Dog Bloat: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention
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.
If your dog has bloat, you have to get it to a vet as soon as possible. Time is of the essence!
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.
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.
- frequent attempts to vomit
- rapid heart rate
- absence of normal sounds of digestion
- bloating of the abdomen
- whining, pacing, or other signs of pain
- rapid breathing or panting
- difficulty breathing
- excessive salivation, drooling
- unsuccessful attempts to defecate
Dog Breeds That Are Prone to Bloat or GDV
Bernese Mountain Dog
What Causes It?
Scientists and veterinarians aren’t always sure what causes stomach bloat, but the following conditions seem to be among the culprits:
- dry dog food high in grains
- dog food high in citric acid
- dog food and treats high in fat
- exercising right before or after a meal
- “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
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:
- 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.
- Keep your dog as quiet and calm as possible.
- Don’t allow him or her to eat or drink.
- 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.
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 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!
- Understanding Inherited Causes of Canine Bloat: ScienceDaily
Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), or bloat, is one of the leading causes of death in dogs, second only to cancer for some breeds, and the number one killer of Great Danes. Despite its prevalence, the cause of bloat is unknown.
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
Can a dog with bloat survive without going to see a vet?
It's doubtful. Bloat, however, isn't as serious as gastric torsion, which often accompanies bloat.Helpful 23
How can I treat my dog without carrying him to the vet?
You can't treat it at home. You need a vet!Helpful 57
Why does my dog have bloating in his stomach?
The bloat is caused by excess gas or liquid, which can put dangerous pressure on nearby organs, including the heart.Helpful 13
How long will a dog last with bloat at home?
Each case is different. My daughter's dog died just an hour after showing symptoms.Helpful 13
How do I treat my dog naturally if they have bloat?
DO NOT try to treat bloat yourself! Get the dog to the vet!Helpful 12