Diagnosing Dog Bloat

With the exception of cancer, dog bloat is the leading killer of young dogs. It takes less than an hour for your dog to die once affected by bloat, so you don't have much time to seek help. Recognizing the early symptoms of bloat could be the difference in saving your dog's life.

Cause of Bloat

Bloat appears most frequently in deep-chested, large breed dogs, often during exercise after meals. During bloat, the stomach swells and begins to twist, trapping food, air and water in the stomach and obstructing veins located in the stomach. This can result in a rapid drop in blood pressure, which leads to shock and internal organ failure.

Risk of bloat is increased if your dog is frequently stressed or eats too rapidly by gulping food. Foods that contain citric acid preservatives can increase the risk even more as can wetting down the food. Rapidly drinking water is also a concern.

To reduce these risks, hand feed your dog if he's a gulper. This will help him slow his consumption. Don't exercise your dog immediately before or after eating, which can increase the risk. Reduce the stressful elements in your dog's life. Feed a high-quality, high-protein diet with an appropriate amount of fiber and, where possible, avoid citric acid, excessive carbohydrates, brewer's yeast, alphalpha and soybeans.

Symptoms of Bloat

There are a wide variety of symptoms for bloat, and your dog may not show all of them. Symptoms will often appear soon after eating or exercising, so it's important to be aware how your dog normally behaves after each of these. Then, it will be easier to diagnose when something is wrong. You don't have long to save a dog affected by bloat so act immediately if you notice any of the following symptoms.

Symptoms include unsuccessful attempts to vomit every few minutes, significant anxiety and restlessness, hunched up appearance, lack of normal gurgling from stomach, abdomen that feels tight like a drum, pale gums, coughing, gagging, heavy drooling, unsuccessful attempts to defecate, drinking excessively, heavy panting, shallow breathing, weakness or accelerated heartbeat.

Your dog may also show significant behavior changes and act "strange" such as asking to go out in the middle of the night, eating stones or twigs, excessive whining or pacing, licking the air, seeking a hiding place, refusing to sit or lie down, standing spread-legged or curling into a ball.

If you notice any of these symptoms or any other strange behavior from your dog, take him to the emergency veterinarian immediately. If your current veterinarian doesn't provide 24-hour service, know where the closest one is and have the number on your fridge, available in an emergency.

Bloat is a very serious condition that can be prevented with some precautions, but it is often hereditary, in which case risk can be reduced but never completely prevented. Understanding how to diagnose bloat could the key in saving your dog's life in an emergency.