twisted stomach in dog - symptoms and treatment

Twisted Stomach in Dogs: Symptoms & Treatment

Living with a dog is always interesting – you can look forward to a day full of surprises, mischief and at times even heart-break. As the days roll by, pets have a tendency to grow on you which is why watching them suffer owing to some ailment can truly be a heart-rending experience for the owner.

For dog lovers, bidding adieu to their canine companion is a dreaded nightmare. To avoid such a situation, you must take good care of your pet and ensure that it leads a healthy life. Have you ever come across the term gastric dilation volvulus, commonly referred to as GDV, in dogs? Well if you are a dog owner and have not come across such a term, consider yourself lucky given the fact that it is a life threatening canine ailment if not detected on time.

bloated stomach in dogs

What Is Twisted Stomach In Dogs?

Twisted stomach, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is a disease which afflicts canines. More commonly known as gastric torsion or bloat, it is a disorder wherein your dog’s stomach dilates, rotates or gets twisted around the short axis. It is a common canine ailment, but can endanger your pet’s life, if not diagnosed while still in its initial stages and treated properly.

This disorder happens when a dog’s stomach expands as a result of being filled with fluid, gas or food. The expanded stomach creates pressure on the diaphragm and the other organs. In many cases it has been observed that the dog’s stomach becomes lightweight and might rotate or twist. In such a dreadful situation the blood gets trapped in the stomach and cannot flow back to the heart or to any other part of the body.

It is dangerous for your canine as it could send the animal into a shock. Moreover due to uneven blood flow, the situation is likely to worsen with every passing minute and the outcome is slow death.

Check out our article on Signs that Your Dog is Dying.

What Happens If Your Pet’s Stomach Appears Bloated?

As a consequence of gastric rotation or bloating, various emergency situations can arise, like damage to the cardiovascular system, increasing of pressure in the abdomen and progressive distension of the stomach.

Yet another situation could be decreased perfusion, meaning hindrance in the process of delivering nutrients to other parts of the body via blood. Insufficient perfusion can lead to organ failure and subsequent cellular damage. Bloating makes it hard for the dog to breathe properly. It can also cause a tear in the wall of the dog’s stomach.

What Causes GDV?

Although the exact cause of GDV is still unknown, some of the most probable causes of this disorder are genetics, the dog’s physiology and the surrounding environment. For instance, dogs that have a hereditary GDV history are more susceptible to contracting this disorder. Likewise, giant breed dogs are at a higher risk of GDV, especially the deep-chest breeds like the Great Dane and German Shepherds.

However, puppies have also been reported to have been effected by gastric torsion, though the risk increases with age. Studies show that excessive ingestion of food and water, delayed bowel movement or emptying of gastrointestinal system and excessive activity after eating are some causes that could lead to bloating of stomach.

Diagnosis of Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV)

Imaging techniques, such as X-ray of the abdomen, is the primary method to diagnose gastric torsion. Analysis of urine and testing the concentration of lactate substance in the plasma are other methods that can help to diagnose this disorder.

Symptoms of Gastric Torsion

Anxious behaviour, abdominal pain, depression and distension are typical symptoms associated with gastric torsion. The dog might drool excessively, act restless and might exhibit a tendency to vomit in form of dry heaving.

However, the most common symptoms are:

  • Bloated abdomen

A dog that is suffering from gastric torsion will have a hard, distended and bloated abdomen. However, for a big breed dog or for a dog with heavy chest this symptom often goes unnoticed since the stomach lies behind the ribcage. Moreover for dogs that are overweight and furry, this symptom might not be visible at all.

  • Unproductive retching

Unproductive retching means vomiting without anything coming out. Dogs that are suffering from GDV can often show signs of unproductive retching. Sometimes small amount of water or even large volumes of thick, stringy saliva comes out.

  • Pacing and restlessness

These are two of the earliest signs of gastric torsion. The dog is uncomfortable and cannot keep calm due to this ailment. It is in the process of dying. However, with the passage of time this restlessness or pacing gives way to staggering, decreased responsiveness and subsequent death.

  • Excessive drooling

When a dog suffers from GDV, it drools excessively. It might include lip smacking too. Both symptoms are associated with nausea that the dog suffers because of this stomach disorder.

  • Standing with neck extended and elbows pointed outward

This behaviour is the dog’s attempt to ease out its breathing problem that occurs due to its bloated stomach. The rapidly distended stomach of the dog does not allow the lungs to expand. Hence, the canine finds it difficult to breathe and tries every possible trick to be able to breathe easily. With elbows pointing out and neck extended, it is the dog’s attempt to help enlarge the space available for the lungs to expand within the cavity of its chest.

  • Dyspnoea

Dyspnoea means laboured breathing. It is indicative of fast, heavy and difficult breathing in dogs suffering from GDV. Imbalance of acid/base and metabolic abnormalities, which occurs in the dog’s body, gives way to this breathing disorder.

  • Tachycardia

Tachycardia means extremely rapid heartbeat. This is a result of the pain and distress that a dog experiences owing to suffering from GDV. The abnormal blood flow within the dog’s body is a reason for it to suffer from heavy and fast breathing disorder.

  • Prolonged CRT (capillary refill time) and pale mucus membrane

As per experts’ opinion, the color of the tissues above the dog’s teeth is usually an indication of its health and function of its circulatory system. If these tissues have lost the pink colour or have turned pale, then the dog needs to be taken to the vet. Another common practice is to check the tissues by pressing for a while. If the color takes more than two seconds to return, it might be indicative of a problem.

  • Collapse

Perhaps the last and most unfortunate symptom of gastric torsion is collapsing of the dog. There could be thousand other reasons for a dog to collapse but if it is because of a bloated stomach, it might have been too late to treat the canine. Every passing minute aggravates the situation and immediate veterinary intervention must be sought.


Occurrence of GDV should be treated with outmost seriousness. It is not something that you can experiment with and try home remedies to relieve your dog of the ailment. GDV cannot be treated at home. If a dog is suffering from stomach bloat, do not try any oral medication as it will only serve to aggravate the problem. Moreover ingesting an oral medicine might wind up their lungs. There are chances of you getting bitten by your pet as it experiences extreme distress and discomfort.

GDV can kill a dog within a short period of time. Do not delay treatment and take the dog immediately to the nearest vet available. The distressed canine needs to be stabilized first, and to this effect, administering IV fluids and oxygen therapy might be the preliminary steps to follow.

The vet usually aims at releasing the build-up of gases in the dog’s stomach. Therefore, inserting a tube down the oesophagus and into the stomach will help with the procedure. To clean out any remaining food particles, water may be flushed in and out of the stomach. In many cases vets insert a needle directly into the stomach to release the gases. In both cases, vets usually use general anaesthesia.

Surgery is required to untwist the stomach. During surgery, the health of the surrounding organs will also be assessed. Once the gases have been released and the stomach has been rotated back to its original position, it is permanently attached to the abdominal wall. This is to prevent the stomach from twisting, if the dog once again suffers from bloating in future. After the surgery, the dog is under observation regarding its overall health and eating habits.


According to vets, large meals, followed by heavy exercises is probably the most common cause of gastric torsion. Feed your dog smaller portions and avoid exercises after meal. Give your dog time to digest its food. Incorporate a healthy diet that will promote good digestion in your dog.

Dogs tend to eat fast. Train your dog to eat slowly in order to avoid bloating of stomach. If you have more than one dog, try and feed them in separate bowls as the fear of competition makes your dog eat faster. Do not allow your dog to drink much water while feeding as this increases the risk of gastric torsion.

twisted stomach in dogs

Related Post: Dog Bowls

Final Word

Gastric dilation volvulus is a life threatening ailment for canines. That being said, if your dog shows symptoms of a bloated stomach, do not panic. Consult your vet immediately and under no circumstances should you try to treat your dog with home remedies. You cannot and should not treat gastric torsion by yourself.


  1. Bloat in Dogs: Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV), Best Friends Animal Society
  2. Gastric Dilatation with Volvulus: “Bloat”, The MSPCA-Angell


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