Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat): RIP Barbie

Veterinary Partner calls bloat the Mother of all Emergencies.

According to some sources, bloat is the number two dog killer, right after cancer!

Gastric dilatation is a distention of the stomach from an accumulation of gas and fluid. Gastric dilatation can be further complicated by volvulus, in which the distended stomach rotates on itself (gastric torsion), cutting off its blood supply. The gas and fluid become trapped in the closed-off stomach.

Having Rottweilers, bloat is always in the back of my mind, and I try to take all possible precautions to prevent it from happening to our guys.

If there are any monsters in a closet, bloat is certainly one of them!

My friend and fellow blogger of Dog Training San Diego agreed to share Barbie's story with us.

The Dangers of GDV
by Meagan Karnes

The other night, we lost one of our canine friends. Barbie came to us from Labrador Rescuers, a group that saved her from an unknown fate.

When they broke her out of doggy jail, they realized she suffered from a bad case of separation anxiety so they called The Collared Scholar for help. Barbie joined us for some rehabilitation and confidence boosting.

The other night, Barbie started displaying some abnormal behaviors that led us to believe she was suffering from a condition called bloat.

We rushed her to the emergency clinic where the grim diagnosis was confirmed.

Bloat is a condition where the stomach fills with gas and becomes incredibly painful. In some cases, the stomach can torsion, in essence flipping over.

Bloat and Gastrointestinal Torsion primarily affects deep-chested dogs. Predominant breeds are Rottweilers, Great Danes, German Shepherds, Dobermans, Labs, Basset Hounds and Pit Bulls among others.

We have had experience with the disease in the past as our Great Dane suffered a bad case of bloat and torsion several years back. 

When the stomach torsions, surgery is typically the only option. Our Dane was saved by the surgeons at the Animal ER in La Mesa, CA.

Very sadly, Barbie couldn't have been saved.

When bloat happens, you must seek veterinarian care immediately as it can be fatal and can progress to life-threatening in less than an hour!

Time is of the essence when dealing with bloat!

In dealing with the condition twice now, I’ve noticed the same symptoms pop up consistently.
  • Bloated, Hard Abdomen
  • Excessive Salivation
  • Dog finds it uncomfortable to lay down. If they do lay down, will arch their back and assume the “Sphinx” position
  • Several unproductive attempts at vomiting – wretching, gagging
Other symptoms have also been noted including coughing, whining, pacing, licking the air, drinking excessively and shallow breathing.

There are articles abound regarding prevention of bloat in dogs. 

The most common tips at prevention are:
  • Feed several small meals
  • Limit water intake immediately after feeding
  • Restrict exercise, excitement, and stress before and after feeding
I can also tell you from experience that in both cases of bloat, we did everything right – followed the prevention guidelines to the letter.

In Barbie’s case, the vet suspects the condition was triggered by the stress of a change in environment coupled with a change in diet. 

This a great reason to provide your pet’s food if you plan to put them in boarding. In Kira, my Great Dane’s case, the vet had no idea what may have triggered the condition.

After my experiences, my thought on bloat is this – no one really understands why it happens. 

I believe there to be a genetic component to the disease. Sure, there are the dogs who break into a bag of treats and devour the entire thing, leaving a food bolus that torsions the stomach. But in many cases, owners are prepared and follow the rules and GDV still rears its ugly head.

Related articles:
Know Your Dog's Enemies: Bloat


  1. Wonderful article.
    Bloat I would have to say is my worst fear in the Newfs. It is always in the back of mind that it can happen. I have a bloat chart on my fridge so if I am not home, or even if I am other members of the family will know what to look for.
    It is heartbreaking to read about any dog who suffers from bloat.

  2. Hi Jen, yes, it is a horrible thing to have happen to one's dog. What is most frustrating is that there doesn't seem to be a consensus on the causes and therefore prevention.

  3. I agree. I have been reading for years on how some suggest to feed in elevated food bowls while some say do not, the list goes on and on.There is no clear cut prevention.

  4. I thought that Jersey had bloat a few years back, so I rushed her to the only emergency vet in Brampton. $800 later the vet said that she *might* have had heat stroke. While I didn't regret bringing her to the vet to get her checked out, I do regret bringing Jersey to that paticular vet. It turned out that clinic has a reputation for being rip-off artists :(

  5. Hi Karen, I'm glad that Jersey was fine whatever it might have been.

    I have to second your experience with an emergency vet though, our experience wasn't any different - lame diagnosis worth of $850. It was lucky that we had the option to take Jasmine to the teaching hospital. Otherwise she wouldn't have been around today.

  6. Hopefully this wont happen to my cute Labrador.. its a sad thing to happen to a precious dog.

  7. Just came back from the emergency room and Vet sent us home :( It took 40min to get there so I hope I don't have to go back. My dachshund is still acting super strange. Tutting instantly, tummy a little tight, not comfortable on my lap, & won't sit/lay still. I hope nothing happens tonight :( I'll look in her crate tomorrow morning....

    Signed, Praying Puppy Parent

    1. Did the vet tell you what's going on? Did they give any treatment?

    2. Vet gave him Buprenorphine and ordered blood work that was labeled "Geriatric". Re: injection, he basically guilt-tripped me into getting it. Re: the blood work, I told him he's had blood work for pancreatitis, etc but I feel like all he read on the file was 10yrs old.

      So anyway, I did drive back at 6am (yup rush-hr) after my sweets threwup a couple times and his mouth was completely frothy. My hubz & I suspect it was a reaction from the injection but he wasn't even swallowing much or opening his mouth for that matter. And he looked like he hadn't slept a wink; ironically the Vet said it would help him sleep. He was so shaky and wouldn't walk, just kept tutting, even to go for a pee.

      In the end, after the second visit, Vet told me he'd put a rush on the bloodwork and did I want to give him a shot for the nausea.... haha this time I stayed strong and said NO! So he recommended milk....

      So I'm home again, and waiting to hear from my own Vet (who is amazing) about that bloodwork. Thanx for asking! ♡


    3. Buprenorphine is for pain. I wouldn't assume that injection would make him vomit. The anti-nausea shot might have been a good one, possibly.

      Pancreatitis is possible. Any chance he ate something non-edible and might have a blockage? He's clearly very miserable ... how quickly should your own vet get the blood results?

    4. When we googled "Buprenorphine" meds say runny nose & vomiting are side affects. He hadn't vomited till after the shot so seems like a reasonable assumption. Also the fact that my pups is already super sensitive to meds & my home-vet knows him for 10yrs now thru all of his ailments. Sweets has a high pain tolerance in general so it's not a "surprise" to me that they can't diagnose him. What surprised me was sending him home (knowing we live far) looking as weak & feeble as he was??? Clearly this Vet doesn't have a lot of instinct. The last time sweets almost died, my Vet observed him overnight.

      Nope not a lot of possibility for him to ingest a foreign body & in general he's not that sort of dog. Very picky eater and entering mouth of any kind haha!

      Haven't gotten the bloodwork call yet but update on his drooling: stopped after about 3hrs, about the same time the Vet said the shot would wear off. Hasn't vomited since.

      I suspect it's Liver disease but I'll let you know!

    5. Update: So talked with my personal clinic & the Pet Emerg after bloodwork came in, everything's fine.... k. Can't deny blood. I have to observe him for the next 48hrs, boiled rice or chicken. I hope it's true, that my wee one is a medical mystery & is truly fine. Pray he gets better but if not, xrays next step.

      Cheers puppy mates! ~PPP

    6. Glad the blood work came back normal. Hopefully whatever it is will resolve quickly. He sounded quite sick. Fingers crossed.


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