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Bloat in Dogs: Signs, Prevention & What To Do

Bloat in Dogs: Signs, Prevention & What To Do

The Terrifying Truth About Bloat

Oh my dog, I hate this disease with a passion. When I first started as a vet, back in the day, we’d give a dog with bloat a 50-50 chance if they could even walk into the hospital. Many were too weak and had to be carried in. Sadly, they often didn’t make it.

Fast forward 30 years, and bloat still kills around 30% of the dogs it affects, even after intensive treatment. I really hope you never have to witness this nightmare in your own pup, but learning about what it is, why it happens, and how to tackle it could just save their life.

What is Bloat in Dogs?

Bloat, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), is a true veterinary emergency. It happens when a dog’s stomach fills up with air or fluid, then twists on itself. This completely blocks the escape of gas, liquid, and other contents from the stomach.

As the stomach continues to expand like a balloon, it puts immense pressure on the surrounding organs and blood vessels. The lack of blood flow causes the stomach tissue to start dying. On top of that, the twisting stomach drags the spleen and pancreas along for the ride, cutting off their blood supply too.

Within just a couple of hours, this perfect storm of complications can send your pup into shock and, without urgent treatment, straight to doggy heaven. It’s a devastating condition that no dog parent should ever have to witness.

Spotting the Signs of Bloat

Bloat isn’t always easy to spot, especially in large, furry pups where the distended stomach may be hidden behind the ribcage. But there are some key symptoms to watch out for:

  • Unproductive vomiting or retching – Your dog may try to throw up, but only produce thick, stringy saliva.
  • Restlessness and pacing – They’ll struggle to get comfortable and may pace anxiously.
  • Excessive drooling – All that nausea can get the saliva glands working overtime.
  • Rapid, shallow breathing – As the expanding stomach puts pressure on the lungs.
  • Pale or off-color gums – A sign their circulation is compromised.
  • Collapse – A late-stage symptom as their condition deteriorates.

If you spot any of these warning signs, don’t wait – get your pup to the vet immediately. Bloat is a ticking time bomb, and minutes really can mean the difference between life and death.

Reducing the Risks of Bloat

Okay, I know that was pretty scary, but try not to panic. While we can’t prevent every single case of bloat, there are steps you can take to significantly reduce the risks for your canine companion.

First up, take a look at your pup’s breed. Giant and deep-chested dogs like Great Danes, St. Bernards, Weimaraners, and German Shepherds are far more prone to bloat. If your furry friend falls into one of those high-risk categories, you may want to consider a preventative gastropexy surgery. This essentially ‘tacks’ the stomach in place to stop it from twisting.

Diet and feeding habits also play a big role. Pups who scarf down their food in seconds flat have a five times higher risk of bloat than slower eaters. Switching to a slow feeder bowl can really make a difference. It’s also best to avoid feeding just one large meal per day – split it into two or more smaller portions instead.

And while we’re on the subject of mealtimes, steer clear of vigorous exercise before and after dining. The combination of a full stomach and a bouncing pup is a recipe for disaster. Give them at least 30-60 minutes to settle down before and after chow time.

Lastly, try to keep your dog happy and relaxed. Stressed, anxious pups are twice as likely to experience bloat. Separate them from any ‘food aggression’ triggers at mealtimes, and make sure they get plenty of positive reinforcement training and enrichment activities to keep their mind at ease.

When Bloat Strikes: What to Do

Of course, even with all those preventative measures in place, there’s always a chance bloat could still affect your dog. If that happens, seconds count. Your first move should be to call your vet or the nearest emergency animal clinic – they’ll need to see your pup ASAP.

While you’re racing to the hospital, try to keep your dog as calm and comfortable as possible. Avoid giving them any food or water, as that could make things worse. If you have time, you can try gently massaging their abdomen, but don’t force it if they seem distressed.

Once your pup is in the capable paws of the veterinary team, they’ll spring into action. First, they’ll need to release all that built-up gas and fluid in the stomach – that’s the immediate priority to ease the pressure. They may be able to do this with a tube, but surgery is sometimes required.

From there, it’s all about stabilizing your dog and reversing the shock caused by the lack of blood flow. Fluids, painkillers, antibiotics, and medications to support the heart will all be part of the emergency treatment.

If your pup makes it through that initial crisis, the vet team will then examine the stomach for any tissue damage. Sadly, in severe cases, part of the stomach may need to be removed. And to prevent future episodes, they’ll likely perform that gastropexy surgery we talked about earlier.

I know, it’s a lot to take in. But the key things to remember are: act fast, get professional help, and don’t wait for the symptoms to resolve on their own. Bloat is a deadly emergency, and your pup’s life is on the line.

A Final Word on Bloat

Ultimately, my heart goes out to any pet parent who has to face this terrifying condition. I’ve seen firsthand how quickly it can spiral out of control, and the devastating impact it can have. But please, don’t let that scare you away from adopting a dog, especially if they’re a big, deep-chested breed.

With the right preventative measures and awareness of the warning signs, the chances of your pup developing bloat are relatively low. And if the worst should happen, don’t hesitate to get them to the vet – your quick action could just save their life.

As for me, I’ll keep fighting this dreadful disease, researching new ways to protect our canine companions. In the meantime, give your furry friend an extra cuddle from me, and remember – at, we’re in this together, every step of the way.

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