Overeating is a common cause of gastric distension and can occur in all breeds of dog and at any age, however, it is very common in puppies and often relieved by burping or vomiting.
A much more serious and often life-threatening condition of distention is gastric dilatation – volvulus or torsion, which is often commonly referred to as bloat. This typically affects deep chested, large breed dogs such as dobermans, bloodhounds, German shepherds and similarly built, mixed breed dogs.
Whilst GDV is easy to diagnose, treatment often involves surgery, can be expensive and is not always successful. The condition is caused when the stomach has been distended and a section of the stomach twists, causing disruption to the blood supply to other vital organs and severely limits or prevents the dog from belching or vomiting to relieve the distension.
Frequently there is a history of the dog gobbling down its food whilst gulping large quantities of air and excessively drinking following food. If the dog is then vigorously exercised this is a recipe for disaster in large breeds. The things to look out for are abdominal distention, salivating, retching, restlessness, depression, lethargy, anorexia, weakness and a rapid heart rate. Without urgent veterinary care, a dog with GDV will not survive. It is important to not attempt treatment at home.
As with most things, prevention is better than cure. With these deep chested, large breeds it is better to feed two to three smaller meals per day rather than one big meal. Providing a feeding bowl that slows the pace of food consumption is also a great idea and allow a two hour break after a meal before exercise.