Signs and Symptoms Of Dog Bloat or GDV
Dog bloat is the combination of 2 conditions-gastric dilatation where the stomach fills with gas and fluid, and volvulus, which is where the gas-filled stomach twists (GDV). Once the stomach twists, the blood supply to the stomach is cut off and the stomach begins to die which can lead to shock and death of the dog.
Bloat is a serious condition that can happen to any dog but it is more commonly seen in large or giant breed dogs that have deep chests, such as the Great Dane, Newfoundland, Boxer, Great Pyrenees, Irish Wolfhound, Irish Setter and several other large, deep-chested breeds.
This life-threatening condition is usually seen in adult dogs over the age of 4, and some studies have suggested that male dogs are more at risk than female dogs of getting bloat.
Bloat is the combination of 2 conditions-gastric dilatation where the stomach fills with gas and fluid, and volvulus, which is where the gas-filled stomach twists (GDV).
Once the stomach twists, the blood supply to the stomach is cut off and the stomach begins to die which can lead to shock and death of the dog.
A dog can bloat and not have the stomach twist, but it is still a serious condition because when the stomach fills up with gas and fluid, it puts pressure on the surrounding organs and the diaphragm which makes it hard for the dog to breathe and can cause serious damage to the stomach and the surrounding organs.
Veterinarian Dr. Jason Nicholas says, “Bloat/GDV can kill a dog within an hour if untreated.
This is why we vets can’t stress it enough: If you notice that your dog is bloated, it is officially the time to get them to the nearest open veterinary hospital ASAP.”
Early Signs Of Bloat In Dogs
The first signs of dog bloat can vary from dog to dog but these are the most common symptoms reported:
- Distention or swollen stomach
- Unproductive vomiting-which means the dog is trying to vomit but only foam or nothing at all is coming up.
- Heavy drooling
- Painful stomach
- Restlessness. The dog can not get comfortable
- Fast, heavy breathing
- Pale mucus membranes (gums)
How Quickly Does a Dog Bloat?
The timeline for a dog that is experiencing bloat moves pretty quickly.
In the first stages of bloat, gas begins to accumulate in the stomach, the dog begins to feel some discomfort.
Next, the stomach begins to dilate, and the dog becomes stressed. They may begin to pace and vomit up foam. Their stomach will usually be visibly enlarged.
In the last phase of GDV, the stomach twists, cutting off the blood supply to the stomach. The dog is normally in a lot of obvious pain, panting and drooling, shallow breathing, pale gums and the stomach when tapped on sounds hallow.
The dog will die shortly after this if emergency care is not already in progress.
Bloat can go from one stage to another within minutes.
Here’s a video of a dog experiencing bloat:
Why does canine bloat happen?
In my research, it seems that no one knows for sure but studies have suggested that dogs who eat one large meal a day, have anxiety, exercise vigorously before and after eating and drink large amounts of water before and after eating are more prone to bloat.
Genetics may increase a dog’s risk of GDV.
Some recent studies have suggested that dogs who suffer from IBD are at an increased risk for bloat.
There is no evidence that ice cubes cause dog bloat.
How can you prevent dog bloat in dogs?
That’s a great question and one that doesn’t seem to have a straight answer.
There seem to be several studies that contradict each other and I’m not a vet so the best advice I can give is to talk to your veterinarian about bloat and ask them about ways that you can try and prevent it.
A few things that I personally do to try and prevent it are:
- I feed twice a day, instead of one big meal once a day.
- I discourage fast eating. How To Slow Down Your Dog’s Eating
- I don’t allow the dogs to heavily exercise an hour before and an hour after eating.
- I don’t let them drink a ton of water an hour before and after eating.
- Leroy likes to go outside and roll around after he eats and I try to discourage this even though it’s never been proven to cause a dog’s stomach to twist.
- I know their bodies and I know them. Leroy has IBD which studies say increases his risk of GDV.
- I try to Sherman’s anxiety as low as I can
- I feed from a semi-elevated feeder. This is one of those things that studies have gone back and forth with over the years. Years ago studies suggested that feeding from an elevated feeder could help prevent bloat but recent studies suggest the opposite. I’ve always fed my Newfoundlands from elevated feeders without issues but that doesn’t mean I’m preventing bloat.
Some people will tact (gastropexy) their dog’s stomach to prevent torsion.
Tacking a stomach does not prevent bloat but in most cases, it will stop the stomach from twisting.
There are also dog bloat kits that are available but most veterinarians do not recommend home treatment for bloat since most pet owners will not feel comfortable putting a tube down their dog’s throat and it can be dangerous for the dog and for the owner.
Above all, getting your dog to an emergency clinic as soon as possible is the best option.
Having a bloat chart available in your home is also a great idea.
“Owners of deep-chested breeds can elect to get their dog a gastropexy, or they can minimize the risk of bloat by limiting strenuous exercise after eating and drinking, slowing the rate of food consumption, and feeding frequent small portions rather than infrequent larger portions.” – OSU College of Veterinary Medicine
Can Bloat In Dogs Resolve Itself?
For true bloat/GDV in a dog, it will not resolve by itself and there are no home treatments.
A dog that is experiencing a gastric torsion needs to seek emergency care or it will not survive.
So how about you? Do you have a breed that is prone to bloat? Do you know the signs? Any tips you can share?
Articles of Interest:
Institute of Canine Biology-Purdue Bloat Study
**On a side note I’ve discovered that the link to the official Purdue study is broken which is why there is not a direct link to it.
- Regular veterinarian's number:
- Emergency vet number:
- Distended stomach
- Not able to get comfortable
- Unproductive vomiting
- Heavy drooling
- Fast breathing
- Increased heart rate and pulse
- Pale gums
If you suspect that your dog is suffering from bloat it is best to seek treatment at the first signs of distress. Do not wait for symptoms to progress as bloat happens fast.
You can use the below area to monitor your dog's vitals.
Capillary refill time: