With the holidays upon us, and knowing that most of us will over-eat  during the season, thoughts of being “stuffed” came to mind.  This thought turned to other thoughts which, in turn, made me think about our canine friends and how devastating it can be when they “bloat”.  Thus the topic for this month’s article! 

Bloat’s medical term is “Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV).  You may also hear it referred to as “Torsion”.  Whatever you wish to call it is fine!  Just be aware that it is a very, very serious and most often, life-threatening condition that could strike your beloved golden retriever with no warning!

Studies over the years have shown that it does affect mainly large, deep-chested breeds.  Typical breeds affected are the Great Dane, German Shepard, St. Bernard, Akita , Irish Wolfhound and Irish Setter.  While our beloved golden retriever isn’t “high” on the list, I have heard and read many golden retriever “bloat” horror stories over the years.  Some have happy “all is well” endings; however, many did not! So, what do we watch for?

Statistics show that most dogs that “bloat” are typically fed once a day.  Other key factors that come into play are:

·        The dog’s age (over 6 years)

·        Dogs that bolt their food

·        Gulping too much air (while eating)

·        Drinking copious amounts of water immediately after eating

·        Vigorous exercise immediately before or after eating a full meal

Unfortunately, not all cases of bloat follow the typical case study so this complicates issues!  However, knowing the “common symptoms” is key to saving your dog’s life!  You must take quick action and get your canine friend to the hospital immediately! 

Symptoms “may” include:

·        Distention of the abdomen

·        Excessive panting and/or salivating

·        Attempting to vomit (retching)

·        Restlessness

·        Weakness

·        Depression

·        Rapid heart rate

·        Pale membranes

Another interesting tidbit on bloat comes from a study conducted by Dr. Lawrence Glickman at Purdue University .  This study showed that dogs considered nervous and fearful by their owners were at higher risk than the easy going and happy ones!  This is explained in more detail at:  I found the theory interesting!

Now that we know what to look for as to symptoms, let me explain what “bloat” is and what it does to the dog!  In short, the stomach twists (torsion or volvulus are the medical terms to describe this twisting of the stomach).  Most everyone uses the medical terms to define the “twisting” whether it occurs on the longitudinal axis (torsion) or the mesenteric axis (volvulus).  Wherever the “twist” occurs, it has no bearing on prognosis or treatment. 

When bloat/torsion occurs, the esophagus is closed off.  This closing off of the esophagus inhibits and limits the dog's ability to relieve the distention.  He cannot vomit or belch. The spleen is often entrapped, and its blood supply is cut off.

A debilitating chain of events begins.  Blood cannot return to the heart as fast as it needs to which thereby decreases cardiac output.  Cardiac arrhythmias may follow.  Toxins build up, as the stomach lining dies.  All major organs start to be compromised.  Low blood pressure puts the dog into shock and endotoxins rapidly develop.  In some cases, the stomach ruptures and this leads to peritonitis.

Initial diagnosis may include x-rays, an ECG, and blood tests.  However, because of the dire situation, treatment will most likely be started well before the test results are back!

In some cases, this medical therapy is sufficient. However, in many cases, surgery is required to save the dog. Once the dog's condition is stabilized, surgery to correct the stomach twist, remove any unhealthy tissue, and anchor the stomach in place is performed.  Recovery is prolonged, sometimes requiring hospital stays of a week or more. Post-operative care depends on the severity of the disease and the treatment methods.  All of this, coupled with the pathological changes in the dog's body, makes treatment complicated, expensive, and not always successful.

Bloat/torsion/GDV is a life or death emergency!! If you even just “think” your dog may be bloating, CALL YOUR VET IMMEDIATELY and get moving!!  DO NOT DELAY!! 

As always, the above information is based on my personal research.  Please consult your vet.  Medical reference:

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