Bloat in Dogs

Image of a German Shepherd looking sick next to a bowl of dog food.

Although it's name may sound harmless, bloat is a life-threatening emergency for dogs. The condition, formally called gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV), can quickly kill dogs if they don't receive prompt treatment.

What Is Bloat?

Bloat occurs when your pet's stomach fills with air. In many cases, the stomach then twists, cutting off its blood supply. The condition prevents blood from flowing back to the dog's heart and can cause irreversible damage to the spleen, stomach, pancreas, liver, and other organs. Shock can develop soon after the first signs of bloat appear. Breathing problems also occur as the air-filled stomach presses against the diaphragm. Unfortunately, a dog can die of bloat just a few hours after experiencing the first symptoms.

Which Dogs Get Bloat?

Any dog can develop bloat, although it may be more likely to occur in older dogs and males. Great Danes, Saint Bernards, German shepherds, poodles, retrievers and other large breeds with deep, narrow chests are at increased risk of developing bloat. Swallowing air while eating, a problem that can occur in anxious dogs, may also increase the likelihood of bloat, as can eating a large amount during a meal.

A genetic link may be responsible for some cases of bloat. Veterinarians at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University are currently conducting a research study to find the gene responsible for the condition. Although bloat may have a genetic component, environment and diet might increase the likelihood that your dog will actually develop the condition. If a gene is identified, a genetic test could be developed to identify dogs at high risk.

What Are the Symptoms of Bloat?

Symptoms of bloat start suddenly and may include:

  • An enlarged stomach
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Excessive drooling
  • Dry heaving
  • Restlessness
  • Shallow breathing

Symptoms of shock include:

  • Weak pulse
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Pale gums and lips
  • Low body temperature
  • Glazed eyes
  • Dilate pupils
  • Collapse
Your dog must receive veterinary care immediately if you notice any of these symptoms. Waiting until the morning to visit the vet will result in the death of your dog. Minutes count when your furry friend has bloat.

How Is Bloat Treated?

Surgery is used to treat bloat, but it can't be performed until your pet is in stable condition. Before surgery can begin, your pet may receive pain medications, antibiotics and intravenous fluids to treat shock. A tube inserted into esophagus or a large needle placed in the stomach may be used to deflate the stomach and release the trapped air. Bloodwork and other tests may also be performed before surgery.

During surgery, your dog's stomach will be repositioned and sutured to the abdominal wall to prevent it from twisting in the future. Surgery also involves thoroughly examining your pet's stomach and organs for signs of damage due to the blood flow blockage.

Your pet will stay at the animal hospital for several days following surgery. During that time, the veterinary staff will closely monitor him or her for heart problems, infections, pancreas or liver damage, or other conditions associated with bloat.

How can I Reduce My Dog's Risk of Bloat?

Although it's not possible to prevent bloat in every case, there are a few things you can do to reduce your dog's risk, such as:

  • Change Mealtime. Two to three small meals spaced throughout the day are better than one large meal.
  • Limit Water. Wait until an hour after mealtime to offer water.
  • Lower Food and Water Dishes. Swallowing air is less likely to occur when you place food and water dishes on the floor instead of in elevated feeders.
  • Wait to Play Fetch. Don't start a game of fetch, take your dog for a run or allow him or her to participate in any type of exercise for at least an hour after eating.
  • Don't Give in to Begging. Giving your pet samples of the foods you eat can cause gas to build up in the stomach.
  • Discourage Competition. Do your pets wolf down their food in an effort to finish first? The faster they eat, the more likely they are to swallow air. Confining your dogs to different rooms or areas while they eat can help them slow down.

Recognizing the symptoms of bloat and taking steps to reduce your dog's risk can help your pet avoid these devastating condition. Call us today if you're worried that your dog may have bloat or if it's time to schedule your furry friend's next veterinary visit.

Sources:

American Kennel Club: Bloat (or GDV) in Dogs — What It Is and How it’s Treated, 11/3/16

http://www.akc.org/content/health/articles/bloat-in-dogs/

Tufts University: The Genetics of Bloat, Summer 2014

http://sites.tufts.edu/vetmag/summer-2014/the-genetics-of-bloat/

Peteducation.com: Bloat (Gastric Dilation and Volvulus in Dogs)

http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+2090&aid=402

Your First Visit is FREE

Sign up now

Office Hours

*Hours to see the doctor are by appointment only. Office open Saturday, but presently no doctor appts.

Monday:

8:00am

7:00pm

Tuesday:

8:00am

7:00pm

Wednesday:

8:00am

7:00pm

Thursday:

8:00am

7:00pm

Friday:

8:00am

5:00pm

Saturday:

8:00am

12:00pm

Sunday:

Closed

Location

Find us on the map

Testimonials

Read What Our Clients Say

  • "This place is beyond phenomenal. I have taken my cat here for years and we always received loving care that is sometimes desperately needed. Unfortunately my cat did pass last year, but they were here with us until the very end. If I ever get another furry companion I'll be sure to be back."
    C.K.III / Columbia, PA

Featured Articles

Read about interesting topics

  • Skunks

    Home and Veterinary Care for Pet Skunks If you're an adventurous pet owner, you may love exotic animals such as skunks. You'll be happy to learn that skunks can indeed make excellent domestic pets, but only if they receive the proper care to enjoy a happy, healthy life. Your veterinary team can help ...

    Read More
  • Sugar Gliders

    Thinking of getting a sugar glider? These tiny marsupials are energetic and friendly, making them popular choices as pets. Though they weigh less than a half-pound, they're more closely related to kangaroos than they are flying squirrels. If you think a sugar glider would make an ideal pet for your family, ...

    Read More
  • Flying Squirrels

    Much like sugar gliders, flying squirrels make affectionate pets when purchased young and raised by their owner. Unlike sugar gliders, however, flying squirrels are rodents that need veterinary care specific to the species. Your veterinary team can help with the care and treatment of flying squirrels. ...

    Read More
  • Rats

    Did you know rats make surprisingly affectionate pets? If you're thinking of bringing home a pet rat, here's what you need to know. Health Rats that are bred especially as pets are safe to keep and should be free of disease. But common conditions may affect your rats from time to time. Your veterinarian ...

    Read More
  • Chinchillas

    Chinchillas are playful, loveable, and amusing pets. If you want yours to remain in your family for long, you should ensure that it has a good diet. Chinchillas require a lot of attention due to their playful nature; therefore, it is best to have supervised playtime with yours if you want to create a ...

    Read More
  • Fennec Foxes

    Fennec Fox Care Guide With oversized ears and mischievous faces, fennec foxes are cute as can be. But these exotic pets require a lot of care to stay healthy and happy. Health At just three pounds, fennec foxes are the smallest member of the fox family. Native to the Sahara desert, fennec foxes are ...

    Read More
  • Guinea Pigs

    Curious and inquisitive by nature, guinea pigs make great pets. These little bundles of fur are quite social and enjoy spending time with the people who handle, feed, and groom them. As a pet, guinea pigs are relatively low maintenance, rarely aggressive, and fun to own. How to Care Guinea pigs are playful, ...

    Read More
  • Prairie Dogs

    Prairie dogs are cute, affable creatures. But before taking one on as a pet, check your local laws. In some states, such as Colorado, it's illegal to keep prairie dogs as pets. Mostly, this is because they may spread monkeypox. If you live in a state that welcomes pet prairie dogs, be sure to buy from ...

    Read More
  • Gerbils

    Gerbils are great little pets for pet owners who don't have room for a dog or cat. They're friendly and fun to watch, but they do take a moderate level of care and investment. If you're thinking of getting a gerbil, here's what you'll need to know to keep him happy and healthy, including giving him a ...

    Read More
  • Hedgehogs

    Shy animals that roll into a ball when scared, hedgehogs are covered with spiky quills. They're small, clean, and fun to watch so they're quite popular as pets. Even so, these little guys need lots of activity to stay healthy. Health Hedgehogs can have health problems, including dental diseases, skin ...

    Read More

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for more articles