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Dog Bloat: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Holle has owned, trained, and bred dogs for decades. As a former trainer, she has a deep understanding of canine behavior.

How to Identify Bloat in Dogs

How to Identify Bloat in Dogs

Bloat Is the Second Leading Cause of Death in Dogs

Remember the movie Marley and Me? Bloat is what did poor Marley in. According to experts, stomach bloat is second only to cancer as the leading canine killer, with a death rate as high as 60 percent, even including dogs that are treated by a veterinarian. Most untreated dogs will die, so bloat should be taken very seriously. If you suspect that your dog is suffering from bloat, take them to your vet as soon as possible.

What Is Bloat?

Stomach bloat, or gastric torsion, are common terms for gastric dilatation-volvulus, or GDV. This condition starts when the stomach becomes distended with gas, causing it to twist. Once this happens, the esophagus is closed, so the dog has no way to relieve the pressure. If the esophagus were open, the dog would be able to vomit or burp. If the stomach weren’t twisted at the other end, the dog would be able to pass gas to relieve the pressure.

Why It Can Be Fatal

When the stomach is twisted, its blood supply is shut off and the cells in the stomach lining begin to die. As this necrosis occurs, dangerous toxins that could cause blood poisoning are released. Occasionally, bloating will cause the stomach to rupture. If that happens, the dog could die from peritonitis, or inflammation of the peritoneum.

The gastric distention also puts pressure on veins and organs other than the stomach, including the pancreas, the spleen, and the liver. The compromised veins are not able to do their job, so an inadequate supply of blood reaches the heart, often causing heart arrhythmias and dangerously low blood pressure. Death can occur from cardiac arrest or shock. Although any dog can suffer from stomach bloat, breeds with deep chests are the most susceptible.

What Does Bloat in Dogs Look Like?

Signs of Bloat

The following list includes signs and symptoms of bloat, but sometimes these indicators are hard to identify or require a diagnosis from a veterinarian. When in doubt, take your dog in.

  • lethargy
  • frequent attempts to vomit
  • rapid heart rate
  • absence of normal sounds of digestion
  • bloating of the abdomen
  • coughing
  • whining, pacing, or other signs of pain
  • rapid breathing or panting
  • difficulty breathing
  • weakness
  • excessive salivation, drooling
  • unsuccessful attempts to defecate

Dog Breeds That Are Prone to Bloat or GDV

Great Dane

Alaskan Malamute

Doberman Pinscher


Irish Setter

German Shepherd




Gordon Setter


Irish Wolfhound

St. Bernard

Great Pyrenees


Golden Retriever

Bernese Mountain Dog

Basset Hound

Labrador Retriever

Afghan Hound

Standard Poodle



Rhodesian Ridgeback

Make sure a dog rests after eating a meal.

Make sure a dog rests after eating a meal.

What Causes It?

Scientists and veterinarians aren’t always sure what causes stomach bloat, but the following conditions seem to be among the culprits:

  • dog food and treats with soybean meal in the first four ingredients
  • dog food and treats high in oils and fats
  • exercising right before or after a meal
  • stress
  • “high-strung” temperament
  • drinking large amounts of water quickly
  • hereditary factors

How to Prevent Bloat From Occurring

  • Feed your dog several small meals a day instead of one or two large meals
  • If your dog gulps down its food quickly, buy a special food bowl with “fingers” or “knobs” that forces the dog to eat more slowly
  • Wait an hour after exercise before feeding
  • Keep your dog calm for an hour or two after eating—no rough play, running, jumping, etc.
  • Feed a dog food high in meat and bone meal
  • Avoid foods high in fat
Dogs with bloat often require emergency surgery.

Dogs with bloat often require emergency surgery.

What to Do If Your Dog Has Bloat

If you have to wait on the vet, you can do things at home that might buy you some extra time:

  1. Call your nearest vet clinic and let them know you are on your way. They may give some first aid or emergency instructions over the phone.
  2. Keep your dog as quiet and calm as possible.
  3. Don’t allow him or her to eat or drink.
  4. Some people choose to relieve the gas pressure by giving the dog an over-the-counter product that relieves gas such as Gas-X or other products that contain simethicone. We keep some Gas-X handy just for the dogs. Check with your vet that Gas-X and other similar products are right for your dog.

How Bloat Is Treated and Can Be Prevented

Veterinary treatment for dog bloat includes IV fluids and methods that relieve the pressure of the gas. A stomach tube or gastric tube is usually inserted first. If the tube can’t be inserted successfully, sharp-pointed valves called “trocars” are used. Once the stomach has been decompressed, the dog will have surgery to return the stomach back to its correct position.

If your dog has had an episode of bloat, the chance that the condition will strike again is high. There’s a surgical procedure, however, that might get rid of bloat once and for all. This procedure is called a “right-side gastropexy.”

What Is a Gastropexy?

This procedure attaches the stomach to the abdominal wall with sutures, which prevents the stomach from twisting. This surgery is quite successful and leads to extremely low rates of reoccurrence. The gastropexy can be performed on dogs during the treatment of bloat, or it can be done as a preventive measure in dogs with certain risk factors (sometimes it's performed alongside spaying and neutering).

Great Danes like this one are more likely to suffer from dog bloat than many other breeds.

Great Danes like this one are more likely to suffer from dog bloat than many other breeds.

Great Danes and Bloat

I love Great Danes and have owned several. Right now, I have two neutered males. Of all dog breeds, Danes are the most susceptible to dog bloat. In fact, most veterinarians agree that more than one-third of all Danes will experience at least one bout of bloat in their lives. This startling fact is why I became interested in learning more about the condition. It’s a shame that such a beautiful, gentle, noble breed would be at risk of such a terrible condition.

Of all the Great Danes I’ve owned, not a single one has ever experienced bloat. I’m not sure if I’ve just been lucky or whether that’s because I’m careful. We feed our dogs numerous small meals every day and encourage them to rest before and after eating. We don’t allow them to drink a lot of water with meals either. Our dogs live a pretty stress-free life, too. Their biggest stressor at home is having to get a bath. Outside the home, their largest stressor is having to go to the vet. Other than these two examples, our pooches are super laid-back and happy.

My Opinion About Raised Feeding Dishes

There is some debate about whether raised feeding dishes can help. Some dog experts think that they can help prevent bloat, while others say they actually encourage the condition. I’m not a vet, but from my personal experience with Great Danes, using raised feeding seems to help with digestion. I’ve had a couple of Danes that would often regurgitate their food when they ate from a floor-level dish. When we switched to raised food bowls, the dogs stopped throwing up.

If my boys ever do suffer from dog bloat, I’ll have the vet perform a gastropexy. I’m not sure how much it costs, but if it will save the lives of my two beloved companions, it will be well worth the price!

Resources and Further Reading

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

Questions & Answers

Question: How can I treat my dog without carrying him to the vet?

Answer: You can't treat it at home. You need a vet!

Question: Can a dog with bloat survive without going to see a vet?

Answer: It's doubtful. Bloat, however, isn't as serious as gastric torsion, which often accompanies bloat.

Question: Why does my dog have bloating in his stomach?

Answer: The bloat is caused by excess gas or liquid, which can put dangerous pressure on nearby organs, including the heart.

Question: How long will a dog last with bloat at home?

Answer: Each case is different. My daughter's dog died just an hour after showing symptoms.

Question: What should I do to prevent bloat in a street dog?

Answer: Since vets aren't sure exactly what causes bloat, there's really no good answer. Several small meals a day is recommended, however.

Question: How do I treat my dog naturally if they have bloat?

Answer: DO NOT try to treat bloat yourself! Get the dog to the vet!

Question: Can a 3-month baby pitbull terrier get stomach bloat as well? I didn’t see the breed listed in your article.

Answer: Any breed can have bloat.

Question: Is bloat common in small dogs?

Answer: From what my vet says, any dog can get bloat, but it's much more common in larger breeds with deep chests.

Question: My dog doesn’t appear to have any of the symptoms above only a bloated belly and isn’t showing any pain, is a visit to the vet necessary, his stomach has been bloated for about 15 hours, so should a trip to the vet be taken?

Answer: Yes!


Donna on June 20, 2018:

I have a German shep/lab & 1she gorges her food. How can I slow down her eating? She acts like she had not eaten in weeks. I feed her 2× a day. Her weight is ok so i do not want to increase feeding. She gets 1 1/4 cup in am & 1-1/4 cup of dry food in PM along with1,tbsp of wet foo

Nayana on February 19, 2018:

I have a dog in my colony from years . whom i give food regular, now sudden his stomach is swelling although he is OK but he is unable to move and sometime he refuse to eat only drink milk. please suggest any simple home remedy. Bcoz

no body in colony will help me and i am unable to take him to vet.

Victor on January 21, 2018:

Can a puppy get bloat if I taking to much dry food for the first time in its life

Brianna on September 30, 2017:

I have a puggle and all of a sudden she seems to have a hard time jumping or going upstairs. She is eating. But have no clue what's wrong

DragonflyTreasure from on the breeze......... on February 19, 2017:

This is the first time I've heard of gastropexy . I lost a Great Dane 7 yrs ago to bloat, I still miss her everyday. She was 8 at the time. At that time I'm not sure I could have afforded the surgery, maybe that's why my vet didn't bring it up. I would love to have another some day.

Thank you for such an eye opening hub. Much needed info indeed!

The largest we have now is an Am Staff. I watch her closely and have a maze bowl for her as well as our chi and corgi/dobie mix. Not taking any chances with any of them. They all could be named Hoover! Being raised on a farm I've had dogs all my life and had never encountered bloat.

Saving this for the future, thanks so much again

candace on February 18, 2017:

My mothers 6 month old chihuahua is having extreme pain when hes held or when he tries to sit or he tries to lay down. Asking for any ideas what this could be from?

tailor on October 26, 2016:

My boerbull puppy won't eat if he does he vomits immediately. I suspect a twisted or obstructed intestine. Took it to the vet he charged consultation and said he is not sure what it is because he does not have an xray machine. He said take it home give it sugar and salt water till it dies. This is in Zimbabwe.

Ernesto on January 16, 2014:

My dog Just die of this condition Friday night she was 13 Years old, if I only new this. I though It was just gas and it will go away.

Bob Bamberg on August 01, 2012:

Nice job, habee. As you well know, there's a lot of conflicting information out there and your hub was well researched.

Like Mellypogg, I've seen a lot written about elevated dishes. The contemporary wisdom seems to be that elevated dishes enable the dogs to eat all the faster because the esophagus is kept straight.

Eating at floor level with the neck slightly bent interferes enough with swallowing to slow the dog's intake down. Hey, maybe I'll try that :)

Mellypogg from Bellingham on June 26, 2012:

Great article. The only thing I would add is that, according to Purdue University and the only in depth study done on bloat in dogs to date, feeding dogs from a raised dish does significantly increase risk of bloating.

DragonflyTreasure from on the breeze......... on June 04, 2012:

Thank you for writing such an informative article on this problem. My Great Dane (a stray) found me about 7 yrs ago, she was one at the time. Being new to this breed I researched as much as I could. I had never heard of bloat in dogs prior to this. I had always free fed my dogs in the past but switched to smaller meals twice a day after learning about bloat. Thank goodness she has never had a problem with this aweful affliction. Your tips and knowledge are greatly appreciated. Of all the breeds I have owned in the past, this has got to be the most sweetest and gentlest. Awesome hub, voted up ?

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 12, 2011:

Glem, your dog would like me - all animals do! lol

Glemoh101 on January 07, 2011:

I like dogs , and i think my dog if he write your hub he will like you too!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on January 02, 2011:

Glad to hear that, Suzie!

Matherese, thanks a bunch!

matherese on January 02, 2011:

Another useful hub Habee, I will forward this information to my mother who is a dog lover

suziecat7 from Asheville, NC on December 26, 2010:

Great article. My poor Tanya was getting bloat. I immediately changed the dogs' diet to brown rice, veggies, chicken or beef. I also took away the rawhides which I thought might be the culprit. Tanya is fine now. This is an important Hub for people with dogs. Thanks.

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 24, 2010:

Thanks, Rob, and Merry Christmas!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 24, 2010:

Thanks, Fix. I appreciate that!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 24, 2010:

thanks, HH. Always good to see you!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 24, 2010:

Karmic, we pretty much do the same thing. Our dogs "graze" all day!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 24, 2010:

Thanks for reading, Sophia!

Holle Abee (author) from Georgia on December 24, 2010:

Good to see you here, CJ! Merry Christmas Eve!

Rob from Oviedo, FL on December 23, 2010:

Very useful information.

the fix on December 22, 2010:

Had no idea this could kill dogs. I will share with all my friends!

Hello, hello, from London, UK on December 22, 2010:

Great informative hub. Very helpful to dog owners.

karmicfilly from Franklin, TN on December 22, 2010:

So glad you shared this information. As a lifelong dog owner I have not had this experience, thankfully. I do free feed my dogs though. I live on a farm and put a 50 lb bag out and they choose when and how much to eat. No obese dogs here just happy, content and balanced dogs. They may nibble as little as ten tiny pieces and then go off to nap.

In my experience it has worked with all my dogs which breeds have included border collie, golden retriever, labrador retriever, mutts, pappillion, boxer and bull mastiff. They all are happy and extremely healthy. They happen to live to over 15 years of age too including the large breeds.

Sophia Angelique on December 22, 2010:

Very informative hub. Thanks.

C.J. Wright on December 21, 2010:

Very interesting and usefull. Thanks for sharing.