Gastrointestinal Problems

Bloat and Torsion

By far the most common GI problem in Irish Wolfhounds is bloat and/or torsion, also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV). GDV can be fatal even if treated, since it causes so much trauma to the body. When a dog bloats, the stomach expands and may twist over (torsion), immediately cutting off blood flow above and below the stomach. The dog is in a great deal of pain, tissue damage is occurring, the dog can quickly go into shock, and it is critical to get to a veterinarian as quickly as possible. All Irish Wolfhound owners should familiarize themselves with the signs and symptoms of this condition. This GDV Quick Reference Guide is a good place to start.


Another condition which occurs in Irish Wolfhounds is called megaesophagus. The esophagus fails to properly push food down to the stomach, sometimes forming a pouch where food collects. The dog often regurgitates the food which is stuck in the esophagus. In addition to affecting the dog's intake of nutrients, megaesophagus can allow the food to be inhaled and cause aspiration pneumonia.

Megaesophagus can be congenital or may be acquired, as, for example, when a dog repeatedly swallows inappropriate objects like sticks and stones and damages the esophagus. In puppies there will be a failure to thrive since the puppy is not digesting adequate amounts of food.

Treatment is aimed at getting the food into the stomach. It can include mashing the dog's food into a gruel-like consistency, feeding the dog on an elevated place like a set of stairs, and keeping the dog at an angle where the head is higher than the stomach (again, stairs would work) for some period of time after eating. Surgical correction is possible in some cases.

A condition that presents similar symptoms to Megaesophagus is GOLPP (Geriatric Onset Laryngeal Paralysis Polyneuropathy), formerly known as idiopathic laryngeal paralysis. Further information can be found through Michigan State University's GOLPP Study Group.

This page was last updated 01/04/2021.