Feeling bloated isn’t just a nuisance for dogs

Everyone feels bloated at times, and nobody enjoys it. Just like humans, dogs can become bloated for a variety of reasons. A major difference for your dog is that his bloat can quickly become a serious, even life-threatening condition, if left untreated.

Bloat occurs when your pet’s abdominal area fills with fluid, foam or excess gas. It can be the result of swallowing excess air, or of a malfunctioning valve at the bottom of the stomach. This malfunction means that substances cannot exit the stomach efficiently, causing the organ to expand and become distended.

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from bloat, contact your veterinarian immediately. This condition can become serious enough to be life threatening within 30 minutes. If you notice that your dog’s stomach is enlarged, and you see other symptoms such as vomiting, attempting to vomit, or sudden weakness, call your vet right away. Your quick response may save your pet’s life.

What is GDV?

Gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV) occurs when the stomach actually twists itself around after becoming enlarged. This can occur with too much exercise after a large meal or when your pet eats something unusual in large quantities.

When the stomach twists, the openings at the top and bottom of the stomach can become blocked. This means that substances are unable to enter and exit the stomach efficiently, which causes the stomach to continue swelling. This enlargement can press against the blood vessels in the area, affecting your pet’s circulation. Lack of fresh blood supply may mean damage to and even death of the tissue surrounding the stomach wall. Stomach expansion can also put pressure on your dog’s diaphragm, making it difficult to breath.

GDV is every bit as bad as it sounds, land can lead to bleeding disorders, infections, heart failure and sudden death.

Identifying symptoms of bloat

The good news about this condition is that the symptoms are fairly obvious and easy to watch for. Signs you should be concerned about:

  • sudden swelling in the abdominal area
  • attempts to vomit, eliminate or belch without success
  • restlessness
  • shortness of breath
  • signs of pain, such as whining or withdrawing from you

In the most severe cases of bloat, your pet may collapse, as the pressure on the circulatory system causes reduced blood flow, an irregular heartbeat and shock.

It is very important to call your veterinarian immediately if you see any of these symptoms, since sudden death can sometimes be their result.


The first key to treating bloat is to start immediately!

Your veterinarian will check your pet for shock and monitor his blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. Through a physical exam, x-rays and other diagnostic tests, your vet can quickly determine the cause of the bloat so that it can be treated appropriately. If there is no sign of twisting in the stomach, the treatment may be as simple as relieving the pressure with the aid of a needle or tube.

If it is determined that twisting has taken place, your dog will probably need emergency surgery to correct the problem. Through this method, your veterinarian can untwist and reposition the stomach, and examine the tissue to ensure that no damage has occurred. A gastropexy will most likely be performed during this procedure, which will attach the stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent future twisting. Your vet will also most likely examine the spleen to ensure that this organ is intact and undamaged as well.

How to prevent bloat

There is no way to completely prevent bloat from occurring, but there are steps that you can take to reduce the chance that your pet will suffer from this serious condition.

First, note the breed of your dog. Larger breeds with wide, barrel chests experience problems with bloat more commonly than do other breeds. If your dog is large and barrel-chested, keep a close eye on him for the telltale signs.

For all dogs:

  • Do feed pre-measured meals on a regular schedule to avoid overfilling his stomach
  • Soak dry food in water to make it easier to digest, if you are concerned about this condition
  • Don’t let your dog eat out of the garbage can
  • Avoid giving your dog unfamiliar foods
  • Don’t allow your dog to drink large amounts of water in a single setting
  • Avoid rigorous exercise right after a meal

While these steps will go far in reducing the odds that your dog will develop this condition, the best means of prevention is to keep a close eye on your pet and be prepared to call your veterinarian at the first sign of a problem. Quick reaction and treatment is your dog’s best chance at a full recovery from bloat.

Source: Adapted from the American Animal Hospital Association