Canine GDV (Bloat)

Bloat or Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (GDV) is a life threatening condition in dogs (mainly large breed dogs). It occurs when the stomach fills with air and gas and it rotates and twists to cut off the entrance and the exit to the stomach. This causes gas and pressure to build within the stomach and can result in death within hours. Even when care is sought immediately, mortality rates and complications can be high. Signs of bloat include retching with the inability to produce any vomit. Salivating is common, but the hallmark is distention of the abdomen like a tight drum.

Risk Factors

The breed with the highest risk for bloat is the Great Dane. In fact, one study showed that the Great Dane has a 40% chance of developing Bloat within their lifetime. Other breeds that are at higher risk are typically large or deep chested dogs. Other factors that increase their risk include:

  • Weight over 100#
  • Feeding daily meals instead of twice a day meals
  • Gulping and rapid eating
  • Family history of bloat
  • Nervous personality or stressful situations
  • Older animals
  • Feeding in elevated bowels (once thought to prevent bloat, but studies have shown it to actually increases the risk of bloat)
  • Diet : if animal fat is listed as one of the 1st four ingredients in the food
  • Feeding a dry dog food exclusively


Treatment involves an emergency surgery to de-rotate the stomach to relieve the pressure and distention. The stomach, once de-rotated, is permanently tacked or sutured to the abdomen wall to prevent the ability of the stomach to move or rotate in the future. Mortality rates and complications can range from 10-100% depending on severity and length of time between occurrence and relieving the pressure. Complications include death of portions of the stomach and spleen requiring removal of these portions, infection, heart arrhythmias, and toxicity (related to bacterial toxins released when the stomach is de-rotated). Costs can easily be several thousand dollars.


Prevention is the best way to treat this disease. Traditionally this has been done at the time of spaying and neutering and an incision is made in the abdomen approximately 8-12 inches long, to gain access to the stomach. It is then preventively tacked to the abdomen wall. This is called a preventative gastropexy and is very successful in preventing bloat. Recently, laparoscopes have been introduced and used as a way to perform these gastropexies in a much less invasive or painful manner. Laparoscopy, as is done in people, involves making an incision about 1/2 inch long to insert a camera into the abdomen. Once inserted, visualization is superior to the traditional “pexy” and the stomach is isolated and pulled to the surface of the abdomen wall where it is tacked in place. When all is done, the incision is about 1-1/2 inches long (it needs to be extended during the tacking procedure), just below the ribs, and just to the right of the mid-line of the abdomen. Pain is markedly reduced and recovery is rapid. Oftentimes, we will perform this procedure on “at risk” breeds when they are 6 months old and being spayed or neutered. However, the procedure can definitely be done on adults as well.

For more information on Laparoscopic Gastropexy, please contact Dr. Bill Neumann or Dr. Dave Lee at 317.257.5334. They will be happy to answer your questions and offer guidance in taking preventative measures for your “at-risk” dog.

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