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What is bloat in dogs?

If you only want to learn a little about gastric dilitation-volvulus, commonly referred to as “bloat” in the dog world, then it is important to learn the signs and symptoms of this condition, above all else.

Bloat occurs when a dog’s stomach fills up with air and makes breathing difficult because of pressure on the diaphragm and other parts of the body. It can also cut off blood to the heart. Many online sources state that bloat is the second leading cause of death in dogs, behind cancer. Bloat can happen to any breed at any time.

Write down the symptoms of bloat on a piece of paper and put it in your wallet, inside a kitchen cupboard or where your dog’s food is stored. You don’t want to be logging on to your computer to see what the signs of bloat are, suspecting Fido has bloat, only to find that your internet isn’t working.

For Glory, the Buoyant Dog’s sake, I have researched the signs of bloat online, spoken with dog owners whose dogs have experienced bloat, and I have read stories. I have gathered the following as the primary or most consistent signs of bloat:

Signs and symptoms of bloat in dogs:

– Heavy salivating and/or heavy drooling
– Discomfort, “Dog looks uncomfortable”
– Dog has a “far away look” in its eyes
– Lack of the normal abdominal gurgling and digestive sounds (place ear on abdomen to listen)
– Attempts to vomit, but nothing comes up
– Attempts to vomit, but only foam, slimy drool or mucous is excreted
– Change in behavior, “Dog isn’t acting like usual self”
– Dog wanders off by itself
– Anxiety or restlessness, may be the form of pacing or whining
– A “hunched up” or “arched” appearance
– Abdominal area, or the area around the ribs may look bloated or bulged (may or may not be present)
– Abdominal area, or the area around the ribs may feel tight or expanded (may or may not be present)
– Coughing
– Gums are dark red, or even white or blue
– Shallow breathing in the form of heavy or rapid panting
– Dry heaving
– A drum-like sound when stomach is thumped

With the above symptoms listed, what can dog guardians do now? The following paragraphs include additional recommended tactics, so you are prepared for a bloat emergency.

First of all, become familiar with your dog’s habits and conditions now – while the dog is healthy.

Does Squirt drool a lot to begin with? What does your dog’s stomach normally sound like? Become familiar with the normal gurgling sounds. What does Daisy’s abdomen look like when it is not bloated? A visible “bloating” of your dog’s abdomen is not always present, so thump, touch and feel your dog’s currently healthy body, so you know what is different, should you suspect bloat. Become familiar with your dog’s resting heart rate and breathing rate.

In addition to your regular veterinarian, know where at least two emergency veterinarian clinics are located, and keep their phone numbers and locations copied down, preferably close to the list of bloat signs. Keep directions to these emergency veterinarian clinics in your wallet and their numbers on your cell phone. In an emergency it’s not always easy to remember names or locations of veterinarians.

Keep Extra Strength Gas-X (or a similar brand) on hand in the kitchen, in the car, in your dog first-aid kit, etc. Gas-X can be given to your dog while you are on your way to the emergency veterinarian. Capsules should be broken open and applied orally, so the liquid medicine is quickly absorbed by the dog. Don’t skimp on the Gas-X, as  it contains simethicone, a drug that goes down easily. Even if you give more than the recommended dosage in a suspected bloat situation, it won’t hurt your dog.

If veterinary service is delayed, or if you are waiting for the veterinarian to arrive, take your dog for a brisk walk. Do not run your dog, but this isn’t a walk in the park either. As long as your dog is in the early stages of bloat, a brisk walk can help move gas out of the stomach.

If you will be boarding your dog, or if a dog sitter checks on your dog, update the dog sitter on bloat signs, and leave detailed directions to veterinary clinics. Here is a helpful form to leave for friends, family and dog sitters who might be checking in on your dog.

Lastly, stay calm. At a time like this, your dog needs a calm pack leader. Stressing out will only make your dog’s condition worse. Keep your head, as your dog’s life is depending on your calm, cool and assertive energy. You can use pre-meditation techniques right now to think about the steps you will take in the event you suspect your dog is experiencing bloat.

Know the signs. Know what you are going to do. Don’t wait until later to write down the above signs of bloat. Bloat can develop in minutes, and it can kill in hours.

Tuesday 4th of September 2012

And thanks for the posts!! I need all the support I can get!!

Lindsay Stordahl

Tuesday 4th of September 2012

Thank you for your comments. I'm glad your dog is doing OK. Very scary!


Tuesday 4th of September 2012

This happened to my standard poodle last weekend! It is VERY SCARY! I thankfully KNEW she wasn't acting normal so I DID get her to the vet in time (to an emergency vet)! She had emergency surgery & is doing very well now but only bc I got her there on time!! She just couldn't get comfortable and she tried to throw up but couldn't. That was the only signs... TAKE THE ABOVE ADVICE!! Know your pet!!


Thursday 9th of December 2010

Thank you for making me aware of this - scarey. I had never thought of an emergency first aid kit for my dog but will now though. I don't even know what gas-X is, so looking that up will be the first step.


Thursday 5th of August 2010

Dog bloating is What happens is that your dog's stomach may start the process called torsion. ... also referred to as GDV, Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, or twisted stomach stops the risk of death and slows down your dogs eating habits. The film marley and me which is a true story outlined the effects of stomach twisting in dogs and how serious a health risk it can be to Dogs

Lindsay Stordahl

Monday 12th of April 2010

Yikes, that sounds horrible. That's something I would definitely not do without proper training. But if it could potentially save the dog's life, it would be worth learning about.