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.
The 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 volvus, 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 very 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.
What are the signs of bloat?
Signs and symptoms can vary but these are the most common signs 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, shallow breathing
- Pale mucus membranes (gums)
It’s pretty scary and it happiness very fast. So fast that your dog can be fine and then the next minute you notice his stomach is distended, he’s trying to vomit and you grab your keys and head to the emergency clinic and on the way there he dies.
Here’s a video of a dog experiencing bloat:
Why does 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. Some recent studies have sugguested that dogs who suffer from IBD are at an increased risk for bloat.
How can you try to prevent canine bloat?
That’s a great question and one that doesn’t seem to have a straight answer. There seems 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 vet 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 its never been proven to cause a dog to bloat.
- I know their bodies and I know them.
- 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 (gastroplexy) 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 bloat kits that are available but since most pet owners will not feel confortable putting a tube down their dog’s throat, getting your dog to an emergency clinic as soon as possible is the recmommended course of action.
Having a bloat chart available in your home is also recommended.
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: