Bloat or Gastric Torsion

gastric torsion

MyGermanShepherd Health ManualBoth Bloat and Gastric Torsion are a disorder, and they are not the same.

Bloat describes the condition of a distension of the stomach with a lot of gas buildup. Bloat is not the healthy occasional passing gas as in farting.

The distension of the stomach is triggered by a paralysis of the stomach lining, such that the gas which is produced in the stomach upon processing meals cannot escape.

The paralysis of the stomach lining is caused by a poor diet - dry "food" (kibble) or high carb fatty meals - and by the administration of antibiotics and other medicaments that indiscriminately destroy gut bacteria which would normally allow the stomach lining to release excess gas.

This distension of the stomach with gas (ie Bloat) may or may not be followed by Gastric Torsion.

Gastric Torsion describes the condition of a twisting of the stomach such that entry and exit of the stomach get blocked while food is being processed inside and builds up more gas.

Thus Gastric Torsion is the end result of Bloat in dogs where twisting of the stomach occurs. For anatomical reasons this is predominantly the case with deep-chested dogs, like for example German Shepherds.

The twisting happens quite easily when a full, heavy stomach is being moved abruptly during exercise like jumping. As the blockage of entry and exit of the stomach makes it impossible for digestive gases to ever escape, Gastric Torsion is almost always fatal!

In fact, the only chance of survival is that within less than 60 minutes the stomach is being successfully punctured to allow the gas buildup to escape. But even then, the leakage of stomach fluids into other tissues and organs often causes death soon thereafter.

Thus do not ever allow your dog to exercise after food intake.

The problem with Gastric Torsion is, you cannot see or feel if the stomach is twisted, you only see that your dog is struggling with Bloat and you can feel that the belly is firm, hard, and bulging.

When the stomach is severely dilated and congested with gas, it will often rotate about an axis in the plane of the esophagus. This occludes both the entrance to and the exit from the stomach, so that the gas which is produced in the stomach cannot escape in either direction - giving further rise to the distension.

The stomach may even be deprived of blood, and the spleen is often also enlarged and twisted.

An affected dog may live up to 36 hours with this condition, but most dogs will die within an hour. The rapid development of this disorder is explained by the pressure of the enlarged stomach on the vena cava, the large vein which carries blood to the heart from the abdomen and hind legs.

As a result of this pressure there is an inadequate amount of blood returning to the heart, so that it cannot function effectively as a pump, and therefore the blood pressure of the dog falls. This produces shock and rapid death.

Who Suffers Bloat or Gastric Torsion

For anatomical reasons, deep-chested dogs like German Shepherds are most susceptible to Gastric Torsion, while any dog can suffer Bloat.

The initial paralysis of the wall of the stomach can have different causes, but there is no doubt that the administration of antibiotics and certain other medicaments is one such cause, because antibiotics destroy the beneficial bacteria in the gut that allow the gut walls to release excess gas.

German Shepherds are at high risk to suffer Gastric Torsion, at an even higher risk are the Great Dane and Bloodhound.

There does not appear to be any association with gender or age of the dog. Gastric Torsion has been reported in young adults as well as older dogs.

There are no known tests of susceptibility either to Bloat or Gastric Torsion, but it is known that even an entirely healthy dog can suddenly suffer Gastric Torsion after a large dry or fatty or high carb meal combined with exercise!

Industrial dry "food" is the biggest culprit because the stomach needs to extract large amounts of fluid from the body in order to digest the dry "food".

Exercise after a large meal is another big culprit because abrupt movements can readily twist the full stomach (weight is subject to gravity).

Warning Signs

The first warning signs can be seen without even looking at the dog:

  • giving the dog a large dry or fatty or high carb meal
  • exercise after a meal
  • gulping down the meal
  • stress during or after a meal
  • dog is breathless after a meal (dyspnea)
  • excessive passing gas after a meal
  • excessively large abdomen (distended)
  • dog stands, lies still, or moves only with caution
  • vomiting after a large or dry meal

Preventing Bloat and Gastric Torsion

Do not fall victim to the modern myth that industrial dry "dog food" is "balanced and complete". It isn't even food, it's costly toxic waste marketed as the best there can be.

Instead, the only truly balanced and complete food is what our domesticated dogs have been raised on for thousands of years: natural foods, foods from nature! Cooking or steaming the food for better digestion is fine, but that's it, no processing.

Likewise, do not fall victim to the ancient myth of "one dog meal a day". No matter what exercise regime you practice, you cannot possibly keep a larger dog like the German Shepherd healthy if you provide all the food (s)he needs in a single large meal. Rely on common sense, not myths.

In fact, here probably more than with the other ailments, a planned regime of dog meals, meal times, feeding routine, and regular exercise is the best way to prevent Bloat and Gastric Torsion altogether!

Two or three smaller natural food meals spread over the entire day and a good supply of fresh water as well as regular exercise will make the occurence of this fatal ailment unlikely, because there will be little gas production in the first place. And regular exercise stimulates stomach and gut activity.

Another important factor in avoiding Bloat and hence also Gastric Torsion is that you get your dog to eat slowly.

However, most eat-slow remedies are ineffective, they don't make the dog eat slower (for example Portion Pacers). And a few eat-slow remedies force the dog to a bite-by-bite treasure hunt or they slip all across the floor, both of which causes the dog much distress during food intake which may well lead to Bloat more than a normal bowl would have done!

The best compromise we have found that really make the dog eat slower without causing distress are this stainless steel Eat-slow bowl that we have ourselves, and alternatively this Eat-slow bowl (which is even more effective but made of plastic, surely not ideal to eat from every day).

Both these Eat-slow bowls justify their name, they gently make the dog eat slower. The benefits of slower and more relaxed food intake:

  • better digestion
  • better absorption of nutrients
  • dog feels full quicker
  • reduced risk of Obesity
  • reduced risk of Vomiting
  • more relaxed and so better behaving dog!
  • reduced gas production and passing gas
  • reduced risk of Bloat and Gastric Torsion!

Treatment of Bloat and Gastric Torsion

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Once Bloat does occur, treatment is difficult, and you don't know if Gastric Torsion is developing too.

Further, at the time you notice that your dog is breathless after a meal, an emergency call may already be too late.

Therefore if you overlooked your own first two warning signs, it may be life-saving that you closely observe your dog after a large dry or fatty or high carb meal, and all the more when exercising your dog after such meal (although you would then likely overlook this too).

Unfortunately there isn't much treatment you can do when the stomach is already distended. If you notice that the dog is breathless after a meal, and you touch the stomach and it feels distended, your only treatment option is to render first aid to the dog by puncturing the stomach with a large-bore needle so that the gas can escape.

It is probably best to do this on the right side of the dog over the point of greatest distension. However, note that this not only requires that you get all your confidence together in one of the most stressful moments you can have in your life, but also it is not necessarily successful.

The needle can become obstructed by stomach contents, and there may be a leakage of fluids and gas into the abdominal cavity with risk of Peritonitis (inflammation of the peritoneum).

There is no uniformly successful method to relieve the distension. Although a stomach tube can be passed, and this can - theoretically - be done by the owner, this does not help in cases with major twisting of the stomach since the entrance to the stomach is obstructed by the twist in the esophagus.

Nevertheless, if your dog is severely affected and no vet in sight, you may have no choice but to attempt one of these methods to relieve the Bloat before the onset of Gastric Torsion.




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    i am a new German shepard owner i need all the information i can get. this was very helpful.


    My vet wants to attach the stomach to the dods abdominal wall as a precaution to gastric torsion. This article does not mention this. Do you recommend doing that?


      I also forgot to mention the possibility to stop feeding the dog. This too is a great "precaution to gastric torsion".

      Hey! Do you get the humor? 😉
      G, there are tons of possibilities, what you can do, and what you can leave out. That surgical procedure is sth to leave out (obviously).
      INSTEAD, do what we recommend, and your dog most likely will not ever even experience bloat, and certainly no gastric torsion:

      1) Perform the Feeding Routine exactly as we recommend
      a) ie incl. a completely calm dog before the meal (Gesture Eating, Sitting before eating, etc)
      b) and incl. using an eat-slow bowl that fulfils what its name claims

      2) Adhere to consistent Feeding Times, such that your dog learns from experience that (s)he'll get another meal (otherwise dogs don't actually know!), and thus (s)he is unlikely to scavenge (most common reason for gastric torsion!)

      3) Feed a balanced diet of natural foods (ideally homemade) - not commercial kibble and such (full of questionable additives)

      1, 2, 3 - easy as a,b,c. And your dog won't have a problem (and you neither). Okay? 🙂


    I am learning to explore your site better and I am finally seeing periodicals that were posted long before I joined. I lost a German Shepherd at age nine to gastric torsion, and it is a horrible way to lose a pet. I knew what it was immediately, but as it happened overnight, when I found her in the morning it was well advanced. We rushed her to the vet, and into surgery, but it was too late for her. But I learned.
    I now feed twice a day, at the same time. She never gulps her food down, so thanks for that.
    We take a walk (WALK, no heavy exercise) after she eats.
    I keep her weight on the lean side.
    Pray for the best!


      I have just lost my 9 year old best friend because I was not aware of any of these symptoms. I wish that my vet educated me on this twice a day feeding since they asked all the time and I advised just once a day. It was a horrible way to go in my view. I just did not know and now kicking myself. Get educated on everything.


    I just lost my 11 yr old GSD to stomach bloat. He was fed twice a day, no exercise before or after eating. I thought I was doing everything right. It came on so quickly & he was crying with pain.


      Oh how terrible! So sorry for you! Gastric Torsion always comes as a shock. Sadly it affects quite a lot of GSDs. But of course nothing can ease your pain now. At least doggy heaven is wonderful. He'll stay with you.


    My buddy Apollo was a victim of bloat at the age of 18 months. His stomach and spleen rolled over on him. unaware of the danger of bloat my wife, Leslie was playing in the back yard with him with a garden hose shortly after he had his dinner. We were amazed that such a large dog could actually do a flip in mid air. Well, he got very sick, vomiting mostly froth and with such a stench. Remember, we were ignorant to what had happened to him so, concerned, we didn't panic. The next morning Leslie called me at work and told me Apollo had dug a large hole in the back yard and was laying in it and that she thought he was dying. He received emergency surgery at Noah's Arc Animal Clinic where they tacked his stomach to his rib cage during surgery (a normal procedure for large breed dogs during spaying). We were told of the slight chance of a successful surgery especially with the eleven hours or so that had passed before seeking treatment. I'm happy to say that on the weekend of October 30th, The Harkenreader Household will be celebrating Apollo's 4th birthday! Noah's Arc touts him as a rare success story from bloat.


      You were so much luckier than you can imagine! 🙂

      >they tacked his stomach to his rib cage during surgery (a normal procedure for large breed dogs during spaying).
      No, it isn't, it's pretty dangerous too.


    I lost her last sunday ...I was puzzld as it was sudden death and today I came to knw da fact ....yes it was bloat .....she was cute grlmy lifelinejst .4 yrs old..tough to live without her ...luvu kelly ma sweethrt


    My 11 week old gsd pup just vomiited what looks like a lot of bubbles and also excreted some watery stuff, he has not eaten anything since and will not eat at all. Could this be a symptom of bloat or gastric torsion??? 🙁


      No Ekow, sounds like poisoning from scavenging/food. Give him a lot to drink, and if he doesn't even want to drink it's a sign I would take him to the vet straight away.

      The general principle is: If vomiting or diarrhea for more than 24 hrs =>> vet! For more, see our free MyGermanShepherd Health Manual.


    My loving GSD named Jordan passed away today evening at 05.30 pm due to same reason mentioned in above blog .it was born on 11.11.2011 .i was the lucky one owner of such pet .i will miss u JORDAN .


      Hello, Aarti,

      I'm sorry to read of your recent loss. I experienced the same, watched it occur, and the guilt is too much some days. My loss occurred last September and I'm still grieving. I adopted my 125 lb, a beautiful companion German shepherd/anatolian shepherd x, 9 years ago at the age of 2. I knew he was bloating and could not get him to an emergency vet in time. I watched him die in pain. I failed him miserably in the end. I recently adopted another large breed trying to move forward and give another life a good home. Still, I just cannot get over the guilt from the other loss just four months ago. I hope you are coping your recent loss.


    I lost my 13 yo gsd Saturday march 7 2015 from gastric distress. She was the joy of my life and I will miss her always. Now she's gone all what's left are my tears


      My 10 year old GSD also suddenly left me on Saturday, March 7, 2015 around 2:00 a.m. I saw her only 15 minutes earlier when I got up to check as I heard her go from her bed in another room fast down the hallway to the kitchen, stumbling twice. I don't know if Sophie died of bloat, her blood work was recently okay, even normal for degenerative myelopathy as her rear legs had begun to collapse. Two weekends before, she stopped eating and had excessive thirst until I mixed canned food with the dry. Then Thursday at 5:30 a.m. her rear legs gave out on the stairs and she was stuck until I helped her. The next night she couldn't sit or lie down to sleep until I gently forced her. For the next five days she was back to normal in all respects on Rimadyl. Her happiness ended on Thursday evening after she vomited 10 times water and bile. She got very weak and could hardly walk or lift her head by Friday, the last hours. This is devastating to not know why. She did not seem to be in pain and her stomach felt okay to me. Her body was shutting down so fast.


        Carolyn, this is very sad, I feel with you.

        An autopsy or sometimes a final blood test could answer why it came so suddenly.
        Rimadyl (Carprufen), Meloxicam and similar NSAIDs are lightheartedly prescribed by allopathic medics, but I have repeatedly written about their often devastating effect on overall health (as have many reputable holistic veterinarians). A simple read through would have told you: "can cause serious effects on the stomach or intestines, including bleeding or perforation ... these conditions can be fatal and can occur without warning".

        Commercial dog food (both dry food and canned food) is no better either. I have repeatedly written about what's in it and how it's produced (in rendering plants), as have many reputable holistic veterinarians. Those who have read it/know it, stop feeding commercial dog food instantly (they are shocked/angry).

        We only feed fresh homemade human-grade foods, for a reason. Health. The ordinary veterinarians in the world only recommend (and sell!) commercial foods, for a reason. Veterinarians run a business. But we raise a dog. Naturally, our understanding of what's good for dogs is diametrically different.

        None of this can comfort you now. But maybe you want to keep it in mind for the future, so I thought I take the time out to write it here. Again.


        The vet told me later she took an x-ray of the dog's stomach when we brought her in to be cremated and it showed no bloat. She just died healthy, of old age, as 10-1/2 is the average age for a GSD. That makes me feel much better.


    My 7 year old German Shepherd was just diagnosed with Bloat and Gastric Torsion last night. I came home at 5:00 p.m. after being gone for 1.5 hours and found him drooling, largely bloated, lethargic and pale waiting outside on my deck. If I had come home any later, I was told, he may have died. I phoned the emergency line for the local vet clinic, and met the vet within 15 minutes of the phone call. They did 3 x-rays, and determined that there was definitely gas build up. Then he was tubed 3 times, once with a smaller tube and twice with a larger tube. The vet was happy the tube was able to go through and it helped to release the gas build up. At 7 p.m. he was still at the vet and appeared ok. By around 10:30 the gas was building up again and at 12:00 a.m. they were prepping for surgery. I am so extremely thankful to report that the surgery was a success, however there is still the chance of developing sepsis through any leakage etc. This happened so quickly. Today I wait for feedback on his healing and understand that he will be overnight for a few more nights to ensure he's healed. What a fright! I wish all dog owners the best of luck when it comes to this horrific diagnosis. I am thankful that we were able to act quickly and hope that he heals and is back to his 100% beautiful shepherd self.


    Tim, I have loved reading your periodicals and all the wealth of information you have provided for us all. I am in debt to you for all your hard work into this site. We were so excited for our new puppy and loved him so much. He was a sick boy since we brought him home just a little over 5 weeks ago.

    During exploratory surgery on him yesterday he was found to have a severe case of Intussusception and we had to make the hard decision to have him put down. The vet even thought it was the best thing, he would have had to have all of his small intestine removed and there were problems starting with his large intestine too. Czar was 12 weeks, 6 days and the light of our life in his short time with us. Just another thing for us all to think about for our puppies . . . Diarrhea and not eating well can just mean so many different things.

    Thank you again Tim, for everything.
    Czar's family


      Oh Miki!! So sad to hear that! And that you who has been a model dog owner.
      I am sure your decision was the best, avoiding a life of suffering for all of you.

      You will find happiness for the family again! Very soon. Best wishes for that!


    Question: Is it best to raise the bowls off the floor or to keep them floor level?
    Thank you!


      Good question, there are conflicting research results, and that's because the big research studies on this topic have not considered the DIET - but the DIET is the KEY risk factor when (pseudo) vets argue with Bloat or Gastric Torsion (which is what our article here is about). The (allegedly) biggest study on the topic of raised dog bowls at least makes this key point obvious already in its own title: "non-dietary risk factors ..."! Thus this "study", like all the other "studies" on the topic, should go straight in the bin.

      So if you ask me (you did), I say: Don't worry about raised vs non-raised bowls, worry about WHAT you feed! For the reasons explained in our Periodicals (free) and in My New Puppy Diary (almost free), if you feed kibble then your dog's risk to die of Bloat or Gastric Torsion is exponentially higher, and likewise the risk of living with immune system disorders thanks to the toxicity of kibble from rendering plants, and then to die of cancer. 😯


    My beautiful 131/2 year old boy Junior suddenly died yesterday. He is fed 1 time a day at around 6 PM. He eats very good, drinks a lot of water and poops and urinates regularly. He has been taking Vetprofen 2 times a day for about a year or so with regular blood tests which have been normal. He has had increasing difficulty walking due to weakness and arthritis in his hips. His exercise capacity has decreased due to this problem. He has had 2 surgeries in the past 3 years for tumors on rear leg tendon. He made it like a champ through this. So all in all he was doing quite well. Last night around 2 hours after eating he started gagging but did not produce any vomit. His breathing was becoming
    labored and his stomach was gurgling. He vomited flem once during the night and was very lethargic and you could see he was in distress. His stomach became quite distended and hard. Breathing was gurgled and becoming more labored. He took his last breath at 4:45 AM in our arms.We are totally devastated!! We knew he was old and that the end was coming but we weren't prepared for this so suddenly! Is there any possibilities that this could have been bloat? We are also concerned that he suffered through this! Can some help?


      Sorry Linda, it sounds like bloat, yes.
      The next dog please feed three times daily natural foods. Minimum two times daily if unhealthy commercial dry food (hopefully not).
      Glad he had a long and happy life.


        This was our 2nd Shepherd and we were always told to feed 1 time a day! They never ate it all at once usually throughout the day. Sometimes the following morning. Does the dog suffer with this? We are in Northern WI with no 24 hour vets close. Could a vet have done anything considering his age??


        >and we were always told to feed 1 time a day!
        But now you are here Linda. Forget what people "always told" you, apply your common sense. We here don't tell anything without explaining WHY. That's a key difference.
        Cause you need to understand sth, so that you want to apply it consistently. And so that you don't get distracted by people who "always told" you otherwise...

        In the end, at MYGERMANSHEPHERD.ORG we just try to train people to use their common sense. To develop their common sense. The MYGERMANSHEPHERD PERIODICAL explain WHY we recommend the Feeding Times we do. It all makes a LOT of sense, you know.

        I have no more time now, sorry, got to get through another thousand comments or spam.


    My 8 year old best friend who happens to be a German Shephard lost his life sometime today while I was at work and my kids were at school. My kids found my friend laying on the basement floor with his stomach bloated beyond belief. I always watched how he ate and we ran every morning. He was in great shape. This occurrence can happen to any dog regardless of age, weight or how good of shape they are in. I'll miss you Bear. Sleep well. I'll see you again someday. Till then run in fields full of Frisbees and footballs. Love you smart one


      "This occurrence can happen to any dog regardless of age, weight or how good of shape they are in" - Untrue. You can avoid "this occurence" for any dog if only you follow the advice we give every dog owner. 😐


    I have a GSD puppy, it is 50 days old, yesterday I started RC Maxi stater for my dog, but wen it take dinner, after few minute I observe it stomach was bigger, immediately I contact my vet doctor, he advise me to give digytone, but it was too late night so pet shops areall closed, so once again I contact him he advised another human digestion medicine. I gave him upto 5ml. but even he didn't alove me to touch also.. but mid night he started to go louse motion and urine. and I notised that his stomach size was little reduced. and he become little active. but still I'm afraid. please can you explain me what I want to do further.


      I don't understand it all, but regardless what your ordinary vet says, you need to make sure:
      - "he advised another human digestion medicine" - never give that!
      - "I started RC Maxi stater for my dog" - only feed fresh homemade foods, never commercial crap!

      Now you will never have bloat or other health problems with your dog. It's SO EASY!


    My baby died two days ago from the bloat - when the vet opened his stomach we were told that his stomach was twisted and was all black. Stomach turning black - is that something happens all of sudden or is it that he had an issue with his stomach already?? - he was losing weight for the past a year but his vet did all the tests and said the results were normal - we miss him so much he was only 6 years old


    My sweet beautiful 11yr old German Shepard lady Gemma died from bloating suddenly on 26th
    December. She was a fussy and slow eater and maintained her slim weight. She did not make
    any sound of pain. Surely it is painful? Took her to emergency vet hospital where Xrays confirmed that her bowel was twisted. She was euthanased.
    Ten years earlier, I lost male German Shepard 10 yrs old same way.
    I miss them both and still have a weep over them.


    My 4 y/o GSD is under surgery at the moment after we had taken him to the Companion Vet Hospital after we found him having what seemed to be a seziour on our driveway. They said it was a type of Torsion and his small intestine twisted and was 3x the size it should have been, when they put him under the intestine untwisted itself which was wonderful but he is now very sick and they don't know if it is heat stroke or if he had intaken some kind of toxin...I'm not sure if he will be alright now but I hope he will return home in a few days.


    Very interesting and useful article - rather worrying, in fact...

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