Bloat in German Shepherds

Bloat in German Shepherds is more common that you think. Bloat is extremely painful, and it can kill your German Shepherd within minutes! Sadly, this health problem is common among big and deep-chested dogs like the Labrador Retriever and the Great Dane. Signs of bloat in dogs need to be dealt with immediately, or death may occur.

What Happens When Your German Shepherd Has Bloat?

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) is the medical term for Bloat. Some also call the condition Twisted Stomach, Gastric Torsion, or Stomach Torsion. GDV consists of two stages: the gastric dilation and the Volvulus. Gastric dilatation is the stage in which the dog’s stomach expands because of gas build up– putting pressure on nearby organs. Volvulus, on the other hand, is the stage in which the dog’s stomach twists. Not all bloats develop to Volvulus.

During the Gastric Dilatation, the expanded stomach pushes the surrounding organs including the diaphragm and the heart. When this happens, the bloated dog may suffer breathing and blood circulation problems. Dilated stomachs can easily twist (Volvulus). During this stage, the stomach may rotate from 90° to 360° – twisting between the fixed attachments at the esophagus and the upper intestine. The twisted stomach then traps the food, air, and water in the stomach. The bloated stomach compromises the blood supply to the body by obstructing the veins in the abdomen. This causes shock, low blood pressure, and internal organ damage – leading to rapid death.

Why are German Shepherds prone to Bloat?

Bloat in German Shepherds is not really rare, and experts think it has something to do with the anatomy of their body – particularly the depth of their chest. While no one can pinpoint the exact cause of bloat yet, researchers from Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University have partnered with scientists from Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, and Nestlé Purina Pet Care to find out more about its genetics. They enlisted about 4,600 purebred dogs to participate in the research.The researchers believe that the risk of dogs to develop GDV depends on his or her size and form.

“The ligaments that hold the dog’s stomach in place may be too loose.” Claire Sharp, a veterinarian at the Foster Hospital for Small Animals, shared.

Sharp also added that high-anxiety dogs are more prone to experience GDV because they tend to gulp in a lot of air when they pant. Some vets think that excessive air in the stomach can increase the chance of stomach twist. Genes, diet, and environmental influences are also believed to contribute to the development of GDV.

Signs of Bloat in German Shepherds

The bloat of Gastric Dilation-Volvulus has different symptoms – some may show and some may not. But if your German Shepherd is showing a couple of signs, it may be a good idea to take him or her to the veterinarian fast.

During the dilation phase of GDV, your German Shepherd may show one or more of these signs:

  • Sudden enlargement of the tummy that looks unusually distended to the sides,
  • Anxiety,
  • Distress,
  • Unsuccessful attempts to vomit,
  • Drooling,
  • Pacing,
  • Hiding,
  • Whining,
  • Sudden aggression when the tummy is touched.

As the Gastric Dilation progresses, Volvulus or the twisting of the stomach may follow. During this stage, your German Shepherd may show the following signs:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath,
  • Rapid heart rate,
  • Pale or purple gums,
  • Weakness,
  • Collapse,
  • Sudden loss of consciousness.

Even with treatment, 25 to 33% of dogs who experiences GDV die. This condition worsens fast that’s why time is a very important matter in dealing with it. As soon as you see signs of the first stage of GDV, it’s important to take your German Shepherd to the veterinarian right away.


Some symptoms of Bloat or GDV can also be symptoms of other diseases. To confirm if your German Shepherd is indeed suffering from Bloat, the veterinarian will need to perform some procedures like taking an x-ray to see if the dilated stomach has twisted. A lactate test may also be done to see if cell death or necrosis has already begun.When cell death is detected, the damage made by the dilation and twisting may be irreparable. However, if the vet determines that the dog still has a chance to survive, he will begin the treatment for Bloat or GDV immediately.

Treatment of Bloat in German Shepherds

Early detection is always the key for cases of Bloat. This means that as soon as you see the signs of stomach dilation in your German Shepherd, you must take him or to the vet immediately. Early detection – especially if caught even before the stomach twist – is often equal to a better prognosis.

Keep your German Shepherd Dog Safe This Halloween

When the veterinarian confirms that your German Shepherd has GDV, he may perform a surgical operation to let the gas trapped in the stomach out. The vet may either insert a feeding tube down the esophagus and stomach or puncture the stomach wall. If Volvulus has begun, the vet will also fix the position of the stomach and set it back to its correct position – a position that will hopefully prevent it from twisting again.

Preventing Bloat in German Shepherds

The truth is there is no sure way to prevent Bloat in dogs. But there are some things you can do to help lessen the chance of Bloat in your German Shepherd. Researchers at the Purdue University conducted a study about the condition from 1998 to 2004. From the study, they were able to come up with suggestions to help prevent Bloat in dogs.

Prevent your German Shepherd from eating too fast

German Shepherds love food, and a lot of them would gulp in food as fast as they can – and here’s why you should stop it. Consuming food too quickly increases the chance of dogs to suffer from Bloat, according to the study.When a dog eats too fast, he gulps in the air as he swallows and this increases the chance of the stomach to dilate or expand.

Feed your German Shepherd on Ground Level

Eating from a high position is an unnatural eating level for dogs. By eating with his head high up, his body allows more air to be swallowed. This can be a problem for your German Shepherd if he is old, arthritic or has megaesophagus, who are recommended to use raised feeders and special high chairs to eat. If you own a German Shepherd who has those problems, talk to your veterinarian to help you weigh down its pros and cons.

Keep an Anti-Gas Medication

Some veterinarians recommend keeping Simethicone in your first aid kit. It is an over-the-counter drug that treats symptoms of gas. With the guidance of your veterinarian, you can give it to your German Shepherd when you see signs of the first stage of GDV. Doing so can buy you more time to take your German Shepherd to a veterinarian before the Volvulus or twisting of the stomach occurs. Do not give this drug to your German Shepherd if you think his or her stomach has already twisted. Once at the vet’s, do not forget to tell your vet you have given the pills.

‘Preventative’ Surgery

Because German Shepherds are one of the breeds at risk of suffering from bloat, veterinarians will sometimes recommend a Gastropexy especially if the skin on the tummy is loose.Sometimes called a “Tummy Tuck”,Gastropexy is a surgical procedure done to stitch the stomach to the abdominal wall – preventing the stomach from twisting. This is only a preventative procedure and is only done on a healthy dog.

Gastropexy is a major surgery and is often done at the same time of the dog’s spay/neuter schedule. Nowadays, amore modern method is used to do the same thing. It’s called Laparoscopic Gastropexy, which is a keyhole surgery.

But let’s be clear, your German Shepherd can still get Bloat even after undergoing a Gastropexy. The procedure only stops the stomach from twisting and the gasses trapped inside the stomach will most likely be burped out or farted out. This means that if your German Shepherd’s stomach gets bloated, the condition will not develop to Volvulus, which is the stage that causes life-threatening symptoms and death. Having a Gastropexy done on your German Shepherd buys you more time to take your GS to the vet – turning the deadly Bloat into a condition with lesser risk.

Remember, having a Gastropexy done on your German Shepherd is not an excuse to pass on a vet visit if your German Shepherd is showing signs of bloat.

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