A bloated dog can be a sign of a relatively harmless condition (gastric dilation), or a fatal complication, Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV). Being able to recognize the difference between simple gastric dilation and sudden onset of GDV can help you save your dog's life.
In this common condition, your dog's stomach expands as it fills with air, causing discomfort and flatulence. Dog bloat from gastric dilation is a nuisance, but not life-threatening condition, as long as the stomach stays in place and digestion continues normally.
GDV occurs when a dog swallows food so quickly that air fills the stomach, causing it to revolve on its axis, blocking openings to the esophagus and small intestine. Food remains stuck and ferments, distending the dog's stomach, which cuts off blood supply to nearby organs. Untreated, GDV causes shock, coma and death within six to 12 hours of onset.
If you notice your bloated dog suddenly exhibits some or all of these symptoms of GDV, seek medical care immediately: