Bloat risk factors


Boxer Insane
I found this information on another list I'm on. It's the highlights of a recently concluded study into bloat and risk factors - building on (and confirming) the information gathered by the Purdue study a couple of years ago.

It confirms hereditary factors, raised feeders, wetting of foods preserved with citric acid, and too-fast eating as increasing the risk of bloat. Interestingly, it also confirms animal fat in the top 4 ingredients of a food as increasing the risk of bloat by 170%.

A rendered meat with bone in the first four ingredients decreases the risk of bloat by 53%.

Feeding large volumes of food in meals, irrespective of the number of meals fed, significantly increases the risk of bloat. So that's another good reason to feed a super-premium kibble where the volume of food fed daily is low, rather than twice as many cups of the cheap stuff ;)

Thought members here might find the results interesting

Study on multiple causes of bloat was started in about 1998 and ended in
2004. These are highlights.

ABSTRACT - Nutrient Intake and Bloat

Malathi Raghavan, DVM, MS; Lawrence T. Glickman, VMD, DrPH; Nita W.
Glickman, MS, MPH; Diana B. Schellenberg*, MS.

Dietary risk factors for gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) in dogs were
identified using a nested case-control study. Of 1991 dogs from 11
large- and giant-breeds in a previous prospective study of GDV, 106
dogs that developed GDV were selected as cases while 212 remaining dogs
were randomly selected as controls. A complete profile of nutrient
intake was constructed for each dog based on owner-reported
information, published references and nutrient databases. Potential
risk factors were examined for a significant (p<0.05) relationship with
GDV risk using unconditional logistic regression.

The study confirmed previous reports of increased risks of GDV
associated with increasing age, having a first-degree relative with GDV,
and having a raised food bowl. New significant findings included a 2.7-fold (or 170%) increased risk of GDV in dogs that consumed dry foods containing fat among the first four ingredients.

The risk of GDV was increased 4.2-fold (or 320%) in dogs that consumed
dry foods containing citric acid that were also moistened prior to
feeding by owners. Dry foods containing a rendered meat meal with bone among the first four ingredients significantly decreased GDV risk by 53.0%.

Approximately 30% of all cases of GDV in this study could be attributed
to consumption of dry foods containing fat among their first four
ingredients, while 32% could be attributed to consumption of
owner-moistened dry foods that also contained citric acid. These
findings can be used by owners to reduce their dogs' risk of GDV.*This
manuscript has been accepted for publication in the Journal of the
Animal Hospital Association (JAAHA). 2004
Original Article

Diet-Related Risk Factors for Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus in Dogs of
High-Risk Breeds -


Malathi Raghavan, DVM, PhD, Nita Glickman, MS, MPH, George McCabe, PhD,
Gary Lantz, DVM and Lawrence T. Glickman, VMD, DrPH
From the Departments of Veterinary Pathobiology, (Raghavan, N.
Glickman, L. Glickman), Veterinary Clinical Sciences (Lantz), and
Statistics (McCabe), Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana

A nested case-control study was conducted among 1634 dogs with complete
diet information in a 5-year prospective study to determine diet-related
risk factors for gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV). Cases included 106
dogs that developed GDV; controls included 212 dogs without GDV that
were frequency matched to cases by year of GDV onset.

Proportionate energy consumed from major food types and from
carbohydrates was determined. Dogs were categorized as consuming either
a low volume or high volume of food based on the median number of cups
of food fed per kg of body weight per meal. Dogs fed a larger volume of
food per meal were at a significantly (P<0.05) increased risk of GDV,
regardless of the number of meals fed daily. For both large- and giant-breed dogs, the risk of GDV was highest for dogs fed a larger volume of food once daily.
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Boxer Insane
And the previously known info. form the Purdue study (2002)

This is from 2002 and is still current:
A Review - S. Greene

Here's some generalized information to help you understand new information learned from a Purdue University study.

Bloat (Gastric Dilation - Torsion Complex)The term "Bloat" refers to any
of three conditions:

a.. Acute gastric dilation
b.. Torsion
c.. Volvus

Bloat, also known as the overfeeding or overeating syndrome, involves a
swelling up of the stomach from gas, fluid or both (acute gastric
dilation). Once distended, the stomach may twist abruptly on the long
axis. If it does twist, but the twist is 180 degree or less, it is called a torsion. A twist greater than 180 degrees is called a volvulus.

Signs and Symptoms of Non-Torsion Bloat - Acute Gastric Dilation

The signs are excessive salivation and drooling, extreme restlessness,
attempts to vomit or pass stool and evidence of abdominal pain - the
dog whines and groans when you push on the stomach wall. The abdomen
will be distended.

If your dog can belch or vomit, quite likely the condition is not caused by a twist. You must take the dog to a veterinarian where a long rubber or plastic stomach tube will be passed into the stomach. If there is a rush of air from the tube, the swelling in the abdomen will subside and there is almost immediate relief.

Signs and Symptoms of Torsion or Volvulus - A LIFE AND DEATH SITUATION

The initial signs are those of acute gastric dilation, except the distress is more marked. The dog breathes rapidly, has cold and pale mouth membranes and may even collapse. The shock-like signs are caused by strangulation of the blood supply to the stomach and the spleen.

In torsion or volvulus, a tube cannot be passed into the stomach. The only treatment is IMMEDIATE surgery and you must rush the dog to closest veterinary surgeon.

Preventing Bloat - The Purdue University Study

Many measures have been recommended and tried, but-until recently there
has been little scientific evidence that any worked. Now, thanks to the Purdue
University Bloat Study, that picture is starting to change. Supported by grants from the American Kennel Club's Canine Health Foundation, Morris Animal Foundation and 11 parent breed clubs, including the Poodle Club of America, this five-year prospective study is the first of its kind. And it is yielding information on what breeders and owners should and shouldn't do to reduce Standard Poodles risk of bloat.

The Purdue researchers, led by veterinarian and epidemiologist Dr.
Lawrence T. Glickman, have thus far issued two reports of their
findings, both published in the peer-reviewed Journal of the American
Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA). The more recent of the two,
which appeared in the November 15, 2000, issue of JAVMA, contains
findings that should cause Standard Poodle breeders and owners to step
back and re-think bloat prevention information.

One of the more important findings was that there are significant
differences between the "large breeds" studied (Akita, Bloodhound,
Collie, Irish Setter, Rottweiler, Standard Poodle and Weimaraner) and
the "giant breeds" studied (Great Dane, Irish Wolfhound, Newfoundland
and Saint Bernard).

The results reported here apply to the "large breeds" only, e.g. our
Standard Poodles.

Old Thoughts: What We Used to Think About Bloat

Over the years, breeders, owners and veterinarians have developed a
body of lore about what causes bloat and how it can be prevented. Here
are some of those things which we now know are NOT correct, i.e. bloat
is caused by -

a.. Too much exercise on a full stomach.
b.. Overloading the stomach.
c.. Swallowing air when eating.

We USED to think that bloat could be prevented or reduced by -

a.. Wetting dry kibble so that it won't swell in the stomach.
b.. Raising the food dish above floor level.
Weight, breed size, the ratio of the depth of the thorax to its width
and stress were not significantly associated with the risk of bloat in
large breed dogs. In addition, several measures that have long been
recommended to reduce the risk of bloat were found to have no effect.

Factors That Make NO Difference

These measures, long been thought to reduce the risk of bloat, were
found to have no effect:

a.. Restricting exercise before or after eating
b.. Restricting water intake before and/or after meals
c.. Feeding two or more meals per day
d.. Moistening dry kibble before feeding

Factors That DO Make A Difference

These four (4) factors ARE associated with an increased risk of bloat in
large breed dogs:

a.. Raising the food dish more than doubled the risk for bloat.
b.. Speed of eating: Dogs rated by their owners as very fast eaters had
a 38% increased risk of bloat.
c.. Age: The study found that risk increased by 20% with each year of
Owners should be more alert to early signs of bloat as their dogs grow
d.. Family History: Having a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or
offspring) that had bloated increased a dog's risk by 63%.

The Purdue research team concluded these are the things you can do to
prevent bloat:

a.. The strongest recommendation to prevent GVD (bloat) should be to not
breed a dog that has a first degree relative that has had bloat. This
places a special responsibility on an owner to inform the breeder should
their dog bloat.
b.. Do not raise the feeding dish.
c.. SLOW the dog's speed of eating.
A future report from the research team will provide data on dietary
factors and how they may or may not be associated with bloat risk.

2.Glickman LT, Glickman NW, Schellenberg, DB, et al. Non-dietary risk
factors for gastric dilatation-volvulus in large and giant breed dogs.
3.Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook, Delbert G. Carlson, DVM and
James M. Giffin, MD


Good information, I contacted the breeders of Max and none of his family tree so they tell me had never had bloat, I hope that is true. Then maybe free feeding would be the way to go, or what do you guys think?


Boxer Insane
Wow, Debbie, that is really helpful information. Thanks for taking the time to post it. I had read at one time or another that raised feeders did prevent bloat. I went out and bought one and then, several months later, read they can increase the risk. Glad I didn't buy the most expensive raised feeder, since it's now sitting waiting for some other use (what, I don't know!) in my "storage" bedroom!
MaxDad said:
Then maybe free feeding would be the way to go, or what do you guys think?

i don't think free feeding would be the answer, since free feeding is basically one giant meal that a dog can pick at when ever it wanted. Debbie had said that "feeding large volumes of food at meals" increases the risk factors of bloat. If your dog is hungry and chooses to suck down that entire day's worth of food in one quick sitting, he is at a much higher risk of bloating.


ps. Thank you Debbie for posting this VERY useful info! appicon
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Boxer Pal
Glad I couldn't find the Adj Elevated Stand

Thank you very much for this info. It is quite timely as one of the things that I had on my list was an adjustable elevated stand that could be used from puppy on but they didn't have one in stock when I was at the pet store yesterday. I just got the bowls and figured that I would order the stand online a little down the road. My husband got me three boxer books for Christmas and every one of them said to raise the food dish, don't allow exercise for an hour before or after and to put the water up while the boxer is eating. It is so hard to know what to do when the references that you count on give faulty info - thank goodness for this site!


Boxer Buddy
Gastric Torsion

I lost "Dax" to gastric torsion 7 years ago. I had never heard of it until it happened to him. Sadly, it was too far gone before we noticed it. We just thought his stomach was upset. By the time we noticed the bloating effect, we were rushing him to the vet for emergency surgery, but he died before we got there. It was horrible to see him suffer so much. However, Dax did just finish eating a meal (once a day feeding) before it happend. He did gobble up his food fast and then played right afterwards. Today, I "free feed" Jackson so it won't happen to him. He just eats as he pleases instead of gobbling up a meal so fast because he's starving. So far, so good. It's all up to the individual on what works for them and their dog. As Jackson gets older, I'll pick up his dish and then feed him half in the morning before work and then half in the evening instead of leaving his dish out all day. Good Luck guys, I hope this doensn't happen to your boxers. I'm very cautious now.


That is what I thought I think free feeding is the way to go. They eat what they want. Max wont eat sometimes but I have never seen him gobble his food. When we are with him and he eats as the basement/tv room is his palace if he wants to play we just tell him no, go to bed and he will. I/We are very vigilant regarding this as to playing. It is a difficult venture. The post before was about gobbling food, which was not very well thought out, we would not free feed him if we gobbled his food. Start thinking people. This is a very serious problem.
MaxDad said:
The post before was about gobbling food, which was not very well thought out, we would not free feed him if we gobbled his food. Start thinking people. This is a very serious problem.

Very true, this is a VERY serious problem. You mentioned nothing about how quickly your dog ate.. and i mearly gave an example of a possibilty. If you believe that that is best for your dog, and he is not a fast eater.. then that is great. It works for you. However free feeding can lead to other problems.. pickiness, and if you have more than one dog, its hard to regulate who is eating what. But ultimately, if that is what you think works best for your dog, then absolutely, free feed. :)



Elusive Moderator
Staff member
Exercise before or after meals isn't a risk factor ;)

But the speed of eating, and the volume of food fed at meals is.

Well, for the speed-eaters, they can be slowed somewhat by placing a ball or reasonably large stone in the dog's feeding dish so it has to eat around that.

As for volume - if you feed two or three times a day, and are using a premium food that only requires you to give your dog 2-3 cups a day, you really shouldn't have a problem. If you're using a low quality kibble that means you're having to give 5-6 cups a day, then changing foods might be worth a thought ;)