Gastric Volvulus (Bloat) in Dogs: A Life Threatening Emergency
In all cases where there is the slightest suspicion of bloat, take your dog
to a veterinary hospital immediately. Time is of the essence.
Gastric dilatation without torsion or volvulus is relieved by passing a long
rubber or plastic tube through the dog’s mouth into the stomach. This is also
the quickest way to confirm a diagnosis of bloat. As the tube enters the dog’s
stomach, there should be a rush of air and fluid from the tube, bringing
relief. The stomach is then washed out. The dog should not be allowed to eat or
drink for the next 36 hours, and will need to be supported with intravenous
fluids. If symptoms do not return, the diet can be gradually restored.
A diagnosis of dilatation or volvulus is best confirmed by X-rays of the
abdomen. Dogs with simple dilatation have a large volume of gas in the stomach,
but the gas pattern is normal. Dogs with volvulus have a “double bubble” gas
pattern on the X-ray, with gas in two sections separated by the twisted
If the dog has a volvulus, emergency surgery is required as soon as the dog
is able to tolerate the anesthesia. The goals are to reposition the stomach and
spleen, or to remove the spleen and part of the stomach if these organs have
Dogs who respond to nonsurgical treatment have a 70 percent chance of having
another episode of bloat. Some of these episodes can be prevented by following
- Divide the day’s ration into three equal meals, spaced well apart.
- Do not feed your dog from a raised food bowl.
- Avoid feeding dry dog food that has fat among the
first four ingredients listed on the label.
- Avoid foods that contain citric acid.
- Restrict access to water for one hour before and after meals.
- Never let your dog drink a large amount of water all at once.
- Avoid strenuous exercise on a full stomach.