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German Shepherd Bloat - More than an Upset Stomach

Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV), is an ailment that can often occur in German Shepherds, among several other breeds. What makes German Shepherds prone to this condition? It is their deep chest and large size, which is why GDV bloat can also occur in other dogs with the same characteristics. In addition to that trait, GDV is seen more commonly in males than in females.

This particular condition requires immediate surgery for your dog as soon as you begin to spot any signs and symptoms. Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus is more than just an upset stomach or simple bloat - instead, it is life-threatening and will prove to become fatal if not urgently treated. GDV is characterized by the stomach filling with gas and becoming immensely bloated or swollen, later twisting 180 degrees clockwise, shutting off both the entrance and exit.

If you have a puppy that has diarrhea and is vomiting, rest assure he likely does not have GDV. Read our article here to learn the causes and how to help your puppy with his diarrhea and vomiting.

What Are Some Of The Possible Causes Of Bloat / GDV In German Shepherds?

  • Encouraging your German Shepherd to participate in physical activity after eating or drinking a large amount of water. This disorder is most prone to occur two or three hours after your dog has had a meal and then exercised.

  • Genetics may be a possible cause, as a dog who has had parents, grandparents, or any other relatives with this condition may have acquired it from them genetically.

  • An anxious, stressed, or frantic dog often likes to act hyperactive, fearful, or restless. Calmer dogs are at a much lower risk of ever developing this disorder.

  • Decreased intestinal motion due to certain illnesses, which may subsequently lead to stomach dilation and volvulus.

  • Being a male or an older dog, especially one beyond the age of 7.

Apart From German Shepherds, What Other Breeds Are At Risk?

Besides German Shepherds, other susceptible breeds include the Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Weimaraner, different types of Setters, Standard Poodle, Siberian Husky, Old English Sheepdog, and Doberman. The factors responsible for these breeds being prone to this disorder are their naturally large body size and their deep chests. Nonetheless, bloat can occur in all other dogs, including those of medium or small sizes.

Other Facts About Gastric Dilatation Volvulus

  • Gastric dilatation, which is the regular, non-life-threatening variant of dog bloat, can occur in elderly dogs of any size, including those of either medium or smaller sizes. However, large dogs, especially males and elderly dogs weighing 100 pounds or over, have a 20 percent chance.

  • The stomach full of pressure will push both on the posterior rib cage and the diaphragm, resulting in not only shortness of breath but also immense visible swelling and bloating of the abdomen.

  • Systematic shock results since your dog's blood circulation is severely decreased, preventing blood and oxygen from getting to the vital tissues.

  • Your dog will collapse, and you will notice his swollen abdomen, especially apparent on the left side.

  • There are no symptoms of signs which differentiate Gastric Dilatation Volvulus from typical bloat, known just as Gastric Dilation. This is why vet intervention is necessary after spotting the symptoms of both conditions before things get entirely out of control and turn for the worse.

How Can Gastric Dilatation And Volvulus Be Prevented?

Here are some ways you can help prevent Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus from occurring in your German Shepherd:

  • Feed your German Shepherd two or three meals a day instead of only one large, hefty meal, which can also result in typical bloat.

  • Don't feed your dog when he is acting hyperactive or restless. Always wait until he has calmed down and become more relaxed before giving him his food. This can be achieved by exercising your dog prior to feeding time.

Curious why your dog is running around the house like crazy? He may have a case of the zoomies. Read our article to see the cause of this behavior and whether or not you should be concerned.

  • Never allow running or any form of exercise, in particular one that is vigorous, after a meal, especially a large one. The very same goes for when your dog has drunk a large quantity of water.

  • If your dog is prone to gulping or chowing down his food very quickly, it can make him much more predisposed to bloat. Therefore, if you see your dog finishing his food at an alarmingly fast pace, invest in a slow-feeding bowl that will slow down the rate he eats.

  • Ensure your dog is at a healthy weight appropriate for his breed because being overly skinny could increase the chances of GDV. The weight of a male German Shepherd should range anywhere from 66 to 88 pounds, whereas a female should weigh anywhere from 49 to 71 pounds.

  • Use canned food in your dog's diet from time to time, which allows for easier and more effective digestion.

  • Don't give your dog food that contains a high amount of citric acid, as this can also play a huge factor when it comes to bloat.

  • Avoid elevating your dog's food bowl unless he has joint problems or any other medical condition that requires for it.

  • Feed your dog kibble, which is low in grain (which is often the big culprit behind any kind of bloating in dogs, even regular bloating).

  • Feed your dog kibble, which contains a lot of calcium and little fat.

  • Add water to your pet's food to allow for easier digestion and may prevent him from chowing down the food too fast.

  • If your German Shepherd has experienced gastric dilatation and volvulus, there is a very high chance that it may happen again.

  • One surgical procedure that is highly efficient at preventing this is called Gastropexy, which involves attaching the stomach to the body to avoid its twisting when bloat occurs. Having Gastropexy done in your dog prevents GDV by as much as 75 percent.

Something we at The Good Vibe GSD highly recommend is pet health insurance. It's not as expensive as you may think and it can literally be a life saver in a health crisis such as this. Read our article here to help you chose the best pet health insurance for you.

What Causes Your German Shepherd To Collapse During GDV?

If your German Shepherd is experiencing GDV, his inflated, swollen stomach will press against abdominal veins and thus restrict the blood circulating through his body, preventing both blood and the oxygen in the blood from getting to the vital tissues. Improper circulation to the stomach wall will follow next because of the pressure of gas build-up in the dog's stomach. As a result, systematic shock will occur, impacting even more severely by the toxins now accumulated due to the process of digestion being unable to carry on.

What Does The Procedure To Correct GDV Involve?

First of all, a tube is inserted down the dog's throat, or, if this option isn't possible in the case of a stomach twist (volvulus), then a needle will be placed into your dog's stomach through his skin to be able to get rid of the build-up pressure. Alternatively, a catheter may also be used. This is followed by a shock treatment involving emergency measures such as intravenous fluids and other necessary medication.

Afterward, your dog will go through surgery to untwist the stomach and ensure it is restored to how it was before. In addition, your dog will have his dying or dead stomach tissues removed. At this time, he can have Gastropexy done as well to prevent this dreadful disorder from happening again. Your German Shepherd may also have Pyloroplasty, which will allow the stomach contents to pass on through into the small intestine.

There is a 15 to 20 percent mortality rate when it comes to Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, which can only be higher in the case of heart arrhythmias, severe tissue damage, or removal of the spleen.

Symptoms Of Gastric Dilatation And Volvulus

  • Large, inflated, spread out stomach

  • Dog acts and appears anxious or uneasy

  • Unable to vomit (wretching)

  • Dog won't stop drooling

  • Stretching and pacing

  • Weakness

  • Collapsing, as the symptoms keep progressing

  • Shortness of breath

  • Rapid heart rate


In conclusion, bloat can be a common and extremely dangerous disorder that typically occurs in German Shepherds and any other large, deep-chested dog. It can even take place in medium or small dogs, especially elderly ones.

The causes of this disorder include genetics, anxiety or restlessness, substantial portions of dog food given only once a day, and physical activity after heavy meals.

Despite the severity of this particular disorder, there are a few ways to prevent it from occurring. This includes splitting your dog's daily ration of food into two smaller portions instead of one big one, avoiding physical activity after eating or drinking large amounts of water, and using a slow-feeding bowl for hasty eaters. As well as that, you must look out for very high concentrations of grains, fat, and citric acid in kibble, but opt for premium dog food with plenty of calcium. (See our article here on the highest rated dog food from Amazon for your German Shepherd)

Suppose your German Shepherd does experience any symptoms which appear as though it is Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus. In that case, it is invaluable to seek medical care immediately, or the results can be fatal.

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