How To Prevent and Treat Dog Bloat

Known as the Silent Killer, Dog Bloat Can Truly Endanger Your Pup’s Life

Bloat is a dangerous situation for your dog. Also known as gastric torsion or gastric dilatation volvulus, bloat is a life threatening emergency that happens when the stomach swells with gas and fluid (gastric dilatation) and then twists (volvulus), trapping gas and fluids in the stomach.

Any dog can suffer from bloat, but it’s most common in larger dogs with deep chests like Boxers, German Shepherds, Bloodhounds, English Setters, Labrador Retrievers and so on.

Symptoms of Bloat

Early stages of bloat may cause the following symptoms:

  • Pacing restlessly or appear sluggish
  • Gagging
  • Unsuccessful attempts to vomit
  • Producing excessive saliva
  • Shallow breathing
  • Dull, vacant, pained expression
  • Shock

Other symptoms can include the dog’s abdomen looking distended and sounding hollow if thumped. In later stages of a dog bloating, the dog may retch and have pale gums. The dog’s pulse weakens and he is unable to stand. He will be unable to vomit and it will be obvious that he’s in great physical distress.

Treating Bloat

If you suspect your dog is bloating, you should call your veterinarian or an emergency clinic immediately. When you arrive, they’ll quickly evaluate your dog. If the veterinarian diagnosis is bloat, he will try and pass a stomach tube. If the tube goes in and gas is released, the dog will immediately feel much better.

If the tube can’t get into the stomach because of a twist, the veterinarian may stick a large needle right through the body wall into the stomach to relieve pressure and release gas. The dog will then go directly to surgery if his heart is stable.

While in surgery, the stomach is untwisted, and the intestines and stomach are carefully checked for damage. The stomach will then be fastened down to the body wall with sutures in an effort to prevent any recurrence. If the dog survives, he will end up staying in the hospital for a couple of days with IV fluids and observation.

If your dog’s stomach has been twisted for a while, or is twisted tightly, there will be some dead tissue because of reduced blood flow. This is very dangerous because untwisting the tissues will release some nasty bacteria and toxins. Though your veterinarian will do their best to reduce the effects of those toxins with medications, some dogs die anyway. Other dogs will require the removal of dead tissue.

Preventing Bloat

Prevention is the best defense against bloat. A lot of research has gone into finding the cause of bloating, but there are no real clear answers to the cause of it at this time. Some researchers have looked into different types of diets as factors, such as dry food versus canned and even certain ingredients in dog food, but nothing specific has emerged.

There are a couple of things you can do to help prevent bloat. Making your dog rest for at least an hour before and after eating a meal seems to help. You also might want to limit the amount of water your dog drinks right before and right after eating a meal. It’s also a good idea to break your dog’s meals into smaller portions. If he’s eating two meals a day, you might want to break it down to three smaller ones.

Options for slowing your dog’s eating down (left to right) Bob-A-Lot by StarMark, Magic Mushroom Treat Dispenser by Busy Buddy and a Slow-Feed Bowl from JW Pet.

Slowing Down Eating Food

StarMark Bob-A-Lot Interactive Dog Toy

Dog Food Dispensing Toy

Busy Buddy Magic Mushroom Dog Toy

Slow Feed Dog Bowl

JW Pet SkidStop Slow Feed Pet Bowl

Bloat doesn’t happen very often. Most dogs can live their whole lives without having this problem. You should always be keeping an eye on how your dog is feeling after eating a meal and throughout the day. If he shows any symptoms listed above, get in touch with a veterinarian immediately.

It's important to be able to read the signs of bloat however the video below might help you see what the symptoms are like in real life. Rosco, the dog in the video clip had just gotten adopted and unaware to his owners Rosco was sick and rushed to the emergency vet where he received life-saving treatment. Hopefully this video will give you the confidence you need in reading the signs and symptoms of bloat.

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