As a small animal veterinarian, I always inform my new pet parents about common serious diseases that require immediate treatment, and the indicative clinical signs. When it comes to large breed dogs, a disease called bloat is high on my list of those serious diseases. Bloat can be a deadly disease if not treated immediately, so it is important to be aware of the symptoms of bloat in dogs. There also are certain breeds of dogs that are more predisposed to bloat.
What Is Bloat?
Bloat is a condition in dogs that results from the stomach becoming severely inflated with gas. In severe cases, the stomach can twist upon itself resulting in a condition called gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV). Gastric dilatation volvulus is an extremely serious condition and can lead to death if not treated immediately.
What Causes Bloat in Dogs?
Canine bloat is a condition that is not completely understood by veterinarians, and we do not know the exact causes of bloat. We do know that certain breeds of dogs are more susceptible to this condition. Generally speaking, large breed dogs with barrel shaped chests—such as Great Danes, large hound breeds, Saint Bernards and Standard Poodles—are more commonly diagnosed with bloat. But that’s not to say small breed dogs do not get it. Also, males suffer with bloat more commonly than females, and it generally involves middle-aged pets.
Many dogs with bloat present with a history of eating or drinking a large amount followed with excessive activity, such as running.
- Excessive salivation or drooling
- Distended abdomen
- Painful abdomen
- Unable to get comfortable and lie down
If you note any of these clinical signs, immediately have your pet evaluated by your veterinarian. There is nothing you can do to relieve bloat at home for your pet; your veterinarian is your best resource.
How Is Bloat Diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will use abdominal radiographs (X-rays) and blood work to determine a diagnosis.
How Do You Treat Bloat?
Dogs that are diagnosed with gastric dilatation volvulus need immediate surgery. This serious condition is fatal without veterinary intervention. The longer your pet experiences bloat without treatment, the worst the prognosis is for recovery.
Dog bloat treatment involves abdominal surgery in which the stomach is reduced back to its normal position. The stomach is then sutured to the abdominal wall using a procedure called a gastropexy. If there has been extensive damage to the spleen, it is surgically removed. Post-operative, a dog requires hospitalization, fluid therapy and monitoring of vital signs and heart rate.
How Can You Prevent Canine Bloat?
Although little is known about the cause of bloat in dogs, there are ways to prevent it. If you are concerned that your pet may be at risk for bloat, speak with your veterinarian. Performing preventative gastropexy involves attaching the stomach to the abdominal wall so it cannot twist upon itself. Many pet parents have this procedure performed on their pets when they are going under anesthesia for spay or neuter surgery.
There also are noninvasive ways to perform this procedure using a scope. Although the research has not been definitive on these recommendations, I advise my pet parents to:
- Feed small meals throughout the day, or feed slower. I like Outward Hound Fun Feeder Interactive Dog Bowl, Wag Haus Guzzle Muzzle Slow Feeder Dog Bowl and the Dogit Go Slow Anti-Gulping Dog Bowl to slow down the feeding.
- Feed from an elevated food bowl to avoid your pet having to lean down to eat.
- Offer your dog water at all times in small amounts.
- Try to reduce your pet’s stress, especially around feeding time.
- Help your dog avoid excessive activity after meals.
Bloat can be very scary, especially since it can be deadly if not caught early. I hope this article helps pet parents become aware of this disease and the common ways to help dogs with bloat. As always, the health and wellness of pets is my top priority. If you have any questions or concerns, visit or call your veterinarian; he or she is your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.
Recognize the Signs