Bloat in Dogs | Symptoms, Prevention and Treatment

Picture of dog sitting on the grass

We’ve all heard about bloating, and we’ve probably experienced it, but most of the cases that happen in humans are nothing in comparison to what dogs can go through. Dog bloat is a serious medical condition that can be very dangerous, even lethal. It calls for treatment right away, and there are some signs that you can recognize to take your pup to the vet as quickly as you can.

Let’s look at what dog bloat is, its causes, its clinical symptoms, whether it can be prevented, and the typical treatment that your dog might receive if he or she gets help in due time.

What Is Dog Bloat?

A dog’s stomach can fill with food, fluid, or gas, and any of these will make it expand. The stomach then puts pressure on the nearby organs, but the most dangerous thing that can happen is that the full stomach could twist around its own axis, therefore stopping the blood flow from any other organ and to and from the gut or esophagus. This issue can effectively stop the blood flow to the dog’s heart, as well, or even cause a tear in the stomach wall.

Gastric dilatation volvulus is one type of bloat that’s characterized by the stomach rotating. This is a medical emergency and can even send your dog into shock.

Causes and Risks

Big dogs are at a higher risk of developing gastric dilatation compared to small dogs, and that’s because they are equipped with bigger stomachs. Any dog parent knows that sometimes, a dog can get overly enthusiastic when meal time comes around and that he or she will gobble down the food as if the end of the world is right around the corner.

Statistically, there are breeds that are more prone to developing this medical condition, and they include Saint Bernards, Irish Setters, Weimaraners, Great Danes, Basset Hounds, Doberman Pinschers, Old English Sheepdogs, Gordon Setters, as well as Standard Poodles. Although bloat is more common in larger breeds, even Chihuahuas can suffer from it if there are any predisposing factors.

But what causes bloat, anyway? Feeding your dog a big meal just once a day is a predisposing factor, but since there is a genetic predisposition, it can also happen in pets that have parents or siblings that were affected by bloat, too. If your dog eats fast, is thin, or has a nervous temperament, he or she is at a higher risk of getting GDV. it also seems to happen more frequently in males than in females and in older dogs than in younger ones.


Bloat typically comes on very quickly, but it can also happen around two to three hours after you fed your dog – not necessarily right away. Some of the signs that you’ll notice pertain to stomach pain. The animal might drool, act restless, look anxious and look at his belly all the time, pace, and try to vomit without succeeding. As the condition progresses, you will notice that the dog’s gums become pale, that he or she is short of breath, has a rapid heartbeat, is weak, and eventually collapses.

If you have even the smallest suspicion that your dog has bloat, you need to take your pet to the clinic as soon as possible. This medical condition can effectively kill your canine companion if he or she doesn’t get treatment in time.


A set of simple measures can be taken to prevent your dog from suffering from gastric dilatation. You can start by feeding your dog twice or three times a day but don’t increase the amount of kibble or wet food. Just divide it from the big meal you used to feed him once a day so as to provide your dog with the nutrients he or she needs to be healthy but also avoid obesity.

Canned dog food is better at helping to prevent this medical condition, and that’s because it doesn’t expand inside the dog’s stomach. We’ve all seen how dry food can expand up to three times its original size when it comes in contact with liquid, so needless to say, that’s exactly what happens once the kibble absorbs the stomach juice.

Making your dog’s living environment a safe and calm one can help, too, especially if you’ve recently adopted a pooch from a shelter and you know that the animal might have gone through stressful situations in the past. Some dogs can be overprotective with their food and will act as if every meal is their last. Helping your pet relax is good both for his digestive system and for his behavior.

There are two practical ways in which you can prevent bloat in big dogs. One of them is by getting them a slow feed bowl, and another is by placing the bowl on a higher plane so that the food naturally goes into the stomach. It’s not exactly comfortable for a 120-pound dog to have to eat from the floor, and that’s because the food won’t go down into the stomach in a natural way.

Bloat can also happen because of a large amount of water that has been ingested too quickly. So, if it’s a hot summer day and your dog gets back into the house from playing in the yard for some time, you should never allow your pooch to drink too much water at once. Furthermore, after every somewhat larger meal, you should never let your dog run or play because physical exercise can cause an overfull stomach to twist around its own axis.


The treatment depends on how severe your dog’s condition is. The vet might try to put a tube down your pooch’s throat to try to dislodge some of the pressure that has built up. Sometimes, this can work and at least part of the air can get out, but in most cases, it does not, which is why the vet will have to perform an ultrasound-guided puncture effectively putting a hollow needle through the pet’s belly into the stomach.

If your dog is in shock, he might receive fluids through an IV, including steroids and antibiotics. An X-ray is what the vet will use to make a clear diagnosis. If your dog clearly has bloat, surgery is required to reposition the stomach.

Surgery is always associated with risks, and although it is pretty much the only type of treatment that can save your dog’s life, you also have to consider that some dogs might not be able to go through it. The severity of gastric dilatation is extreme to the point that it can lower a pet’s ability to put up with anesthesia or any type of ‘aggression’ caused by of medication and surgery. Bloat is often lethal both because the dog isn’t brought to the clinic in time and because the surgery takes a toll on the dog’s body. However, since it is the only option available, surgery must be attempted because in some cases, it can actually save the pet’s life.


Dog bloat can be prevented if you pay attention to your pooch’s diet, feeding, and exercise regimen.

In high-risk breeds, there is a prophylactic surgical intervention that can be performed to prevent volvulus (stomach twisting), but not the bloat. It is called gastropexy, and it consists of surgical attachment of the stomach to the body wall (peritoneum). It can drop the likelihood of volvulus by 75%, but you still have to avoid giving your dog too much food or water and then let him or her exercise.

Lifestyle changes can effectively prevent this medical condition, so avoid feeding your dog just once a day – switch to two to three smaller daily meals instead.

Because bloat can put your dog into shock very quickly, medical assistance is required as soon as you notice any of the symptoms we’ve highlighted earlier on.



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