Great danes and bloat, a deeper look


In addition to breed predilection, there appears to be a genetic link to this disease. The incidence is closely correlated to the depth and width of the dog’s chest. The greater the chest depth/width ratio, the greater the risk of bloat. Several different genes from the parents determine these traits. If both parents have particularly deep chests, then it is highly likely that their offspring will also have the same chests and the resulting problems that may go with it. A recommendation was made that stated that no dog should be bred if there is a 1 to the 0 degree relative that has previously bloated.

Linda Arndt from states that ‘When we limit our gene pool to specific kennel names, bloodlines, color families as well as remaining within each specific breed, this prevents us from maintaining hybrid vigor. It maximizes our chances for doubling on negative traits with the increased potential for animals that are more sensitive to stimulus (light, sound, movement) and affect the total physiological system (body functions) and their psychological system (mental/behavioral functions).’


Dogs over 7 years of age are more than twice as likely to develop gastric dilatation and volvulus as those who are 2-4 years of age.


Male dogs are twice as likely to develop gastric dilatation and volvulus as females. Neutering does not appear to have an effect on the risk of GDV.

Eating & Drinking

More cases are reported between April and August and between the hours of 6pm – midnight(59.3%)-Dr. Glickman Study. The season when dogs are likely to be more active and to consume more water.

Owners and Vets originally blamed cereal-based diets, yet that is still being questioned. Recent studies indicate aerophagia (air swallowing), as often happens during periods of the above activities, appears to be a cause, rather than, as previously thought, gas caused by fermentation of dog foods. Also, increased particle size of food was associated with a significantly decreased risk of GDV in Great Danes and pre-soaking of food actually destroys nutrients plus causes fermentation.

Dogs fed once a day are twice as likely to develop GDV as those fed twice a day. It appears that dogs that eat rapidly or exercise soon after a meal may also be at increased risk. Dogs fed a larger volume of food per meal were at a significantly increased risk, regardless of the number of meals fed daily. Dogs fed a higher volume of food and one meal a day were at a significantly increased risk of GDV compared to dogs fed a lower volume of food and two meals a day. Results suggest that dogs at a higher risk of Bloat by nature of their size or Breed, should be fed a lower volume of food at each meal and multiple(at least two) meals per day.

There is also a possible link between bloat and calcium supplementation that causes persistent hyper gastrinemina.

The debate still carries on about raised feeders and does it or does it not reduce/increase the incident of bloat.

Temperament & Stress

Dogs that tend to be more nervous, anxious, or fearful appear to be at an increased risk of developing GDV. Per Linda Arndt in respect to stress ‘Sometimes stress is external and obvious and other times it is internal and goes unnoticed…..Some people and some dogs, due to genetics, body chemistry, nutrition and personality, seem to handle negative stress better than others.’


There is not one particular activity that leads to the development of Bloat/GDV. It appears that it occurs as a combination of events. Studies of the stomach gas that occurs in dilatation have shown that it is similar to the composition of normal room air suggesting that the dilatation occurs as a result of swallowing air. All dogs, and people for that matter, swallow air, but normally we eructate (burp) and release this air and it is not a problem. For some reason that scientists have not yet determined, these dogs that develop bloat do not release this swallowed gas. There is currently several studies looking into what happens physiologically in these dogs that develop GDV.

Other potential causes: surgical complications, history of belching, history of flatus, aggression toward people or other dogs, eating too fast, unrestricted activity following meals and large amounts of water consumption.

“Happy/easy going” dogs were found to be less prone to bloat.

Once a dog has bloated, there is a good chance that he/she will bloat again.

Other helpful suggestions to help decrease the chances of Bloat:

*Never feed your dog immediately before or after heavy work out or training session. *Do not allow your dog to become overweight. *Be canine-connected and watch for odd symptoms, abdominal swelling, dry vomiting, strange gagging, extreme restlessness, etc. *If you have a nervous dog, feed her/him in a quite relaxed atmosphere. *If you plan on changing your dogs diet, start slowly. Sudden diet changes will cause gastric problems. *Feed on a consistent routine schedule *Gastropexy – Dr. Glickman of 1934 dogs studied – reported that the recurrence of bloat decreased from 4% to 0.3% per month & lifetime recurrence rate of 80% dropped to 3-5% with Gastropexy. Full Moon Bloat Calendar

The one trend that I have begun to also see through my years working in animal medicine and in Rescue; is that there are more and more cases of younger dogs bloating. Gwen