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Gastric Dilatation (GD) or “Bloat” is a condition in dogs where the stomach becomes dilated and distended due to the accumulation of gas or fluid. The abdomen is generally distended and uncomfortable, but the condition is easily treated by emptying the stomach. This is a much less serious condition than the main topic here, Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), in which the stomach fills with gas or fluid then flips on itself, trapping the gas and/or fluid inside.
GDV happens most commonly in large and giant breed dogs especially Great Danes, Weimaraners, and German Shepherds. Deep-chested and underweight dogs are also at risk. Symptoms include a distended abdomen, abdominal pain, restlessness, excessive drooling, and most classically, unsuccessful attempts to vomit or belch. As the condition progresses, the pressure in the stomach continues to build, causing weakness, shortness of breath, and eventually shock (pale gums, low body temperature, collapse).
The only treatment once the stomach has flipped is to surgically “unflip” the stomach and then suture it to the body wall to prevent future flipping (a procedure called Gastropexy).
As horrible and frightening as GDV can be, there are several things that dog owners can do to reduce the risk of this happening to their dog:
If you get a high-risk breed as a puppy, have your veterinarian perform a gastropexy at the time of spay/neuter.
Use a slow-feeder bowl to slow down your dogs’ eating so that they swallow less air (especially if your dog tends to inhale their food).
While some recommend using a raised food bowl to give the dog better access to food, it is best to feed on the floor in order to reduce swallowed air.
Do not allow exercise for 30 minutes before or after a meal.
If you suspect your dog has bloat take them into your veterinarian right away!