Symptoms of GDV in Dogs (Canine Gastric Dilatation)

GDV, or Canine Gastric Dilatation, occurs when a dog's stomach twists. Gastric dilatation-volvulus is a life threatening condition that requires urgent medical care to prevent death. Even with treatment, three out of ten dogs succumb to the condition. Learn more about this deadly condition and its symptoms.

What Causes GDV

Canine gastric dilatationoccurs when air within the stomach following a meal is trapped. If humans have air in their stomach, they'll burp. Some dogs do not perform this act and the air becomes trapped. Air pressure in the bloated stomach pushes against other organs and veins creating a problem with blood and oxygen reaching other organs.

The air-filled stomach is also likely to twist. This interrupts blood flow into the stomach and the tissue of the stomach begins to die. Once this happens, a dog may only have a few hours to live. Immediate medical attention is needed.

Symptoms of Canine Gastric Dilatation

A swollen abdomen is the most common sign of GDV. Most dogs become nauseous and may try to vomit without any success. As the symptoms progress, breathing troubles occur and the dog may seem uncomfortable. As the abdomen becomes painful, the dog may pace and shift frequently trying to find a comfortable position when laying down.

Eventually, a dog's tongue and lips become pale. Heart rhythms change, usually the pulse increases, but heart beats are softer. Without treatment, the dog will go into shock and die.

If you catch your dog retching repeatedly shortly after a meal, do not waste time. Take the dog to your veterinarian immediately. The faster treatment is given, the higher the chances of your dog's survival.

Risk Factors for Canine Gastric Dilatation

Bloat is most common in deep chested dogs. The following ten breeds have the highest risk:

  • Basset Hound

  • Doberman Pinscher

  • German Short-haired Pointer

  • Gordon Setter

  • Irish Setter

  • Poodle (Standard have the highest risk, but Miniatures are also at risk)

  • Saint Bernard

  • Sheepdog (English)

  • Weimaraner

It's important to know that older dogs have a higher risk than puppies and young dogs. The risk doubles for dogs older than seven. Male dogs develop the condition more than females.

GDV occurs when a dog wolfs its meal. Feeding three or four smaller meals during the day reduces the risk. Making sure the dog is calm when eating is also helpful. Don't let other pets or children hang out near the dog while he eats to prevent him rushing through his meal.

Prevention Tips for GDV

After a meal, keep your dog from becoming active. Feed a dog following high activity and then arrange for quiet time following the meal. Try to get your dog into a habit of exercising, eating a meal and then taking a nap.

Avoid large meals. Dogs prone to GDV should be fed a minimum of twice a day. Arranging to have your dog eat three meals at the same time your family eats is optimal.

While water is important, if a dog eats and guzzles water air intake is likely. Remove the dog's water dish during a meal. If you see your dog wolfing his food, remove it and try hand-feeding the dog a few pieces at a time to get him to slow down.