How to Cure Canine Bloat

What is Canine Bloat? The key thing to know is that this is potentially a life threatening medical condition.

Bloat refers to the bloating of a dog's stomach. Essentially it is a gas build-up in the stomach which cannot be released.

Bloat with Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) occurs when the stomach fills with gas and twists 180 to 360 degrees on it's axis between the esophagus and duodenum or the entrance and exit parts of the stomach.

Bloat is a very serious problem in large breed dogs. When combined with the complications of GDV, bloat is a leading cause of death of dogs, second only to cancer.

The exact reason a dog is bloated in unknown. Veterinary researchers believe that excessive drinking and eating followed by exercise may result in bloat. The hypothesis is that exercise leads to a build-up of gas in the stomach from food or liquid.

The is of greater concern and seriousness when the stomach twists upon itself within the abdomen in a clockwise rotation causing the inlet and outlet of the stomach as well as blood vessels which supply the stomach to become constricted at both ends.

This results in a loss of blood flow which will cause the stomach tissue to die. In a very short time, the stomach is deprived of oxygen and nutrients. If not treated, it can cause death.

What Are the Symptoms of a Bloated Dog?

Photo of canine bloat x-ray indicating gastric dilatation and volvulus i(GDV) n a German Shepherd. The large dark area is the gas trapped in the stomach. The pylorus and duodenum are in an abnormal position cranial to the stomach and are separated by a fold in the stomach, creating a "double bubble" appearance.
Source: Joel MillsSource: Joel Mills

One or more of the following symptoms are seen in a bloated dog:

  • Attempts to vomit or vomitting itself.
  • Anxiety
  • Belching
  • Distended abdomen
  • Excessive salivation or drooling
  • Increased heart rate
  • Pale gums
  • Respiratory distress such as difficulty breathing or panting
  • Painful Restlessness
  • Weakness
  • Whining

What Causes Bloat in Dogs?

As mentioned, the trigger for canine bloat is unknown. The direct cause is when the stomach fills with gas and the dog is not able to release the gas or relieve the pressure.

Bloat, with GDV, is when the stomach becomes twisted. This closes both the esophagus and pylorus, preventing the dog from relieving the gas pressure. This pressure would typically build-up after a larger meal.

This urgent medical problem can also cause shock, coma and eventually death. When a dog is bloated several factors are believed to trigger the condition : 

  • Disposition
  • Eating or drinking quickly
  • Elevated food bowls
  • Exercise before and immediately after eating
  • Having a large deep chest
  • Hereditary
  • Stress

Are All Dogs At Risk Canine Bloat?

Smaller dogs can get bloat, but Canine bloat and GDV usually only effects larger breed dogs.  It is thought that some breeds are genetically at a higher risk.

Though bloat can occur in puppies, it is a condition which usually occurs in adult dogs. Males are more likely to suffer from bloat than female dogs. For example, 40% of Great Dans will have bloat in their lifetime. It also occurs more often in older dogs starting at middle age.

Here is a list of some breeds that have a higher chance of being effected by bloat and GDV:

  • Akita
  • Bloodhound
  • Boxer
  • Doberman
  • German Shepherd
  • Golden Retriever
  • Great Dane
  • Great Pyrenees
  • Irish Setter
  • Irish Wolfhound
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Newfoundland
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Rottweiler
  • Standard Poodle
  • St. Bernards
  • Weimaraners

Treating a Bloated Dog

A case of a bloated dog is a chronic problem. If you suspect dog bloat, call a Vet right away. Every second counts! To confirm the specific diagnosis of a bloated dog, a Veterinarian will take an X-Ray.

If diagnosed early, treating a bloated dog involves the insertion of a tube or tochar into the stomach wall. The tube will help to release any gas.

If indicated, the veterinarian will operate on the dog in order to un-twist the stomach in order to put it back into the normal position.If needed, a Vet will also remove the dog spleen. After surgery, a dog will remain in an intensive care unit for a few days.

Secondary treatment will  address symptoms such as dehydration (with intraveneous fluids), fatigue, shock and other symptoms that are a result of the  stomach distension.

Bloated Dog Prognosis

When a dog is bloated and if caught early, 80% will fully recover. If the blood flow is cut off due to a twisted stomach (volvulus) and if the damage is chronic or severe (a condition called gastric necrosis), then the prognosis is poort.

Dog Bloat Prevention

Prevention of bloat can be difficult. Because there are so many possible causes for this condition, prevention must be examined on an individual basis.

If you have a dog that is at risk there are a couple of things that you can do to decrease the chances of this fatal condition. Since bloat is believed to be connected with genetics and hereditary, these preventive measures can only decrease the chances of bloat including:

- Avoid overfeeding. Feed 2-3 small meals/day.

- Do not use elevated food bowls

- Do not allow your dog to drink large amounts of water after eating.

- Add an enzyme product to your dogs food

- Explore emergency veterinary care in advance of a problem

- Gastropexy surgery, which helps to prevent a future recurrence of bloat or GDV.  Also, if you have a breed that is know for bloat, a gastropexy may be recommended before any cases occur.

This only provides BASIC information about bloated dogs. Your Vet is the ideal source of health information on your specific pet. Consult your vet for more information about Canine Bloat and GDV and its prevention.

Have A Labrador Retriever Bloat or Digestive System Related Question for our Veterinarian?

Do you have a Labrador Retriever bloat, stomach or digestive system related question for our Vet? We'll answer it for FREE! Just fill out this form and our Vet will get back to you as soon as possible.

Please include information such as the sex, medical history, medications, changes in behavior, when symptoms first appeared and anything else you believe would be helpful. Please send a picture to help us get to know your pet.

Questions are answered on a first come, first served basis and may take some time depending on the number we receive. If you have an urgent question, we suggest using this low cost online veterinary question service that has Vets standing by 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to help.

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