs of GDV. They can
progress rapidly to shock and death. Get to your veterinarian or emergency
hospital the moment you suspect GDV
here to download this information in MicroSoft Word
Journal of the
American Veterinary Medical Association
This information is not intended to replace advice or guidance from
veterinarians or other pet care professionals. It is simply being shared as
an aid to assist you with your own research on this very serious problem.
As a GSD owner, we strongly urge you to become familiar with this threat.
Below is an article by
Laura DiDio, one of our members, documenting her experience with bloat. All
3 of the current Board of Directors (2011) had dogs that bloated. We urge
you to educate yourself with hope that this information may save your dog's
life if needed.
Fast Response, Immediate Medical Attention and Surgery are
Key to Survival
The ability to recognize symptoms, respond quickly and seek
immediate medical attention and surgery are absolutely essential to helping
our German Shepherd Dogs survive Bloat.
Large dogs with big, deep chests are especially prone to this
condition. Veterinarians say that Bloat most often affects older dogs, 7 to
12 years, but dogs of any age can succumb to it. Most doctors will say that
dogs have a 50-50 chance of surviving Bloat if you seek
treatment within an hour.
"Gastric Dilatation Vovulus" (GDV), aka Bloat is potentially
I've heard many stories from GSRNE members discussing their
experiences. It helped me to act fast when my 12 ½ year old Vixen was
stricken on Saturday evening, July 23rd. The onset was sudden.
Vixen and Gunner, my 7 year old male GSD, had eaten their dinner as usual.
8:30 p.m.: I gave Vixen and Gunner
about three ounces each of some finely cut steak - they ate it off the same
plate on my coffee table (so it was elevated) as they had done hundreds of
8:45 p.m.: I let both dogs out in
my fenced in yard.
8:55 p.m.: It's a warm, humid night
and Gunner, who doesn't like the heat, scratches to come in after 10
minutes. Vixen is nowhere to be seen. I call her repeatedly but there's no
response. I get my flashlight and check under my deck. Sure enough Vixen is
on the far end. She looks uncomfortable. I call for her to come. She stays
put. This is very unusual; she's an obedient dog. I raise my voice shouting
for her to come. After a couple of minutes, she comes. I grab her and she
just lies on her side on the lawn. I run into the house, get her collar and
leash and bring her in; she lies down in the corner. There are no obvious
signs of bloat at this point. Her stomach is not distended or tender,
her breathing is not labored, and Vixen is not foaming at the mouth or
trying to vomit. Nonetheless, I'm convinced she's having a Bloat attack
because of how quickly this came on and the fact that she went to hide in a
dark, quiet place. I decide I'm taking her to Tuft's Veterinary Clinic which
is less than six miles away.
9:05 p.m: I get dressed, put Gunner
in the yard and phone my neighbors, John and Chris, to tell them I'm taking
Vixen to Tufts and ask them to let Gunner in once I leave. They rush over
and volunteer to go with me, but I say I'm fine. John gets Vixen into the
9:15 p.m.: There's very little
traffic but I exceed the 30 and 35 mph speed limit along the local streets.
Vixen is quiet in the back.
9:25 p.m.: I arrive at Tufts and
get Vixen out. In the approximately 15 minutes it took me to drive six
miles, Vixen's abdomen is distended. The vets come right out, put her on a
gurney and take X-rays.
9:35 p.m.: The vets confirm the
Bloat diagnosis; Vixen's stomach is twisted. They have already inserted a
stomach tube to relieve the pressure; they have also administered IV fluids
and pain medication. Vixen is responding well, they say. Surgery is needed.
The estimated cost is $3,000 to $4,000. Tufts is a non-profit hospital and
requires 75% payment up front. The vets give Vixen a 50% chance of survival
(Note from GSRNE: this is a common diagnosis from vets since each case is
different. Most dogs that we know that have bloated have survived, though
not all have.)
12:15 a.m.: The head of Tufts ER
calls me to say that Vixen's surgery was successful and she's resting
comfortably in ICU. Because she was in the early stages of Bloat there was
no damage to any of the major organs. There was minor tissue damage to the
spleen, so they removed it. The surgeons also performed a gastroplexy:
sewing Vixen's stomach to the abdominal wall so she won't Bloat again.
9:15 a.m.: I get a call from the
Tufts ICU. Vixen is bleeding internally and her heart rate has dropped.
impair the dog's ability to coagulate blood. They rush Vixen into a second
surgery and remove 1.5 liters of fluid from her abdomen. Miraculously she
survives and is given a blood transfusion and IV fluids. I visit her in the
afternoon and she's groggy but knows I'm there.
Vixen remained at Tufts for four days. She required a second
blood transfusion. Upon her arrival home, she gets plenty of rest. I feed
her four small meals of 4 to 6 ounces of food a day for the first five days.
To overcome her anemia, I feed Vixen a diet high in protein and fiber: beef
liver, beef hearts, chicken, steak, sweet potatoes and brown rice. I take
her on short walks in the backyard.
Vixen recovers rapidly. The sutures are removed 10 days after
surgery and Vixen's healed well. Blood tests confirm that everything is back
Vixen survived Bloat because, thanks to
GSRNE, I was well aware of this condition. If your GSD begins acting
strangely and you suspect Bloat, don't wait! Get to the nearest veterinary
hospital as quickly as you can. Insist on X-rays to confirm Bloat. Surgery is
expensive. Depending on the clinic and the severity of the dog's condition,
and whether or not follow-up surgery and services are needed, you can expect
it to cost from $2,000 to $8,000. Immediate medical attention is a must.
Dogs that survive Bloat surgery have an excellent chance to make a full
There are many potential causes for Bloat. And no matter how
careful we are and how well we care for our GSD companions, the threat of
Bloat is ever-present. Since our GSDs can't talk,
they rely on us to be observant and recognize when something is not right.
In the early stages of bloat there is not much to see: the dog may just look
funny or uncomfortable without presenting any specific symptoms. You know
your dog and its habits best. Trust your instincts. If you think something
is amiss, don't wait for the situation to resolve itself, get to the nearest
veterinary clinic. Not all vet clinics are equipped to perform surgery, so
ask your vet to advise you on the closest Emergency Animal Hospital with
Not all dogs will need surgery. If the stomach does not twist
you may be able to resolve the issue with over-the-counter medication such
as GasX or Maalox Gas based on your vet's recommendation. However,
only an examination by a qualified vet followed by X-rays can absolutely
confirm whether or not the dog's stomach has twisted and whether they will
require surgery. There have been many tragic instances where an
inexperienced owner or vet has given the dog an anti- gas medication only to
have the stomach twist and the dog die hours later.
Finally - and this is a sensitive issue - in these tough
economic times, not everyone will be able to afford to spend several
thousand dollars for lifesaving Bloat surgery. Cost will vary according to
your area and specific circumstances associated with your dog's Bloat
condition. Generally speaking you can expect to pay from $2,000 to as much
as $8,000 (if more than one surgery is necessary or if the dog needs blood
Some owners will face the heart wrenching choice of
euthanizing their beloved companions because they lack the funds. If your
GSD is young and healthy, you may want to consider purchasing pet insurance.
Or, if you don't have pet insurance and are short on funds but can't bear
the thought of euthanizing your dog, talk to your Vet or the people in the
Accounting department of the Veterinary Clinic. Get a
CareCredit credit card for no
While there's no guarantee, many of the larger Veterinary
Clinics and Hospitals in major cities like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New
York City etc. do have special discretionary funds that allow
them to waive a large portion of the bill or forgive the entire bill for
special, extenuating circumstances or extreme hardship cases. This is the
exception rather than the rule, but it doesn't hurt to ask. Be honest and
upfront with your Vet; most will work with you and help if they can.
Adhering to these simple common sense practices listed above will help to
minimize the chances of Bloat.
Below are links to articles on Bloat.
Canine Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat)
Research from Purdue University School of
Dietary Risk Factors for Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat)
in 11 Large and Giant Breeds: A Nested Case-Control Study
Latest findings from Purdue University School
of Veterinary Medicine
Bloat - the life threatening canine emergency
Overall summary emphasizing high-risk factors
Bru used a Thundershirt to keep from licking his stitches after