What is bloat in dogs?



Note: This is a guest post by Christina over at Buoyant Dog. Pictured is Christina’s dog Glory and their buddy, Squirt.

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.

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  1. Lamb on March 4, 2010

    Wow, I had never heard of this. Thank you from myself, as well as Pica and Biscuit! :)

  2. Apryl on March 4, 2010

    Unfortunately, Gustav’s breed is more likely to get bloat than others so I am constantly watching for the signs. Yeah, I am a bit paranoid but he’s my big “baby”.

    I didn’t know about the Gas-X – thank you so much! I’ll make sure I have some on hand.

  3. Lindsay Stordahl Author on March 5, 2010

    Hopefully neither of you will ever have to deal with this.

  4. Susan on March 5, 2010

    I didn’t know about the Gas-X either. Thanks. I don’t have an official first aid kit for Stella. Guess should get busy and make one :)

  5. Dorrie on March 5, 2010

    Being “owned” by two Great Danes, bloat is always on the back of my mind. With bloat, the stomach flips over, sealing off both entrance and exit to the stomach. I fail to see how Gas-X can be of any help as there is no way it can enter the stomach, unless i’m missing something here. The true “drop-dead, hair on fire” emergency is loss of blood supply to stomach and intestines, causing them to begin dying immediately – not that the stomach is bloating with gasses. The only 100% preventive is having the stomach surgically tacked to abdominal wall so it cannot flip – a procedure many large and giant breed owners feel is worth the money. I’m no vet, so if someone has a better answer about the Gas-X, i’d like to hear it.

    • Anonymous on September 4, 2012

      My dog had GDV last weekend… I think the stomach bloats and then flips so if you give gas-x before it flips maybe it will just bloat, which isn’t AS life-threatening.

  6. Lindsay Stordahl Author on March 6, 2010

    I don’t have one for Ace, either, Susan. Always a good idea.

    Dorrie, I am not a vet either. From what I understand, though, Gas-X can help the dog in the very early stages of bloat.

  7. Marti on March 9, 2010

    Thank you Dorrie! You are absolutely right about everything you said. . .and thank goodness you said it! About 6 years ago, our Kuvasz developed “bloat”. The ONLY way I would have known what was happening is that our vet’s office manager had given us a “heads up” on large, deep chested dogs and a 6 page article on “bloat” when we first got “Bear”. She is hero number 1! Hero number 2 is the vet who had just recently opened the Animal Emergency Clinic for our 2 a.m. major emergency! As they were helping us get Bear into the building, the vet said, “how did you diagnose him so quickly?”. I told her about our vet’s office manager. The R.N. who was working for the emergency vet said to me, as the doctor wheeled Bear into X-Ray, “you do know that (the Emergency Vet) is the sister of (our Vet’s office manager)?” Two first-rate, professional, caring, giving, wonderful women from the same family! Attention to detail 5 years earlier by that office manager made the difference in life and death! Minutes count! Bear’s stomach had indeed flipped over, circulation stopped, but because of EVERYONE’S intervention and speed, he suffered no tissue death, and lived a healthy, happy life. We recently lost Bear to cancer. . .but we were so fortunate to have him for exactly 10 1/2 years. . .

    • Anonymous on September 4, 2012

      The same thing happened to my standard poodle last weekend! She survived but I’m scared to death it’ll happen again!!! I’m so sorry you lost your dog to cancer!! Truly sorry!! He didn’t have GDV again did he?

  8. Marti on March 9, 2010

    One more thing. . .the LAST thing you want to do is give ANYTHING by mouth to a dog that has “bloat”. You also do not want to mask the symptoms (as if you could with Gas-X). I am an R.N. (critical care). You can find a lot of information on “bloat” written by professionals. . .don’t take my word for it. . .bloat in dogs is not the same as “feeling bloated” from say, overeating. . .it is EXTREMELY painful for the animal!!!! Call your vet if you even THINK they are experiencing “stomach torsion” or “bloat”. By the way, to be on the safe side, always check with your vet before you give your dog a medication for human beings. . .what we don’t know can hurt them!

    • Anonymous on September 4, 2012

      My standard poodle had bloat last weekend. I’m also an RN. The vet TOLD ME to give my dog gas meds now…. She said Pepcid AC tho, not gas-x in particular. RN is A LOT DIFFERENT than a vet… I’m going to listen to her bc she knows about animals and is a DOCTOR.

  9. Christina on March 10, 2010

    Gas-X is not a treatment for bloat. Simply, it can buy you a few more minutes as you are on your way to the vet or waiting for the vet to arrive. There exists two very different stages of bloat, and the beginning stages of bloat includes dilitation, basically air builds up in the stomach. Of course, once volvulus has occured (perhaps as long as hours later), it is too late for Gas-X, a walk or anything. Once the stomach has turned, an emergency operation is required within minutes. I know folks who have administered simethicone on the way to the vet, suspecting their dog had bloat. It turned out, the simethicone helped, surgery commenced and the dogs survived. I am not a veterinarian, but I am sharing information that was recommended by integrative veterinarians and was used by ordinary folks whose dogs survived bloat. I’m am very happy that those who did not yet know about bloat now know about it, and I am happy that my post helped others. I thank Lindsey for the opportunity to appear in such a wonderful dog blog. Yours kindly, Christina

  10. Lindsay Stordahl Author on March 10, 2010

    Thanks, Christina, for your informative post!

    Marti, Christina was in no way implying that Gas-X will cure bloat. It is simply something that can help in the very early stages and is perfectly safe to give to dogs.

    Anyone with questions on bloat or anyone who suspects their dog is showing signs of bloat should contact their vet immediately.

    • Anonymous on September 4, 2012

      Marti is NOT A VET OR A HUMAN DR. Your posts are very helpful!!!

  11. Jessica Taylor on March 16, 2010

    I have been interning at an animal hospital and they recently had a case of bloat. Although I was there at the time I was able to look at X-rays and was shocked at how large the stomach had become. Typically a dog’s stomach is about the size of a fist and this one was taking up the whole area around the rib cage. I had never heard of bloat before and I didn’t really know the symptoms. Also, I learned that bloat can be caused by exercising 30 minutes before eating and 30 minutes after eating and is more common in larger dogs.

  12. Lindsay Stordahl Author on March 16, 2010

    Yeah I’ve only heard of bloat happening in larger breeds such as danes and labs and bloodhounds. It can happen to any dog, though.

  13. Brandi on April 12, 2010

    Our trainer in puppy class mentioned having a piece of gardenhose to shove down the dog’s throat if they had bloat. Has anyone heard of this? We have a german shepherd and I hope to never have to contemplate shoving a hose down her throat.

  14. Lindsay Stordahl Author on April 12, 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.

  15. Dawn on August 5, 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
    gobblerbowl.co.uk 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

  16. Sara on December 9, 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.

  17. Valentin Pluff on July 3, 2011

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  18. Myka on September 4, 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!!

  19. Anonymous on September 4, 2012

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

    • Lindsay Stordahl Author on September 4, 2012

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

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