Dog Bloat: How to Protect Your Pup

Dog bloat is a common condition that can be dangerous, even deadly. Dogs who have it need treatment right away. Know the signs so you can recognize when your pup needs help.

What Is Dog Bloat?

Bloat happens when a dog’s stomach fills with gas, food, or fluid, making it expand. The stomach puts pressure on other organs. It can cause dangerous problems, including:

  • No blood flow to his heart and stomach lining
  • A tear in the wall of his stomach
  • A harder time breathing

In some cases, the dog’s stomach will rotate or twist, a condition that vets call gastric dilatation volvulus. It traps blood in the stomach and blocks it from returning to the heart and other areas of the body. This can send your dog into shock.

Symptoms

Bloat usually comes on very quickly. At first, your dog may show signs that his stomach hurts. He may:

  • Act restless
  • Drool
  • Have a swollen stomach
  • Look anxious
  • Look at his stomach
  • Pace
  • Try to vomit, but nothing comes up

As the condition gets worse, he may:

  • Collapse
  • Have pale gums
  • Have a rapid heartbeat
  • Be short of breath
  • Feel weak

If you think your pet has bloat, get him to a clinic right away. If dogs don’t get treatment in time, the condition can kill them.

Causes

Vets aren’t sure what causes bloat, but there are some things that raise a dog’s risk for it, including:

  • Eating from a raised food bowl
  • Having one large meal a day
  • Eating quickly
  • A lot of running or playing after he eats
  • Other dogs he’s related to have had bloat
  • Eating or drinking too much
  • Stress

Any dog can have bloat, but it’s much more common in deep-chested, large breeds, like Akitas, Boxers, Bassett Hounds, and German Shepherds. Some are at a higher risk than others, including Great Danes, Gordon Setters, Irish Setters, Weimaraners, and St. Bernards.

Treatment

The type of treatment a dog gets depends on how severe his condition is.

First, the vet will put a tube into your dog’s throat and down to his stomach to release the pressure that has built up. Sometimes, a twisted stomach can keep the tube from passing through. If that’s the case, the vet will put a large, hollow needle through his belly into his stomach and release the pressure that way.

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If your dog is in shock, the vet may give him fluids through an IV, antibiotics, or steroids.

Then, the vet will take X-rays to see if his stomach is twisted. If it is, your dog will have emergency surgery to untwist it and put it back in its normal position. The vet also will fix the stomach in the right place to keep your dog from getting bloat again. She’ll also check to see if the condition damaged other parts of his body.

Prevention

Bloat can be scary, but there are ways you can keep it from happening to your dog:

  • Don’t use a raised bowl unless your vet says your dog needs one.
  • Don’t let him run or play a lot right before or after meals.
  • Feed him a few small meals throughout the day instead of one or two large ones.
  • Make sure he drinks a normal amount of water.
WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on 6/, 015

Sources

SOURCES:

Glickman, L. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, published online Nov. 15, 2000.

American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation: “Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus.”

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: “Bloat.”

American College of Veterinary Surgeons: “Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus.”

Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine: “Soft Tissue Surgery: Medical Conditions.”

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