We've all felt a bit bloated after a big family dinner, but when a dog suffers from bloat it doesn’t just mean they have had too much to eat. Dog bloat can put harmful pressure on your dog's vital organs. It might even make it difficult for your dog to breathe.
Bolting dry food from a bowl can occasionally lead to bloat
Dog Bloat or Gastric Dilation Volvulus
Bloat is when the stomach fills with air, liquid and/or food, usually after eating or drinking. The enlarged stomach can put a lot of pressure of the dog’s vital organs, causing difficulty breathing and even a decreased blood supply to the dog’s heart and other vital organs.
Many people often wonder if the problem is dog bloat or just a bad case of gas. If your dog has an enlarged abdomen it is likely to be bloat, but if you are unsure, you should always take your dog to the vet’s just in case it is more serious than you think.
The symptoms for bloat and a life threatening condition called Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (GDV) are very similar. GDV is where the dog’s stomach twists, and emergency surgery is needed to rotate the stomach to prevent gas build up. Immediate veterinary attention is vital as GDV can cause death in just a few hours.
Dog Bloat Symptoms
General symptoms of bloat and signs of Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) include:
- Enlarged abdomen
- Unsuccessful attempts to burp or vomit
- Retching but not actually being able to bring anything up
- Excessive drooling
- Getting up and lying down
- Shortness of breath
- Cold body temperature
- Rapid heartbeat
- Pale gums
Dog Bloat - How Long Does It Last?
In most cases of bloat the gas can actually shift after about 30 minutes. Try slowly walking your dog on the lead or gently massaging his belly to relieve some of the pressure. It’s a great sign if you hear him belch or break wind because it means that the gas is leaving his stomach!
Dog bloat home treatment is not recommended, as it is a difficult procedure that can go wrong very easily. Put all your efforts into getting you dog to the vets as quickly as you can if you feel he needs immediate attention.
An English Bulldog taking time to digest - making sure his meals are the right size, and letting him rest after eating, are important details
What Causes Bloat In Dogs?
Common causes of bloat in dogs include:
- Eating too quickly
- Eating one large meal a day rather than two or three small ones
- A diet of dry food only
- Too much exercise after eating
Dogs Most at Risk of Bloat
Although any dog breed can suffer this problem, these are the ones most at risk of bloat or GDV:
- Large or Giant breeds
- Dogs with deep chests
- Middle aged or older dogs
- Dogs who eat from a raised food bowl
- Dogs with a parent or littermate
- Dogs who are underweight
Dogs Most Prone To Bloat
Dog breeds that are most susceptible to bloat include the Afghan Hound, Alaskan Malamute, Basset Hound, Bernese Mountain Dog, Bloodhound, Boxer, Doberman Pinscher, Flat Coated Retriever, German Shepherd Dog, Great Dane, Irish Setter, Irish Wolfhound, Kuvasz, Labrador Retriever, Newfoundland, Poodle (Standard), Pyrenean Mountain Dog, Rottweiler, Saint Bernard, and Weimaraner, but all breeds of any size can be affected.
A Chocolate Labrador not feeling too happy with himself
Dog Bloat Treatment?
The position of your dog’s stomach needs to be assessed in case your dog has GDV. The vet will examine your dog’s abdomen and might even take an x-ray. If your dog’s stomach is twisted he will need immediate surgery.
Dog Bloat Surgery
Initially your dog will be given a catheter and then a drip with fluids to counteract shock. He will then be put under general anaesthetic. Next, a tube is inserted down his oesophagus and into his stomach to remove any air, fluid or undigested food. If the stomach is twisted and the tube cannot enter, a large needle will be inserted into the side of your dog’s abdomen and into his stomach to relieve pressure.
Your dog’s internal organs are then examined for any damage. The next part of the surgery is to prevent GDV from happening again. Your dog’s stomach is repositioned and stitched to the side of the abdomen. It is fairly common for a dog who has suffered with GDV to have part of their stomach removed. This is because it might have died due to lack of blood supply. If too much of the stomach has died your vet will suggest that the dog is put down.
Dog Bloat Surgery Cost
The cost of dog bloat surgery will vary considerably between different vets, but in general it is quite an expensive procedure. Unfortunately all emergency canine surgery is expensive and can cost a dog owner thousands of dollars, which is why it is recommended to have comprehensive pet insurance.
Dog Bloat Surgery Recovery
After surgery your dog will be supervised in the intensive care unit. The vets will monitor your dog’s blood pressure and his vital organs to make sure that they are all working properly. Your dog’s heart will also be closely monitored to detect any arrhythmias (abnormal heartbeats).
The healing process takes about 3-4 weeks and during that time your dog must be restricted in the exercise he does. To prevent the stomach stitches from tearing only walk your dog on the lead and don’t allow him to run, jump or roll around.
Make sure that you feed your dog 2-3 meals a day after GDV surgery rather than one large meal, and wait two hours after feeding to take your dog out for a walk. You can still take him out to the garden to go to the toilet, but keep a close eye on him.
Dog Bloat Prevention
Here are a few ways to help you prevent your dog bloating again.
- Making sure that your dog is healthy and the correct weight is the first factor to address. Weigh your dog regularly and change how much you are feeding him accordingly. If you are unsure, your vet will be able to tell you how much your dog should weigh.
- Try feeding your dog a few small meals a day rather than the standard of one or two large meals a day. This might help to prevent your dog from overeating or eating too fast, but make sure that you don’t end up feeding your dog more overall in one day than you did before.
- You can also invest in a couple of different products that help to prevent your dog from eating too fast, including the Gobblestopper. These products work really well, as they make dogs work hard for their food. It prevents them taking massive mouthfuls or swallowing big gulps of air as they eat, and it takes them a lot longer to finish eating which means that the food is digested better.
- Dogs with muscle or joint problems might be advised to eat from a raised food bowl, but if this is not the case with your dog, make sure that you feed him from a normal sized bowl on the floor.
- Avoid taking your dog outside for strenuous exercise one hour before or two hours after meals. You must make sure that your dog has enough energy for a long walk, but you must also allow time for him to digest his dinner.
- If your dog is on a dry food only diet, your vet might suggest introducing canned food. Your vet might be able to suggest a certain dog foods that will help.
- Make sure your dog is not drinking too much water. You might have to regulate how much he is drinking by removing his bowl every so often, but check with your vet before attempting this.
- The final option is to consider surgery to fix your dog’s stomach in place. Prophylactic gastropexy surgery ensures that your dog doesn’t experience torsion (twisting of the stomach) and it often hugely minimizes the risk of GDV.
Lorna, 12 October 2017
My dog, three years old, suffered GDV three weeks ago and had virtually none of the symptoms usually listed. He just stopped eating and when he tried to defecate, nothing happened. Otherwise he was lively and apparently normal. When I took him to the vet he was immediately concerned and fortunately took all steps to diagnose bloat and torsion, and operated immediately. I want to post this to warn other dog owners that the standard symptoms may not appear. Tom never vomited or retched or was listless or paced around or seemed in any way in pain. Fortunately he is now well on the way to recovery, and I am taking every precaution to prevent a recurrence - he has had a gastroplexy, so fingers crossed.