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5 Emergency Signs & Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs

Bloat (also known as Gastric Dilation Volvulus) is a serious and deadly condition. Sadly, many pet owners have never heard of it. It’s important to recognize the symptoms of bloat in dogs to prevent tragedy.

Read this post to learn how to take necessary steps to reduce the risk of bloat in dogs. Learn the signs and symptoms of bloat and how to get emergency care asap.

What is Bloat in Dogs?

Bloat in dogs, or Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) is a condition where the dog’s stomach fills with gas, food or fluid. It can happen without warning and progress to a life-threatening emergency quickly.

Once the stomach fills with air (or fluid), the pressure builds. This pressure can stop blood from the hind legs and stomach from getting back to the heart. Blood quickly pools at the back end of the dog’s body. At this point the dog will go into shock because the working blood volume is significantly reduced.

Did you know there is a difference between “simple bloat” and GDV? Simple bloat (or stomach distension) can happen on its own but it can also resolve on its own. Gastric dilatation volvulus, however, involves the twisting and flipping of the stomach.

Simple Bloat

Simple bloat can happen at any time. It involves stomach distension without the twisting of the stomach. Since vital oxygen isn’t being cut off from the organs, it can continue for hours before becoming life-threatening.

That said, it can quickly switch to GDV at any time. When that happens, the stomach actually twists around and cuts off vital oxygen flow.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

GDV, or bloat, can be fatal if left untreated. The stomach fills quickly and puts pressure on the surrounding organs. Suddenly, you dog is left with decreased blood flow. If the stomach actually twists, blood supply is completely cut-off from major organs.

At this point, the dog can easily go into shock. Toxins build up quickly and tissues die.

What Causes Bloat in Dogs?

Experts agree that there is no individually specific cause of bloat in dogs. Instead, it appears to occur as a result of factors including genetics, breed, food (dry kibble) ingredients, and feeding routine.

It can occur at any age. However, it’s mostly diagnosed in middle-aged dogs. In fact, Purdue University suggests that risk increases by 20% per each year of age. According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, the condition has affected nearly all dog breeds.

It seems to occur more frequently in dogs that are taller than they are wide.

Dogs with first-line relatives who have suffered from bloat are at risk. Other possible causes of bloat include:

bloat is life threatening in dogs

Genetics/Breed Type

As mentioned above, there are several large breeds that are susceptible to symptoms of bloat in dogs.  Giant breed dogs and deep-chested breeds seem to be more at risk. Essentially, any large breed dogs could develop bloat in their lifetime.

A few of these breeds include:

  • German Shepherd
  • Basset Hound
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Boxers
  • Irish Setters
  • Great Danes
  • Standard Poodles
  • Basset Hound
  • Akitas

What’s lurking in your dog’s DNA?

The best way to figure out whether your dog might be more susceptible to bloat is to try a Canine DNA testing kit. The best one on the market right now is made by Wisdom Health. It’s quick and easy to do (just a cheek swab) and can identify specific health issues.

NOTE: Although large breeds tend to be more at risk, it doesn’t eliminate the possibility of smaller breeds suffering the same condition.

Dry Kibble

Some websites claim this is a myth while others claim its validity. 

A report conducted in 2017 suggests the possibility of small particle kibble leaving the dog at higher risk of bloat. However, further studies revealed that dry kibble had no great effect on the risk.  At this point, there don’t appear to be any hard facts on the topic. 

Really Fast Eaters

Most dogs can’t seem to get their food in fast enough. The problem with this is that they end up gulping down excessive air with the food. This begins the process of stomach expansion. If the dog engages in heavy exercise shortly after eating, his/her risk of bloat increases.

According to the American Kennel Club, bloat kills about 30% of the dogs who get it. This happens despite aggressive treatment.

Steps to Reduce the Risk of Bloat in Dogs

There are a few things pet owners can do to reduce the risk of bloat. These include:

Slow Down Fast Eaters

Use special dog food bowls designed to make eating more complicated. This forces the dog to slow down. Slow feeder bowls help to physically slow a dog from eating too fast.

Eating too quickly and then engaging in strenuous play or exercise can bring on an episode of bloat. 

Feed Dogs More Often

If you feed a dog more than once a day, he/she doesn’t tend to get as ravenous. For that reason, your dog may be less likely to eat too fast. Hunger can increase a dog’s anxiety as well. That anxiety can translate into eating too fast.

Reduce Food Competition

If you are feeding more than one dog at a time, you may need to keep them separated. This can help to reduce anxiety and stress. Dogs who are anxious may swallow more air, eat more quickly, and may be at higher risk of bloat.

5 Emergency Signs of Bloat

Remember that a dog affected by bloat will go into shock quickly. Without treatment, you only have a short period of time to get emergency medical help. If you spot these signs in your dog, call an emergency veterinarian clinic ASAP and let them know you are on your way.

Enlarged Abdomen

You will notice a visible swelling of the stomach.


As the stomach fills with air, your dog will begin to retch. He will attempt to vomit but nothing will come up. This is because the stomach is twisted inside and nothing can be expelled. This is extremely painful.

Excessive Drooling/Salivation

Along with the signs noted above, you’ll notice a steady drool flowing from your dog’s mouth.

High Heart Rate

Dogs with bloat will quickly go into shock. They will develop a rapid heart rate. You should be well on your way to the veterinarian clinic at this point.

Extreme Distress

Your dog will show obvious signs of distress including whining and restlessness. It will be obvious that something is seriously wrong.

Having Trouble Finding the Right Food for Your Dog: Read the Best Puppy Kibbles 2020 Reviews & Top Picks.

Is There Anything I Can Do at Home to Treat Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs?

No. If you suspect your dog has bloat, there are no at-home treatments that will work. It is vital that you get your dog to an emergency clinic ASAP.

Bloat in dogs is more than just an upset stomach.  The dog’s stomach can actually twist and pinch off vital oxygen.  One of the symptoms of bloat in dogs is pale nose and gums.  Inadequate blood flow means there is no oxygenation happening. In other words, your dog suddenly has very poor circulation.

Giant breeds are more at risk of developing bloat.

How Long Can a Dog Live with Bloat?

A dog with bloat (specifically with twisted stomach) will not likely make it through the night without medical attention.  The symptoms of bloat in dogs noted above are divided into three phases, but each phase develops quickly.

It’s important to mention that not all dogs end up with Gastric Dilation Volvulus in which the stomach becomes twisted.  A simple case of tummy upset with flatulence is not a medical emergency.

How Can a Veterinarian Reverse Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs?

The danger of bloat is the twisted stomach. Immediate surgery is the only chance the dog has of survival. During surgery, the doctor returns the stomach to its rightful position, allowing gases to escape. In order to prevent bloat from recurring in your dog, the surgeon will perform a gastropexy.

Gastropexy involves stapling the dog’s stomach to the inside lining.  This ensures it will not happen again.

Preventative surgery is sometimes performed at the time the dog is being sterilized. Surgeons are able to perform a laprascopy.  A small incision is made and the stomach is stapled using tools that do not require invasive surgery.

The Cost of Gastropexy

Symptoms of bloat in dogs indicate a serious and life-threatening condition.  Dog owners don’t usually stop to ask for the cost at this stressful time.

Generally speaking, you could pay anywhere from $400 to thousands of dollars.  Costs will vary depending on a variety of factors.  Individual clinics offer different services.  

The only way to offset these costs is to make sure to purchase pet insurance while the dog is still young and symptom-free.  You will get the best quote on pet insurance before your dog is diagnosed with chronic or critical illness.

You Might Be Interested In…

23 Sweet Reasons Why Your Dog Stretches on You

Why is my Dog’s Stomach Making Noise?

Are Acorns Poisonous to Dogs? 5 Signs of a Medical Emergency

Summing it UP

Now that you know which breeds are more susceptible to bloat, you can take steps to prevent it from happening at all. Contact the veterinarian the moment you suspect bloat and get your dog in the car.

If you can, have another person ride with you and stay on the phone with the veterinarian. Bloat is a serious and life-threatening emergency.

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