Dog Bloat: Learn the Symptoms
and Save Your Best Friend's Life

This X-ray shows dog bloat. The large dark area is the gas trapped in the stomach. The pylorus and duodenum are in an abnormal position. ©Copyright Joel Mills

Bloat, also known as gastric diliation-volvulus, causes thousands of deaths annually among large and giant breed dogs. It occurs when gas builds in the stomach until the stomach twists, cutting off blood circulation. It is essential to take every possible precaution to avoid bloat but also to learn the symptoms. Since death from bloat can occur within a few hours, you need to act quickly to save your best friend's life.

Snapshot: Dog Bloat
Here's a quick overview if you're in a hurry. Come back later when you have time to read the complete guide.

  • Symptoms: If your best friend suffers from bloat, he/she will exhibit one or more of the following symptoms: Pacing, whining, attempts to lie down/get up, swollen stomach.
  • Causes: Bloat can be caused by a overeating or drinking a large amount of water during or immediately after a meal; strenuous exercise prior to or following a meal.
  • Diagnosis: A vet will diagnose bloat by examining the dog and finding one or more of the above symptoms present.
  • Prevention: To reduce the likelihood of bloat: Do not allow your dog to exercise one hour prior, or at least 90 minutes after, a meal. Feed your dog at least two or three small meals per day rather than one large meal.
  • Treatment: A tube will be passed through the dog's throat into the stomach to decompress the buildup of gas. If the vet suspects the dog's stomach is twisted in addition to being distended, surgery will be necessary to put the stomach back in place.

Symptoms

If your canine best friend suffers from bloat, he/she will exhibit one or more of the following symptoms: Pacing, whining, attempts to lie down/get up, swollen stomach. Your dog may also unsuccessfully attempt to vomit or to defecate. In other words, he/she will go through the motion, but nothing comes out. This is because the stomach has twisted, trapping its contents. The food cannot be vomited up or pooped out.

Causes of Dog Bloat

Dog bloat can be caused by a dog overeating or drinking a large amount of water during or immediately after a meal. Dog bloat can also be caused by a dog exercising soon before or after eating. Some studies suggest that an anxious, hyper or irritable dog is more likely to experience dog bloat than a calm, happy canine.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis: A vet will diagnose dog bloat by examining the dog and finding one or more of the above symptoms present. He will also ask the dog's caregiver to describe their observations, including when the symptoms began occurring. Most cases of dog bloat occur two to six hours after the dog ate a full meal.

Conventional Treatment

A tube will be passed through the dog's throat into the stomach to decompress the buildup of gas. If the vet suspects the dog's stomach is twisted in addition to being distended, surgery will be necessary to put the stomach back in place.

Alternative Treatment

A holistic or chiropractic veterinarian may be helpful in offering alternatives for the preventative measures provided above. Here are several alternative veterinary organizations you may contact to find a member in your area.
The American Holistic Veterinary Association
American Veterinary Chiropractic Association
American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture

Prevention

The following measures should be taken to reduce the likelihood of bloat: Do not allow your dog to exercise one hour prior, or at least 90 minutes after, a meal. Feed your dog at least two or three small meals per day rather than one large meal. There is a theory among some dog people that dry food high in grain content plays a role in causing bloat. If you follow this line of logic, you should choose dry food that lists meat, meat meal and bone meal within the first few ingredients, not grain. While this theory has not yet been proven, it does have merit. There are additional benefits to choosing high-quality dog food that has more protein than grain (carbohydrate) in it. You will have an overall healthier best friend!

My Experience

I am happy to say that none of our own dogs nor foster dogs have ever suffered from bloat. While I can't prove it, I suspect this fact is related to several factors: We feed all of our dogs high-quality foods and adhere to the "no exercise prior to or following a meal" rule. That's a photo of our Buster at right, one of our pit bulls. He LOVES to play fetch. But we stick strictly to the rule, not giving in to his pestering until it is at least 90 minutes after a meal. At that time, we PLAY BALL!

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