Causes of Bloating Stomach in Dogs

Bloating stomach in dogs can be brought about by a combination of events involving food, water and exercise. In some cases, if this condition is left untreated, it can very quickly become fatal. Bloat tends to be more common for deep-chested dogs, such as the German Shepherd, Doberman and similar breeds, but it can occur for any breed at any age. The technical term for bloating stomach in dogs is gastric dilation volvulus or GDV. There are many contributing factors that can lead to this diagnosis, and if the condition is suspected, professional treatment should be sought immediately.

Causes of Bloating Stomach

Commonly, bloating stomach in dogs is caused by trapped or swallowed air. Air, fluid or foam can become trapped in the stomach, causing the organ to twist abnormally, in turn putting pressure upon the esophagus, blood vessels and other nearby organs. Undue stress may lead to bloating stomach, as can gulping food or water, quickly followed by vigorous exercise. At some point, and for reasons yet undetermined by medical research, a dog may develop the inability to release built-up air in the stomach (ie: by burping) and bloat will begin to manifest very quickly.

Signs to Look For

Initial symptoms of bloating stomach can be similar to other conditions involving the stomach or gastrointestinal system. The difference with GDV is that the dog's condition will begin to rapidly decline as pressure builds inside the body. Signs to look for include the following:

  • A swollen belly feeling tight to the touch, like a drum
  • Indication of pain by yelping, whining, growling or aggressive behavior
  • Pacing and restlessness
  • Excessive drooling or panting
  • Nonproductive vomiting
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • If volvulus (twisting of the stomach) occurs, the dog may exhibit pale gums and go into shock
  • Shock will be indicated by a weak pulse, rapid heartbeat and possibly collapse

Emergency Treatment Details

If bloating stomach begins to occurs in a dog, immediate treatment is necessary to prevent irreversible side effects and death. Methods of treating this condition are likely to include the following:

  • Blood tests and overall assessment of health.
  • Intravenous catheters will be placed for the administration of fluids and pain medication, if necessary.
  • Any air in the stomach will be removed by insertion of a tube or placement of a needle in the abdominal area.
  • X-rays will help to determine if any twisting of the stomach has taken place.
  • An anticoagulant medication may be given to prevent a common side effect of GDV called DIC. Disseminated intravascular coagulation is a bleeding disorder which causes small clots to develop in the blood vessels.
  • Heart rate will be closely monitored for the development of arrhythmias, another common side effect.

Abdominal Surgery

Once the dog has been stabilized, abdominal surgery will likely be recommended. Surgery is performed with three goals in mind:

  • assessment of the health and damage of the stomach and surrounding organs
  • reposition of the stomach
  • gastropexy - a procedure which sutures the stomach in a certain way so as to prevent the condition from returning