CHF: Working to Find the Cause of Bloat in Dogs


Gastric dilatation – volvulus, or bloat, is a devastating condition that can develop in any dog, although it is particularly common in large-breed and deep-chested dogs. Bloat develops when the stomach fills with air and then twists on itself, preventing air and liquid from leaving the stomach. Over time, the stomach gets larger and larger. This cuts off circulation and prevents blood from getting back to the heart from the rest of the abdomen and the rear legs. The stomach wall itself can also be severely damaged from loss of blood flow, as can the spleen. Classic symptoms of bloat include excessive salivation, vomiting or unproductive vomiting, and an enlarged or distended abdomen. Bloat requires immediate stabilization and prompt surgical correction, and may still be fatal in some severely affected dogs.

Flo Laicher of Carmel, NY, is the Chairperson of the Great Pyrenees Club of America’s Health Committee and liaison to CHF, the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, and the CHIC (Canine Health Information Center) program, and knows firsthand the devastation bloat can cause. Ms. Laicher is an owner of Great Pyrenees and has had five dogs bloat. In Laicher’s experience, initial symptoms were quite subtle and the dogs did not always exhibit signs of severe distress. “My first dog died on Christmas Eve when I was away for the holidays. Before taking her and the other dogs to the kennel I noticed she had vomited in the run, but I didn’t think too much of it at the time since dogs will occasionally vomit.” Laicher goes on to say, “The kennel owner did not think bloat was the cause of death because the dog’s stomach was not distended, but a necropsy showed the stomach filled with fluid and partially rotated.” Based upon this initial experience with bloat, Laicher took no chances when another dog showed subtle signs. “I immediately called the emergency clinic and told them I was on my way with a dog that was bloating.” Bloat was confirmed by radiographs and a gastropexy, a surgical procedure that attaches the stomach to the abdominal wall, was performed. “Yavanna was six years old at the time she bloated and she lived until she was 13 years old,” according to Laicher.

It is important to note that the symptoms of bloat may differ from dog to dog. Bloat is of foremost concern to the AKC Canine Health Foundation and its donors, and given the devastating nature of the disease to dog owners it required a major research effort to identify the underlying mechanisms of disease.  In response to donor concern, the Bloat Research Initiative was launched to better define, and ultimately eradicate, bloat in dogs.

This past fall, the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) announced the approval of $485,000 for two research grants which will work to establish the causes and pre-dispositions for bloat. These studies will provide the insight necessary to one day prevent the condition.

The first study, headed by principal investigator Dr. Claire Rebecca Sharp, BVMS of Tufts University, will evaluate the complex genetic basis of bloat. Importantly, Dr. Sharp’s grant will support the beginning of a biobank of samples that will facilitate the study of bloat by other investigators in the future. The second study, headed by principal investigator Dr. Laura L. Nelson, DVM of Michigan State University, seeks to determine the abnormalities in the stomach’s ability to contract and how this might predispose large-breed dogs to bloat.

According to Dr. Shila Nordone, CHF Chief Scientific Officer, “Bloat is a major health concern for many dog owners and through our Bloat Initiative we aim to better understand this condition and ultimately equip veterinarians and dog owners with tools that will protect dogs from this devastating illness.” 

As part of the Bloat Initiative, CHF has released a free webinar which features Dr. Elizabeth Rozanski, a key opinion leader in the study of GDV. In this webinar, Dr. Rozanski presents the signs and treatment options for bloat along with current options for prevention.

CHF is grateful to the many breed clubs, individuals and foundations that have provided partial funding for these two grants. For a full list of Bloat Initiative sponsors, as well as information on how you can support this effort, please visit

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