The Dangers of GDV

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by Meagan Karnes on May 16, 2011

Last night, we lost one of our canine friends. Barbie came to us from Labrador Rescuers, a group that saved her from an unknown fate. When they broke her out of doggy jail, they realized she suffered from a bad case of separation anxiety so they called The Collared Scholar for help. Barbie joined us for some rehabilitation and confidence boosting.

Last night, Barbie started displaying some abnormal behaviors that led us to believe she was suffering from a condition called Bloat. We rushed her to the emergency clinic where the grim diagnosis was confirmed. Bloat is a condition where the stomach fills with gas and becomes incredibly painful. In some cases, the stomach can torsion, in essence flipping over and cutting off blood supply to vital organs. Bloat and Gastrointestinal Torsion primarily affects deep chested dogs. Predominant breeds are Rottweilers, Great Danes, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Labs, Basset Hounds and Pit Bulls among others.

We have had experience with the disease in the past as our Great Dane suffered a bad case of bloat and torsion several years back. When the stomach torsions, surgery is typically the only option. Our dane was saved by the surgeons at the Animal ER in La Mesa, CA. Very sadly, Barbie was not able to be saved.

What You Need to Know About GDV

The technical name for Bloat is “Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus” (“GDV”). When bloat happens, you must seek veterinarian care immediately as it can be fatal and can progress to life threatening in less than an hour. Time is of the essence when dealing with the condition. In dealing with the condition twice now, I’ve noticed the same symptoms pop up consistently.

  • Bloated, Hard Abdomen
  • Excessive Salivation
  • Dog finds it uncomfortable to lay down. If they do lay down, will arch their back and assume the “Sphinx” position
  • Several unproductive attempts at vomitting – wretching, gagging

Other symptoms have also been noted including coughing, whining, pacing, licking the air, drinking excessively and shallow breathing.  


There are articles abound regarding prevention of bloat in dogs. The most common tips at prevention are:

  • Feed several small meals
  • Wet the food with water prior to feeding
  • Restrict exercise before and after feeding

I can also tell you from experience that in both cases of bloat, we did everything right – followed the prevention guidelines to the letter. In Barbie’s case, the vet suspects the condition was triggered by the stress of a change in environment coupled with a change in diet. This a great reason to provide your pet’s food if you plan to put them in boarding. In Kira, my great dane’s case, the vet had no idea what may have triggered the condition.

After my experiences, my thought on bloat is this – no one really understands why it happens. I believe there to be a genetic component to the disease. Sure, there are the dogs who break into a bag of treats and devour the entire thing, leaving a food bolus that torsions the stomach. But in many cases, owners are prepared and follow the rules and GDV still rears its ugly head.

Words of Wisdom on GDV

From experience, my words of wisdom regarding GDV are this:

  • Know the symptoms and if you suspect GDV, seek veterinary care IMMEDIATELY
  • Know the closest emergency vet hospital and keep the number on hand
  • Follow the prevention guidelines but understand they are not fool proof

Bloat, or GDV is a very serious, life threatening condition that claims the lives of more of our canine friends each year than most other ailments, second only to cancer. Being educated and keeping your cool in an emergency can be the difference between life and death in your canine companion.

For Barbie…

Rest in Peace Barbie. Although you only graced our lives for a short while, your presence was unforgettable. Shine your light at the Rainbow Bridge and send our love to all of those four legged family members who crossed far too soon. We miss you. Know you were loved.

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1 Jana Rade May 16, 2011 at 1:12 pm

So sorry about Barbie 🙁 Bloat hits fast and hard. One of my friends/clients lost their dog to it too.
Jana Rade´s last blog post ..Talking to Your Vet- How Safe Are NSAIDs

2 Karen Wagner May 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Very sad. I have not experienced bloat in a dog, but it happens in horses as well, and that I have experienced first hand. Thank you for the information and also, a big thank you and hugs to you for all that you do for the rescue pups Meagan.

3 Tim Woodbury May 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm

Oh no! So, so sorry to hear about Barbie! :'( It’s sad and a bit scary, but we can’t protect them from everything. You did all the right things. Poor, cute dog.

4 Rhonda Z May 18, 2011 at 10:44 am

good info article, however does not mention (that I saw) elective gastropexy or “tummy tacking”. I had this procedure performed on both of my akitas and I believe it is a worthwhile investment in their health.-R

5 Rhonda Z May 18, 2011 at 10:46 am

Let me clarify, bloat can still happen with a tacked tummy, but it won’t twist.

6 Meagan Karnes May 18, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Thanks Rhonda for the information. A preventative gastroprexy surgery is an option for bloat. My great dane had the gastroprexy following her original bloat and it does in fact lessen the chances of torsion moving forward. Many vets opt for a gastroprexy at the time of spay/neuter. It is a preventative surgery that will lessen the chance of torsion.

7 Shawn Finch, DVM May 21, 2011 at 4:52 am

I am so sorry to hear about Barbie!

Thank you for getting the word out about this awful disease.
Shawn Finch, DVM´s last blog post ..Good Dogs!

8 Dale May 21, 2011 at 12:23 pm

Meagan I’m sorry to hear about the loss of Barbie. May you be comforted in your loss.
Hopefully some good can come out of this as you spread the word and educate other dog owners about bloat and other conditions that are fatal to our precious pets.

God Bless
Dale´s last blog post ..Complete DIY Dog Training Package Review

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