What Every Gordon Setter Owner Needs to Know

Bloat is sneaky and it’s fast. Bloat doesn’t allow time for you to think it over or make a plan. Bloat will strike a Gordon Setter like a snake hidden in the grass with no warning. It takes a dog down so fast that if we aren’t with them when it strikes we may miss the small window of opportunity available to save them. Bloat won’t wait for us to be there, it attacks our dogs at all hours of the day or night, whether we’re home or gone to the store, sleeping, out mowing the lawn, doing housework, changing the oil or folding clothes in the laundry room. We simply can’t be with our dogs every minute of every day, but we do need to understand that for our dogs to have any chance of surviving bloat, every passing minute counts like an hour. To save your dog’s life you must know how to recognize bloat, have an emergency plan in place and enact that plan without delay at the first warning sign. Always error on the side of caution.

For a Gordon Setter to survive bloat it takes quick recognition of the condition and immediate veterinary treatment. That means we can’t hesitate, can’t wait to see, can’t delay for any reason. We need to get veterinary help as fast as possible.

If you own a Gordon Setter and are not sure how to recognize bloat this article is especially for you. Bloat refers to gastric dilatation – volvulus (GDV), stomach torsion or twisted stomach – an extremely serious condition and life threatening emergency.

Gordon Setters, according to a study by the University of Perdue, ranked as the 5th highest breed most susceptible to bloat. The 2004 GSCA Health Survey lists cancer, hip dysplasia and bloat as the top three health concerns expressed by Gordon Setter owners and breeders. According to Dr. Jean Dodds “The mortality rate for gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) approaches 50 percent.”

Recognizing the signs of bloat

  • Restlessness or pacing – unable to find a comfortable position to lay down
  • In the early stages the dog may not show a distended belly though it may feel tight
  • May be lethargic, obviously uncomfortable, walking stiff-legged and hanging head
  • Salivation – drooling – these can be signs of severe pain or distress
  • Retching – vomiting – or gagging
  • Frequent attempts to vomit
  • Enlarging abdomen – the belly feels full, swollen, rounded, may look and feel like a balloon
  • Thumping the abdomen produces a hollow sound, like a kettle drum
  • The dog may groan when you press on the belly
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • The dog may go into shock – gums become pale, weak pulse, rapid heart beat, possible collapse

If even a slight suspicion of bloat exists, immediately take the dog to a veterinary hospital. Emergency veterinary treatment is necessary for your dog to survive and every minute makes a difference. Do not delay.

Which dogs are most susceptible

  • Gordon Setters are at risk.
  • There appears to be a genetic link. Dogs who have parents or siblings who are affected may be more prone to bloat. Learn more about the research at The Genetics of Bloat – Tufts Now
  • Dogs over 7 years old are more than twice as likely to develop bloat as those 2-4 years old.
  • Male dogs are twice as likely to develop bloat as females. Neutering does not appear to have an effect on the risk.
  • Dogs fed once a day are twice as likely to bloat as those fed twice a day.
  • It appears that dogs who eat rapidly or exercise soon after a meal may also be at increased risk.
  • Dogs that tend to be more nervous, anxious, or fearful appear to be at an increased risk.
Photo by Susan Roy Nelson
Photo by Susan Roy Nelson

A few things that may help to prevent bloat:

  • Feed your Gordon Setter two or three smaller meals each day.
  • Make water available all day so your dog doesn’t want to gulp large quantities at one time, limit the amount of water your dog drinks immediately before and after eating.
  • Avoid vigorous exercise, excitement, and stress on a full stomach.
  • Diet changes should always be made gradually over a period of three to five days.
  • Feed dogs individually and in a quiet area.
  • Do not use a raised food bowl.
  • Dogs who survive bloat are much more at risk for future episodes, preventative surgery should be considered.
  • There are there are those who also advise to avoid dog foods that contain high fat (fat listed as one of the first 4 ingredients) and foods that contain citric acid. At this time, no cause-and-result relationships between these and bloat have been verified, though certainly there is no harm in avoiding them should you wish to do so.

More detailed information including treatment options and reference material for this article will be found on the sites listed below:

Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus) in Dogs  – Doctors Foster and Smith

Dr. Jean Dodds’ Pet Health Resource Blog | Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat) in Dogs.

Gastric Volvulus (Bloat) in Dogs: A Life Threatening EmergencyWeb MD Pets

The Genetics of Bloat – Tufts Now

GSCA Health Survey 2004 Results

The Genetics of Bloat on Gordon Setter Expert

Sally Gift, Mesa AZ

22 thoughts on “What Every Gordon Setter Owner Needs to Know”

  1. Our FB reader Wendy Larcom Abelman wrote:
    I’ve been very fortunate in never having had a dog bloat or any of their offsprings. Other issues yes, but not bloat. We’ve also been very fortunate in that not once in the 25 years of assisting with adult Gordons has any one of them (and there have been hundreds ) bloated. I have my own theories based on anecdotal information provided by people calling for a new companion when theirs has died and personal observations over the last 2 plus decades. Males seem especially prone and there does seem to be a body type that is more prone.


  2. Carol Bage from our FB readers wrote:
    We have also fed all our setters from elevated bowls however in a period of 25years we have only ever had one Gordon with bloat (twisted torsion) she survived due to our speed of recognising it and a brilliant vet so it is confusing to know wether this is recent research or just I was lucky enough just to have one Gordon suffer with bloat (by the way I love reading your pages Sally)


  3. From our Facebook readers
    Karen Maree wrote: I thought raised bowls were specifically for this purpose. .. to prevent it. ???

    Sally Gift: http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+2090&aid=402Some studies suggest that dogs who are susceptible to bloat should not be fed with elevated feeders; other studies have not found this to be true. It is recommended, however, that dogs at increased risk be fed at floor level.

    Sally Gift: Karen the resource material I used for this article recommend feeding at floor level. I do know that in the past elevated bowls were sold as a preventative measure.


  4. Kristen MacKenzie Fiederlein our FB reader commented:
    I thought a raised food bowl was better for prevention. Should they have a pexy done at time of neuter spay as a precaution?


    1. Conversations regarding the pexy are best held with your vet or a specialist. I had heard the raised bowl was better a long time ago also however that has proven to be very wrong.


    1. Barbara Manson: Good advice Jani. The best place to take your dog is to an emergency clinic where they do a fair amount of these surgeries. It will be expensive but your dog will have the greatest chance of survival.


  5. Sandy Miller our FB reader commented:
    If you have never had a dog who bloated it will scare the hell out of you when it does. I had a male – Luke – who bloated from stress. I took one look at him and new it was bloat and put him in the van and raced to the Emergency Vet’s Office 15 miles away. I can tell you there were no police on the roads that day and I did a lot of praying on my way to PETS!! Thank God he survived


  6. Comment by FB reader: Jennifer Lowery
    Went through this 2 years ago with one of mine. I had him at the emerg within 20 minutes of his first symptom and he went into shock as we rushed into the clinic. Thankfully he was fine, had the surgery, was tacked down, and I got him in before any damage was caused to his spleen or pancreas. Had we been even 10 minutes later they may not have been able to save him, as the shock set in so quickly. And in adding to the risk factors list, they now think that underweight dogs are more susceptible to bloat and torsion. Although they still don’t know for sure what causes it. My dogs eat 3 times a day, are kept quiet for an hour before and after meals, eat out of slow feeders, are in good weight and health…and it strick the youngest Irish at 1 o’clock in the morning, waking him from his sleep


    1. Jennifer Lowery: Agreed. Too many people don’t listen to their inner paranoid and figure they’ll just see how the dog is in the morning. In the case of bloat, the dog will be dead in the morning. One thing they don’t tell you, is once you have the stomach tacked down, their digestive tract takes a hit. Cillian used to have an iron gut, but since he bloated he is very sensitive to everything. Plus, the gas! I could tell you stories about the gas that’d make your contact lenses fuse to your eyes! But; he’s here to make that stink, and as long as its coming out, I’m happy smile emoticon


  7. I second the idea of getting them to a vet as soon as possible. This has happened twice to us, a female and an older male. Sometimes the signs are just “unusual behavior” so be on the alert for anything that just does not look or feel “right.” Fortunately Susan knows her dogs and is very observant. Both dogs survived, both had their stomachs tacked.
    Jerry Nelson

    Liked by 1 person

  8. After losing a Gordon in the early 80’s to bloat because I was relying on a dog food company’s statement saying all I had to do was feed it dry and add nothing to it. Over the years I’ve change how my dogs are fed, they now get up to 40% to 50% human food with their kibble and supplements. I’ve had no bloat issues in the last 30 yrs.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great Post. Thank- you… Charli’s grandfather passed from Bloat. Char eat very selectively – lol – thinking she is On the Super Model Diet… Sam, he eats abit quicker.. Feed these kids 2 x a day, with no exercise after. Great pics from the N’tl, wish it was closer to home next yr. Planning on a Breeding in Feb 2016. Char and Sam are having Hips and eyes done This summer – neither have problems in their Bloodline. I think it will be a very nice litter. I will keep Pick and opposite sex pick 1 Bitch is already spoken for. If you are coming to CO., You will meet them… Have quite a crew coming from Pacific Northwest , going to be Fun! ttys, S


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Colorado is my favorite show of the year, I already have my RV rented. If people want more information on bloat, they need to read the results of the study done by Purdue University on Bloat. Bill

      Liked by 1 person

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