Maybe you’ve heard of the dreaded phenomenon of “bloat” in dogs. But what is it? Which dogs are at risk? What are the signs? And, most importantly, how can this nastiness be avoided?

WHAT IS BLOAT?

“Bloat” is a common term for gastric dilatation and volvulus, or GDV. When this happens, the dog’s stomach expands like crazy and then rotates on itself. This rotation (aka “torsion” or “volvulus” if ya want the $2 words) is super dangerous to a dog’s health because it compresses some really important blood vessels and blocks the stomach’s entry and exit.

Now, it is possible for the stomach to only expand and NOT flip on itself. In this case, it’s only dilation, hold the volvulus. And although this is uncomfortable as all get out, it is not fatal.

WHO GETS IT?

Deep-chested dogs are most susceptible. Some of these breeds include Great Danes, German shepherds, Doberman pinschers, Basset hounds, Weimaraners, Standard poodles, and setters, to name a few. But to be clear: ANY BREED can get GDV.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR

  • Distended belly
  • “Prayer position,” or stretching the front legs
  • Whining
  • Pacing
  • Drooling
  • Pale gums
  • Collapse

HOW TO AVOID IT

We don’t know for sure what causes some dogs to get GDV while others don’t. But there are some things that seem to make some dogs more prone than others:

  • Eating one meal per day
  • Eating very quickly
  • Being nervous, anxious, or aggressive
  • Having a close relative that is a victim of GDV
  • Drinking a large amount of water immediately after eating
  • Exercising immediately after eating

WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Although there are stages to GDV, and some are more dangerous than others, a good rule of thumb is this: if your dog has a distended belly, get thee to a vet. Immediately. With any luck, the x-rays will show nothing more than a big ol’ stomach and a bunch of food (like my genius dog–see why he now has a slow-feeder bowl here). But if emergency surgery is needed, time is of the essence.