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Q & A: What exactly is torsion or bloat and why are mostly bigger dogs are affected?


A. Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) also known as bloat, gastric torsion or a twisted stomach, is an emergency condition that all dog owners should be aware of. There are two parts to this condition:

1 | The stomach dilates with gas and food within it. This is painful and the stomach pushes up against the diaphragm and lungs, making breathing difficult. The stomach also compresses the larger veins, returning blood to the heart, and the dog starts to go into shock.Q & A: What exactly is torsion or bloat and why are mostly bigger dogs are affected? Q & A: What exactly is torsion or bloat and why are mostly bigger dogs are affected? shutterstock 58127023

2 | The dilated stomach now twists on itself. This cuts off all blood circulation to the stomach wall itself, which begins to die. Other organs, such as the spleen, rotate with the stomach and these are also affected along with blood vessels and nerves.

Dogs most affected are the deep-chested large breeds such as your Great Dane, German Shepherd Dog, Rottweiler and Boerboel. There is a genetic disposition with dogs whose parents have suffered a GDV being at greater risk. Males are twice as likely as females to bloat, as are dogs who are over two years of age. Dogs who are anxious and eat very quickly are also more prone to bloat.

If your dog is showing the following symptoms, especially after mealtime, then you should take him to your vet immediately:

  • Pacing and signs of abdominal pain.
  • Attempts to vomit with nothing coming out and increased salivation.
  • Rapid, shallow breathing.
  • You may or may not be able to see that
  • his stomach is bigger than normal.
  • Gums are first a very dark pink and become a pale pink in colour.
  • Heart rate is very fast and can be erratic.
  • Eventually your dog will collapse and not be able to stand up at all. Diagnosis is confirmed with an x-ray of the stomach. Once confirmed, surgery is the only treatment option. This is expensive and 30% of dogs who are treated don’t make it through alive. The dog needs to be stabilised before the stomach can be decompressed and the dog put under anaesthetic. The surgeon must then physically untwist the stomach and assess how much damage has been done. If the damage is too severe, they will recommend putting the dog to sleep at this stage. If they feel the prognosis is good, they will sew the stomach to the abdominal wall just under the ribs. This is known as a gastropexy and is done to prevent the stomach from twisting in the future. If this isn’t done, the dog has an 80% chance of this recurring.
  • There are certain things owners can do to help prevent this:
  • Feed two to three smaller meals a day instead of one large meal.
  • If your dog eats very fast, get him a specially designed slow-feed bowl. This will decrease the amount of air that is swallowed while eating. Also feed him on his own.
  • Drinking water should be available at all times, but restricted at mealtimes.
  • Do not exercise your dog one hour before and up to two hours after mealtime.
  • In summary, GDV is a life-threatening condition that affects mostly deep-chested large breed dogs over the age of two years. Therefore, knowing how to prevent this and knowing the symptoms could save your best friend’s life.

Dr Kristen Lachenicht, veterinarian


A. Most dogs have pink tongues – Chow Chows and Shar Pei being the exceptions with black tongues. Pink tongues make it fairly easy to check for mouth disorder symptoms. Some dogs have coloured speckles on their tongues, but black spots that were not there previously can be a sign of melanoma, a type of cancer. Lighter (often white) marks on a dog’s tongue can indicate a reaction to a toxin or allergen.

Q & A: What exactly is torsion or bloat and why are mostly bigger dogs are affected? Q & A: What exactly is torsion or bloat and why are mostly bigger dogs are affected? Healthy DogA dog with a bluish tongue colour could have a condition called cyanosis, which basically means he has a shortage of oxygen in his blood. Cyanosis is more noticeable in the gums and other mucous membranes and can be a symptom of a number of underlying causes, including heart disease, respiratory disease and exposure to a toxin. If your dog’s tongue is bluish in colour and you are sure that he has not eaten anything (including chewing on toys with transferable dye) that could transfer this colour then I would advise you ask your veterinarian to examine your dog.

Small animal veterinarian


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