Back to Client Info Index

Gastric Dilation/Volvulus (bloat, gastric torsion)

General Information

Gastric dilation/volvulus is a life-threatening disease characterized by a tremendous ballooning (dilation) of the stomach with gas and frothy material. Dilation may be followed by twisting of the stomach (volvulus) that closes both the inlet and outlet of the stomach. As swelling continues, shock develops as the swollen stomach blocks return of blood from the abdomen to the heart. Widespread tissue damage and kidney failure develop and death from respiratory and cardiac arrest soon follow.

Bloat: Gastric Dilation and Volvulus Syndrome (GDV) in Dogs

Understanding Your Pet's Medical Diagnosis


What is gastric dilatation and volvulus syndrome?

Gastric dilatation and volvulus syndrome (GDV) is a condition in dogs in which the stomach greatly enlarges and then twists on itself. It commonly is referred to as "bloat." Breeds most commonly affected are German shepherd dogs, Great Danes, Saint Bernards, rottweilers, Labrador retrievers, Alaskan malamutes, and other large, deep-chested breeds. Dachshunds and Pekingese are affected occasionally.

What causes gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) syndrome?

Although the actual cause of gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) syndrome has yet to be determined fully, many theories have been proposed. A few of the theories include:

Whatever the cause, the stomach first enlarges with gas, liquid, or both. This enlargement is known as "gastric dilatation." The stomach then swings like a pendulum, eventually swinging or twisting all the way over on itself, causing obstructions at both ends of the distended stomach. These obstructions prevent the dog from vomiting or expelling the gas and liquid into the intestine for eventual delivery to the outside. The twisting of the stomach is known as "volvulus." The stomach continues to enlarge, leading to rapid and severe compromise of blood flow and breathing.

What are signs of gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) syndrome?

The signs of gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) syndrome vary, depending on the extent of changes in the stomach. Some animals may be identified with gastric dilatation only. In these cases, the stomach has a large volume of gas, fluid, or both, but the stomach has not twisted on itself. Other animals will be presented soon after the stomach twists. Some animals will be presented in shock and with heart problems due to the effects of the abnormal stomach and the compromised blood flow and breathing.

Signs of gastric dilatation and volvulus may include:

Gastric dilatation and volvulus syndrome is a medical emergency. Pets require immediate medical treatment with special attention to establishing improved function of the heart and lungs. The gas and fluid must be removed from the stomach (that is, the stomach must be decompressed).

How is gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) syndrome diagnosed?

Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) syndrome is diagnosed by a good medical history and a physical examination. Occasionally, radiographs (X-rays) of the abdomen are required. Other diagnostic tests such as blood work and electrocardiography (ECG or EKG, an electrical analysis of the heart) will help in the medical management of the pet.

How is gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) syndrome treated?


Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) syndrome is a life-threatening emergency, requiring immediate and intensive medical intervention. Fluids will be administered intravenously (through the vein) to improve the compromised blood flow and to treat shock. Steroids and antibiotics may be administered. Relief of dangerous bloat (stomach distension) usually follows the initiation of fluid therapy. Passage of a tube into the stomach generally is effective. Use of a large-bore needle to puncture the stomach through the abdominal wall is necessary in some cases. Surgical exploration of the abdomen, release of excess gas and liquid in the stomach, and return of the stomach to its normal position are the definitive treatments for GDV. Permanently anchoring the stomach to the body wall (gastropexy) is performed to prevent recurrence. Some patients require removal of the spleen or part of the stomach during the surgery.

Exercise is restricted and a special feeding plan is developed immediately after surgery. Prevention of GDV or its recurrence requires avoidance of over eating (over ingestion) of food or fluids, feeding multiple smaller meals spread throughout the day, and avoidance of exercise around feeding time.

What is the prognosis for animals with gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) syndrome?

The prognosis (outcome) for animals with gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) syndrome varies. The prognosis depends on findings at surgery. Damage to stomach tissue and injury to the spleen complicates GDV. Animals may develop complications, such as stomach ulcers. Patients recovering well through the seventh day after surgery generally recover completely. Without gastropexy, up to 80% of the cases will have recurrences.

Important Points in Treatment

1. Prompt treatment is essential to successful treatment. Irreversible damage can occur in a surprisingly short period. For this reason, many affected dogs die before treatment can be given.

2. Surgery is necessary in all cases of gastric volvulus. Unfortunately, recurrences are common in some pets. Owners of recovered pets must be especially alert for the early signs of recurrence.

3. Give all medication as directed. Call the doctor if you cannot give the medication.

4. Diet: A proper diet and feeding practices are extremely important during recovery. Feed your pet as follows:


5. Activity: Do not allow any vigorous activity for _____ hours after feeding.

6. Surgical patients:

Check the incision at least once daily. Report any abnormalities to the doctor.

Limit your pet's activity to short on-leash walks until the sutures have been removed.

Your pet will be evaluated for suture removal in _____ days.

Additional instructions:


Notify the Doctor if Any of the Following Occur:

* Your dog seems restless or unable to get comfortable.

* Your dog makes repeated unsuccessful attempts to gag, belch or vomit.

* Your dog's abdomen becomes enlarged or unusually firm.

The majority of the information in this page is has been taken from VetMedCenter.com. For further information about this useful source of informtion follow the link or look, on the internet, at www.vetmedcenter.com.