German Shepherds and Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) … or “bloat”

Written on July 01, 2013 by Jill Depto, DVM Hospital: IVG MetroWest

The BreedGerman Shepherd Dog

The German Shepherd Dog, originating in Germany in the 1880s, was bred to be a multipurpose working dog.  The German Shepherd has played many roles over the years including, among others: herding sheep, military field work, search and rescue, guide dog and police dog. German Shepherds have been popular in America since the early 1900s and have remained on the American Kennel Club’s most popular list for many years; they have been in the top five for the last ten years. Some well known German Shepherds include Rin Tin Tin, Roy Roger’s Bullet, and Buddy, the nation’s first Seeing Eye Dog.

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) Diagnosis

A common ailment among German Shepherds is bloat, or gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV). This is a life threatening condition where the stomach rotates on its axis, cutting off the passage of food and water, and inhibiting circulation to the stomach and intestines. Bloat generally occurs in large, deep-chested dogs such as Great Danes, German Shepherds, Standard Poodles, Weimaraners, Saint Bernards, and Newfoundlands but has been seen in small dogs on rare occasions.

white germanshep

Patients typically present with non-productive retching, restlessness and abdominal discomfort. The first signs of bloat may include a distended stomach, retching, or dry heaving.  A distended abdomen may not always be noticeable due to the dog’s conformation.  If these symptoms are seen, immediate medical attention must be sought! The cause of the GDV is unknown, it is thought to have multiple contributing factors.

 Factors Suspected to Increase the Risk of Bloat

  • Feeding one meal per day
  • Breed of dog
  • Eating rapidly
  • Feeding a dry diet
  • Sex of dog: Male dogs seem to be at a higher risk
  • Age: Older dogs, between the ages of 7-12 years, seem to be at a higher risk
  • Exercising immediately after a meal

Factors Suspected to Decrease the Risk of Bloat

  • Feeding canned dog food
  • Feeding two or more meals per day
  • No exercise for several hours after a meal


Emergency veterinary medical attention must be sought for treatment of bloat.

Abdominal x-rays are the most reliable way to assess stomach position and diagnose bloat. Stabilization of the patient and diagnostics must be performed immediately. Surgical intervention is a necessary step in the treatment of bloat and should be done as soon as the patient is stable enough to undergo anesthesia and surgery.

During a bloat circulation can be compromised and other abdominal organs, such as the spleen or intestines, may be affected, as a result the spleen may also need to be removed in some cases.  Bloat, requires a multiple day stay in the hospital for post-operative care and recovery. If not treated by a veterinarian immediately, bloat can be fatal. Most dogs who are diagnosed and treated early in the development of bloat recover from surgery and can lead a normal life.

Other Interesting Articles

Bloat – The Mother of all emergencies

GDV – Wikipedia

The German Shepherd Dog – Wikipedia

Get to know the German Shepherd Dog – AKC

Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation

Famous German Shepherd Dogs

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