When most of us think about the word bloat we think about the digestive disorder where or abdomen becomes filled up with gas. After certain “gassy” foods are consumed, our stomach extends and we “feel bloated”. Although bloating in humans is not something to take lightly, in canines bloating can be a very serious and life-threatening issue.

By definition bloat is abdominal distention caused by swallowed air or gas production. Canine bloat, which is also known as Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus, is most common in large breed dogs and is a very serious disorder. However, with canine bloat there are varying degrees of severity.

When you look at the term Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, Gastric Dilatation refers to the increasing size of the abdomen where Volvulus, which is also known as torsion, refers to a condition where the stomach twists. Torsion is the most severe case of bloat and once it occurs the dogs blood supply to the heart becomes cut off, the stomach begins to die as toxins build up in the stomach.

Torsion is such a serious issue that your dog will require surgery and is at risk of dying within several hours (Even with surgery up to about a third of the cases still die).

Contents at a Glance

What breeds are at greater risk for bloat?

Bloat is most common in large deep-chested dogs such as the Great Dane, German Shepherd and Rottweiler. However the dogs in the example are not the only ones susceptible to bloat. Other deep-chested dogs such as Akitas, Bloodhounds, Dobermans, Standard Poodles, Basset Hounds are also at higher risk for bloat.

What are the major contributing factors to bloat?

Although the cause for bloat does not always happen in the same way for each dog, there are some major contributing factors that are believed to cause bloat.

One of the most common causes of bloat comes from the dog eating so fast that they swallow air and fluids. Bloat is more common in dogs that eat rapidly and are only fed once a day. However, the dogs eating habits alone are not the only causes for this disorder. Some of the other contributing factors to bloat are the dogs exercise habits, age, stress levels, and genetics.

Exercise habits can contribute to bloat in cases where the dog participates in vigorous activity one hour before feeds and up to two hours after they eat. Age is an issue since bloat is more common in dogs after the age of four. And unfortunately there have been some cases where some dogs are genetically more susceptible to the disorder.

What are the recognizable symptoms for bloat?

The key to saving your pet from bloat is to recognize the symptoms early on. One of the most obvious signs of bloat, although not the most common, is abdominal swelling after meals. Additional signs could also included gagging, whining, heavy salivating, dry vomiting (which may occur every 5 to 20 minutes), and shallow breathing. Your dog may also show signs of pacing, have an excessive heart rate. In the case of volvulus, or torsion, your dog may have a week pulse and or discoloration of the gums (color of the gums can change to a pale color due to the severity of bloat).

What to do if your dog gets bloat?

If you dog does come down with bloat the best way to increase his or her survival is to get them to your veterinary or animal emergency clinic as soon as possible. Bloat is a very serious issue and the quicker you get your dog to the vet the better the chances for survival. To help increase your dogs chances for survival, call your vet ahead of time so that they can be prepared for your arrival.

How is bloat treated?

Once the dog arrives to the hospital the vet will need to examine the dog to access the severity of the condition. Blood test and X-Rays will most likely be used to help diagnose your dog’s condition. In most cases a mild sedative will also be given to help relax the dog.

A procedure called gastric lavage will most likely be administered to help decompress the dog’s stomach. Gastric lavage is a procedure where a tube is passed down the throat into the dog’s stomach to help relieve the gas. Another method used to decompress the stomach is called trochar. Trochar is procedure where an IV cathodor is placed into the stomach through the skin wall. The needle is then removed while leaving the cathodor in the dog. The belly of the dog is then pressed to release the gasses.

In the event of severe cases, such a torsion, surgery will be necessary to save the dog. With surgery the stomach is untwisted, the dead tissue is removed and the stomach is anchored to the to prevent reoccurrence. Unfortunately surgery can be very expensive and the recovery times can be quite long.

Bloating in Dogs

Bloating in Dogs

What steps can you take to help prevent bloat?

Although bloat is not 100 % preventable in large-chested dogs, there are some preventative measures that can be taken to minimize the risk. One recommendation is that instead of feeding larger dogs once a day, it is recommend feeding them at least two to three small meals a day. Also, while your dog eats you should also try to discourage rapid eating. Another important recommendation is to take into consideration that if you are going to change your dog’s diet, you need to do it gradually over a week of time. Sudden changes to the dog’s diet can make them more susceptible to bloat. Other than the diet changes, vigorous exercise should be avoided one hour prior and two hours after your dog eats.

Although these recommendations will not guarantee that your dog does not get bloat, they will help decrease the chances of them getting this disorder.