Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs

Bloat in dogs is a life threatening condition that requires immediate emergency veterinary care. Bloat can kill your dog in a matter of hours. You should know what steps to take to prevent bloat and how to recognize it if it occurs.

What Bloat Is and How It's Caused

Bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus, is a serious, deadly medical condition that occurs for a number of reasons that aren't fully understood. Bloat happens when the stomach fills with air, putting dangerous pressure on the lungs and other organs. Pressure on the lungs makes it hard for the dog to breathe. The stomach, once filled with air, then folds over or rotates around itself, cutting off the supply of blood to the internal organs, and putting the dog's health in serious danger.

Bloat is more common in large breeds of dogs, especially those with deep, narrow chests. The top five most vulnerable breeds are:

  • Great Dane
  • Saint Bernard
  • Weimeraner
  • Irish Setter
  • Gordon Setter

Dogs more than seven years of age are more likely to suffer from bloat. Male dogs are more than twice as likely as females to develop bloat, whether or not they are neutered. Rapid eating and heavy post-meal exercise also seem to be risk factors for bloat. Dogs with nervous temperaments seem to be more likely to develop bloat than calm, relaxed dogs.

Vets don't quite know how bloat occurs, but they do know that it seems to be the result of a combination of factors, rather than one specific factor.

Signs of Bloat

Signs of bloat in dogs include an abnormally swollen belly, dry heaving and retching. Dogs with bloat may suffer from abdominal pain. They may become restless and breathe rapidly and shallowly.

Other symptoms of bloat include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Paleness
  • Weakening of the pulse
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Collapse

Treating Bloat in Dogs

Dogs suffering from bloat require immediate emergency veterinary care. Bloat is a life-threatening condition that can kill your dog. Even with appropriate emergency treatment, 25-30% of dogs with bloat die.

Your vet will assess your dog's condition before beginning treatment. Antibiotics, pain relievers and fluids may be administered.

Your vet will remove the air from your dog's stomach with either a needle or a stomach tube. X-rays will be taken to determine whether or not the stomach has rotated. If it has, your vet will perform abdominal surgery, which can determine the extent of the damage to the stomach and the internal organs. If the damage has not been too severe, your vet will reposition the stomach, then use a procedure known as gastropexy to suture the stomach in place so that it doesn't rotate again. Without this procedure, your dog has about a 75% chance of developing bloat again.

Preventing Bloat

There are several things you can do to prevent bloat in dogs. Large dogs should be fed two or three times a day, and they should be made to rest for an hour or two after feeding. Water should be withheld during this time as well. If you have multiple dogs, feed them separately and at floor level. Dogs who have already suffered bloat should receive preventative surgery.

Know the signs of bloat and have emergency veterinary plans worked out in advance.