Prevent Gastric Torsion or Bloat in German Shepherds

Edited by Mian Sheilette Ong, Anonymous, Lynn, Jmgf and 6 others

...More
Grizzlybabymian bloat1.jpg

Gastric torsion, or GDV (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus), commonly known as bloat, is a very dangerous condition in large breed canines that are already in their mature years. Although it isn't an everyday case for veterinarians, the moment a vet does encounter a patient with this condition, they are desperate to save the dog. Gastric Dilatation is the stretching or enlargement of the gastric or stomach region, while Torsion, or Volvulus, is the twisting of the stomach along a longer axis. Essentially, the dog's stomach flips on itself. The fermented gases and trapped air in the stomach expands the organ. The gas cannot exit the body through the large intestine or through the esophagus. There have been cases when large dogs don't actually have any gastric twisting. The stomach presses on the dog's diaphragm, preventing normal respiration, making the task of releasing the trapped air from the digestive tract extremely difficult.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

If you have a large breed of dog such as a German Shepherd, you should know all about Gastric Torsion or Bloat, be able to recognize when your dog is suffering from it, and most importantly, how to prevent it. You want to do everything you can to help your cherished pet live a longer, healthier life.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Ad

What You Need to Know About Bloat

Grizzlybabymian bloat4.jpg

GDV or bloat is classified as a chronic condition in German Shepherds. Because it is chronic, many vets do not see it as a critical situation, however, weight loss, abdominal pain, chronic vomiting, and inactivity are evident in dogs suffering from this condition. If the dog is not treated, the case becomes severe, and can lead to the stomach rupturing. The dog eventually goes into shock and dies. In the past 30 years, cases of bloat in large breed dogs such as the German Shepherds, have escalated. GDV slowly develops, resulting in chronic indigestion and abnormal positioning of the stomach.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Breed Specificity of Gastric Torsion

Unfortunately, GDV is more common in barrel-chested, large breed, deep-chested dogs, but it can also occur in any breed of dog. The breeds that commonly experience bloat are:

  • Weimaraners
  • Setters
  • Great Danes
  • Borzois
  • Greyhounds
  • Afghan Hounds
  • German Shepherds

Grizzlybabymian bloat3.jpg

Male dogs are just as susceptible to bloat as the females. German Shepherds have a moderate risk of contracting GDV, while Great Danes and Bloodhounds are at a much higher risk. The age or the sex of a German Shepherd does not influence the occurrence of bloat in the breed. It can happen right after a large meal and sadly, there is no test for susceptibility for GDV or bloat.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

What Causes Bloat?

There is more conjecture to the causes of GDV, then actual facts. Vets know it usually occurs in large, deep-chested breeds. Studies show that older dogs and large dogs that do not get enough exercise are prone to bloat. Dogs are also prone to GDV if they are only fed dry dog food, rather than homemade dog food, or moist canned dog food. Bloat is more common in dogs whose siblings or parents had it. Dog food that contains high levels of fat is also connected to this condition.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Grizzlybabymian bloat2.jpg

There are breeders who believe that exercising the dogs right after feeding them is another cause of GDV. Others think it's more to do with eating too much in one meal. This is supported by the theory that dry dog food expands rapidly when the dog drinks a lot of water right after eating. Then, when the dog is exercised after the meal, the stomach flips over or twists. Abnormal contractions along the walls of the stomach are also associated with bloat. Here, the distinctive kink in the stomach opening prevents the dog from expelling the previously swallowed air. Because the dog has abnormal circulation and motility, the stomach becomes very acidic. This condition is called metabolic acidosis. Another possible cause of bloat is the position of the feeding and drinking bowls. Dogs that have elevated bowls are more prone to GDV than dogs that have their feeding and drinking bowls on the floor.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Warning Signs of GDV

The following are warning signs of GDV or bloat in German Shepherds:

  1. 1
    Anxiety.
    Advertisement
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    Disinterest in the usual daily routines.
    Advertisement
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    Restlessness.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  4. 4
    Panting.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  5. 5
    Abnormal fullness.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  6. 6
    Licking of the abdomen.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  7. 7
    Wider stance.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  8. 8
    Salivation.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  9. 9
    Drooling.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  10. 10
    Failure to retch and vomit.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  11. 11
    Abdominal pain.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  12. 12
    Breathlessness or difficulty in breathing.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  13. 13
    Distended or large abdomen.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  14. 14
    Generalized weakness.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  15. 15
    Cautious movement.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  16. 16
    Low body temperature.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  17. 17
    Rapid heartbeat.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  18. 18
    Collapse.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  19. 19
    Pale gums.
    Grizzlybabymian bloat49.jpg
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

These signs usually occur one or two hours after a large meal. It is best to consider GDV as an emergency case. You should take your German Shepherd to your vet immediately. If you've just moved to a new area, you need to think ahead. Find out where there's a 24-hour animal hospital nearby, have the phone number and address readily available. Bloat must be addressed as soon as possible in order for your dog to survive.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

When Your German Shepherd Has GDV

When your German Shepherd has GDV or bloat, the following happens:

  1. 1
    The stomach enlarges and presses against the vital organs that surround it.
    This prevents blood from circulating properly in the stomach area.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    Toxins are released into the bloodstream.
    This is caused by abnormal gastric circulation.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    The problem becomes systemic.
    This is when the entire body of your German Shepherd is affected. The dog's pulse becomes, weak, and rapid. The gums are dry and pale (whitish or blanched), when you press them with your finger. The abdomen becomes drum-like or enlarged.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  4. 4
    Splenic congestion occurs.
    This is when the blood does not exit normally from the spleen. This is due to the enlarged stomach. The spleen appears to be enlarged as well.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  5. 5
    Progression of the problem results in the following:
     
    1. Difficulty breathing.
    2. Weakened function of the heart due to inadequate blood flow.
    3. Hypoxia (low blood oxygenation).
    4. Collapse.
    5. Shock.
    6. Shutdown of other vital organs.
    7. Release of more bacteria and toxins into the bloodstream (peritonitis, sepsis).
    8. Abnormal heartbeat.
    9. Drop in blood pressure.
    10. Abnormal clotting (DIC-disseminated intravascular coagulation).
    11. Death.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

What Vets Do

Diagnosis

If your German Shepherd has bloat, you'll notice the lower left part of the abdomen is enlarged and firm to the touch. The veterinarian often performs the following to test to diagnose your dog's condition

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  1. 1
    Radiograph or X-ray of the distended stomach.
    This allows the vet to see if the stomach has indeed flipped or twisted into an abnormal position, or if it's just enlarged.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    Lab tests.
    Analysis of blood and urine will allow the vet to determine if there's metabolic acidosis, low potassium in the blood (causes abnormal heart rhythm and muscle weakness), or high plasma lactate in the blood. Blood chemistry and complete blood count (CBC) will also be performed. Your German Shepherd's urine will also be analyzed. An ECG will determine if arrhythmia or irregularities in the heart exist.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    Tests for other diseases.
    Your vet will also perform tests to rule out other diseases such as diaphragmatic hernias, intestinal obstructions, intestinal torsions, hemorrhage, tumors, splenic torsions, and Addison's disease (also called Hypoadrenocorticism in dogs).
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Treatment

The veterinarian will perform the following steps to treat a German Shepherd with GDV or bloat:

  1. 1
    Stabilize the circulation.
    This is the first thing the vet does once your dog enters the clinic or hospital. This will allow emergency surgical procedures to be performed. This is done through intravenous fluids.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    IV catheters will be placed into your dog's cephalic veins (forelegs), or jugular veins (neck).
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    Antibiotics will be administered through the IV.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  4. 4
    Corticosteroids will be administered to counter shock.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  5. 5
    Periodic drawing of blood will be done to measure acidity, gas components, and electrolytes.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  6. 6
    Weight and the rate of urine flow will be monitored.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  7. 7
    Oxygen therapy will be administered.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  8. 8
    Gas is removed from the stomach.
    Vets use a tube through the mouth, reaching the stomach. Water is then flushed back and forth to remove food. Simethicone is added to the water to reduce frothing and the formation of air pockets. If the kink in the stomach prevents the tube from passing through, a trochar will be inserted through the side of the dog's abdomen.
    Grizzlybabymian bloat5.jpg
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  9. 9
    Antibiotics will be given in high doses because there is a the possibility your dog's fertility will be compromised when releasing the pressure in your dog's stomach.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  10. 10
    Gastropexy will be performed.
    Once your dog is stabilized, the stomach will be anchored surgically to its normal position. If the case is advanced, the dead stomach tissue will have to be removed. Perhaps, even the dog's spleen may need to be removed.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Prognosis and Post-Op Care

Grizzlybabymian bloat81.jpg

The successful recovery of your German Shepherd depends on how soon the condition is detected and treated. It also depends on how other underlying ailments have aggravated the condition. The survival of your dog depends on the aggressive attempts to stabilize the cardiovascular system before the corrective surgery. If the dog has arrhythmias and irreversible damage to its stomach, the possibility of death is greater.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

After your dog has undergone corrective surgery, the following should be provided during post-op care:

  1. 1
    A stay at the animal hospital.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    Eating will be prohibited for a number of days.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    IV therapy will be the only source of nutrients.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  4. 4
    Monitoring of blood oxygenation, heart rate, blood pressure, and kidney function.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  5. 5
    Administering pain medications and motility medications for the GI tract.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  6. 6
    Once released, provide only a bland diet at home.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  7. 7
    Provide small, frequent feedings throughout the day.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  8. 8
    Check sutures to make sure they are still holding.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  9. 9
    Provide small, frequent drinks of water throughout the day.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  10. 10
    Taking the dog's temperature rectally, to make sure there are no post surgical infections.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

How to Prevent GDV

Below are some suggestions to prevent your German Shepherd from getting bloat:

  1. 1
    Give your dog three small meals throughout the day.
    This is so much healthier than providing one large meal a day.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  2. 2
    Supply fresh water.
    Your dog needs access to fresh water all the time. This will prevent your German Shepherd's stomach from developing air pockets.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  3. 3
    Encourage regular exercise.
    This will stimulate normal gut and stomach activity.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  4. 4
    Train your German Shepherd to eat slowly.
    This can be accomplished by purchasing "slow feeder dog bowls", specifically designed to prevent your dog from eating too fast. There are many benefits to teaching your German Shepherd to eat slowly, which include:  
    1. Nutrients are absorbed more efficiently.
    2. Improved digestion.
    3. The risk of obesity is reduced.
    4. Your dog feels satisfied sooner.
    5. Vomiting will be reduced.
    6. Formation of gas is reduced.
    7. GDV is reduced.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  5. 5
    Incorporate canned food into your German Shepherd's diet.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  6. 6
    Do not elevated your dog's feeding bowls.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  7. 7
    Do not exercise your dog right before or after meals.
    If you have to exercise after a meal, wait an hour before doing so.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  8. 8
    Do not let your dog roll over.
    This increases the possibility of stomach twisting.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

  9. 9
    Reduce stress.
    Some of the following will reduce stress in your dog:  
    1. Do not over-vaccinate at one time.
    2. Provide regular exercise.
    3. Be careful what you feed your dog. Check for chemicals and preservatives.
    4. Show your dog a lot of love.
    Was this step helpful? Yes | No | I need help

    Advertisement

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus is a very serious condition. Preventing your German Shepherd from getting it in the first place, is so much better for your dog than subjecting your beloved pet to the stress and pain of the condition itself, and the treatment for it…not to mention the vet costs you'll incur.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Grizzlybabymian bloat91.jpg

Tips

  • Always be careful what and how you feed your German Shepherd.
  • Take the time to monitor your dog's eating habits.
  • Prevent your dog from eating too fast by regulating feeding times.
  • Condition your dog to relax during eating.
Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Questions and Answers

What do you do for a German Shepherd whose stomach is gurgling?

It depends what is causing the gurgling in your German Shepherd's stomach. Keep an eye on your dog's behavior during these gurgling episodes.

Your pet may have excessive gas in the stomach, so it is important to keep a careful watch, since German Shepherd breeds are prone to bloating. Left undiagnosed and untreated, this can be fatal for your pet.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Pepto Bismol and other gas relievers may be used to treat the gurgling, if the condition is of minor concern. However, if the pet shows further signs of discomfort, or vomiting, seek professional veterinary help to prevent any further complications.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

If their stomach is gurgling but they don't appear to be in pain, they might just be hungry. Also they could be experiencing some gas that is causing the stomach to make noise. Just make sure they have food and water available. Keep and eye on them. If they begin to act weird or appear to be in pain, contact a local vet's office.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

Canine surgery on a German Shepherd for Gastric Torsion.

Is it expensive? Will my dog die without it?

Yes, it is expensive but usually it depends on where the surgery is, the amount of damage and the amount of time spent in the animal hospital. In the USA, it can cost between $4,000.00 - $5,000.00 for the surgery and post-op care. Yes, your dog will die if not treated (with surgery) as soon as possible because gastric torsion is life- threatening.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

German shepherd dog 8 years old with Torsion.

My dog has just undergone surgery for gastric torsion. The Vet said I should only give the dog a small amount of food the day after. I've just given him a little baked fish. Should I not give him anymore? He also has an illness called pancreatic enzyme deficiency.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

VisiHow QnA. This section is not written yet. Want to join in? Click EDIT to write this answer.

Question about twisted intestines.

Can a dog unsupervised overnight get twisted intestine?

VisiHow QnA. This section is not written yet. Want to join in? Click EDIT to write this answer.

How long after exercise can you feed your GSD?

After going for a walk/run, how long should we wait before feeding our dog?

VisiHow QnA. This section is not written yet. Want to join in? Click EDIT to write this answer.

My GS Brier died suddenly, there were no symptoms of bloat?

I feel he was poisoned. He threw up something that looked like bologna (we don't eat or buy). He would've turned 2 years this month 11-26. The picture I have of whatever he threw up really disturbs me. I have tried: My best friend Brier died 9/9/16. I think it was caused by: Honestly I have no idea. Brier was healthy, regular vet visits, energetic..showed no signs of bloat which is what I was told by another vet due to his regular vet being on vacation. There was no autopsy, he was cremated.

Was this helpful? Yes | No | I need help

VisiHow QnA. This section is not written yet. Want to join in? Click EDIT to write this answer.

Comments

VisiHow welcomes all comments. If you do not want to be anonymous, register or log in. It is free.




Babybearmian
Premier Author
88 Articles Started
1,594 Article Edits
23,965 Points
Babybearmian is a premier author with VisiHow. Babybearmian has achieved the level of "Lieutenant" with 23,965 points. Babybearmian has started 88 articles (including this one) and has also made 1,594 article edits. 668,000 people have read Babybearmian's article contributions.
Babybearmian's Message Board
Babybearmian: Hi, my name is Babybearmian.
Babybearmian: Can I help you with your problem about "Prevent Gastric Torsion or Bloat in German Shepherds"?
 

Article Info

Categories : Dogs

Recent edits by: Doug Collins, ChiefKeef, Jen M

Share this Article:

Thanks to all authors for creating a page that has been read 10,209 times.

Do you have a question not answered in this article?
Click here to ask one of the writers of this article
x

Thank Our Volunteer Authors.

Would you like to give back to the community by fixing a spelling mistake? Yes | No