Bloat in Dogs

Symptoms     Causes     Prevention     Breeds at Risk     Links     Dogsitter Information

Please visit our new sister site, EPI in Dogs.  Knowing the symptoms could save your dog's life.  If your dog has loose stools that just won't get better, it could be EPI.

Bloat is a very serious health risk for many dogs, yet many dog owners know very little about it.  According to the links below, it is the second leading killer of dogs, after cancer.  It is frequently reported that deep-chested dogs, such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Dobermans are particularly at risk.  This page provides links to information on bloat and summarizes some of the key points we found in the sites we researched.  Although we have summarized information we found about possible symptoms, causes, methods of prevention, and breeds at risk, we cannot attest to the accuracy.  Please consult with your veterinarian for medical information.   

If you believe your dog is experiencing bloat, please get your dog to a veterinarian immediately!  Bloat can kill in less than an hour, so time is of the essence.   Call your vet to alert them you're on your way with a suspected bloat case.  Better to be safe than sorry!

The technical name for bloat is "Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus" ("GDV").  Bloating of the stomach is often related to swallowed air (although food and fluid can also be present).  It usually happens when there's an abnormal accumulation of air, fluid, and/or foam in the stomach ("gastric dilatation").    Stress can be a significant contributing factor also.  Bloat can occur with or without "volvulus" (twisting).  As the stomach swells, it may rotate 90 to 360, twisting between its fixed attachments at the esophagus (food tube) and at the duodenum (the upper intestine).  The twisting stomach traps air, food, and water in the stomach.  The bloated stomach obstructs veins in the abdomen, leading to low blood pressure, shock, and damage to internal organs.  The combined effect can quickly kill a dog.

Be prepared!  Know in advance what you would do if your dog bloated.

bulletIf your regular vet doesn't have 24-hour emergency service, know which nearby vet you would use.  Keep the phone number handy.
bulletAlways keep a product with simethicone on hand (e.g., Mylanta Gas (not regular Mylanta), Gas-X, etc.) in case your dog has gas.  If you can reduce or slow the gas, you've probably bought yourself a little more time to get to a vet if your dog is bloating.

This information is not intended to replace advice or guidance from veterinarians or other pet care professionals.  It is simply being shared as an aid to assist you with your own research on this very serious problem.

Symptoms

Typical symptoms often include some (but not necessarily all) of the following, according to the links below.  Unfortunately, from the onset of the first symptoms you have very little time (sometimes minutes, sometimes hours) to get immediate medical attention for your dog.   Know your dog and know when it's not acting right.

bulletAttempts to vomit (usually unsuccessful); may occur every 5-30 minutes
bullet This seems to be one of the most common symptoms & has been referred to as the "hallmark symptom"
bullet"Unsuccessful vomiting" means either nothing comes up or possibly just foam and/or mucous comes up 
bulletSome have reported that it can sound like a repeated cough   New
bulletDoesn't act like usual self
bullet Perhaps the earliest warning sign and may be the only sign that almost always occurs
bulletWe've had several reports that dogs who bloated asked to go outside in the middle of the night.  If this is combined with frequent attempts to vomit, and if your dog doesn't typically ask to go outside in the middle of the night, bloat is a very real possibility.  
bulletSignificant anxiety and restlessness
One of the earliest warning signs and seems fairly typical
bullet"Hunched up" or "roached up" appearance
This seems to occur fairly frequently
bulletLack of normal gurgling and digestive sounds in the tummy
bullet Many dog owners report this after putting their ear to their dog's tummy.
bulletIf your dog shows any bloat symptoms, you may want to try this immediately. 
bulletBloated abdomen that may feel tight (like a drum)
Despite the term "bloat," many times this symptom never occurs or is not apparent
bulletPale or off-color gums
Dark red in early stages; white or blue in later stages
bulletCoughing
bulletUnproductive gagging
bulletHeavy salivating or drooling
bulletFoamy mucous around the lips, or vomiting foamy mucous
bulletUnproductive attempts to defecate
bulletWhining
bulletPacing
bulletLicking the air
bulletSeeking a hiding place
bulletLooking at their side or other evidence of abdominal pain or discomfort
bulletMay refuse to lie down or even sit down
bulletMay stand spread-legged
bulletMay curl up in a ball or go into a praying or crouched position
bulletMay attempt to eat small stones and twigs
bulletDrinking excessively
bulletHeavy or rapid panting
bulletShallow breathing
bulletCold mouth membranes
bulletApparent weakness; unable to stand or has a spread-legged stance
Especially in advanced stage
bulletAccelerated heartbeat
Heart rate increases as bloating progresses
bulletWeak pulse
bulletCollapse

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Causes

According to the links below, it is thought that the following may be the primary contributors to bloat.  To calculate a dog's lifetime risk of bloat according to Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine, click here.

bulletStress
bulletDog shows, mating, whelping, boarding, change in routine, new dog in household, etc.
Although purely anecdotal, we've heard of too many cases where a dog bloated after another dog (particularly a 3rd dog) was brought into the household; perhaps due to stress regarding pack order.  
bulletActivities that result in gulping air
bulletEating habits, especially...
bulletElevated food bowls
bulletRapid eating
bulletEating dry foods that contain citric acid as a preservative (the risk is even worse if the owner moistens the food)
bulletEating dry foods that contain fat among the first four ingredients
bulletInsufficient pancreatic enzymes, such as Trypsin (a pancreatic enzyme present in meat)
Dogs with untreated Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) and/or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) generally produce more gas and thus are at greater risk
 New
bulletDilution of gastric juices necessary for complete digestion by drinking too much water before or after eating
bulletEating gas-producing foods (especially soybean products, brewer's yeast, and alfalfa) 
bulletDrinking too much water too quickly (can cause gulping of air)
bulletExercise before and especially after eating
bulletHeredity
bulletEspecially having a first-degree relative who has bloated
bulletDogs who have untreated Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) are considered more prone to bloat 
Gas is associated with incomplete digestion   
New
bulletBuild & Physical Characteristics
bulletHaving a deep and narrow chest compared to other dogs of the same breed
bulletOlder dogs
bulletBig dogs
bulletMales
bulletBeing underweight
bulletDisposition
bulletFearful or anxious temperament
bulletProne to stress
bulletHistory of aggression toward other dogs or people

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Prevention

Some of the advice in the links below for reducing the chances of bloat are:

bulletAvoid highly stressful situations.  If you can't avoid them, try to minimize the stress as much as possible.  Be extra watchful.
Can be brought on by visits to the vet, dog shows, mating, whelping, boarding, new dog in household, change in routine, etc.
   Revised
bulletDo not use an elevated food bowl
bulletDo not exercise for at least an hour (longer if possible) before and especially after eating
Particularly avoid vigorous exercise and don't permit your dog to roll over, which could cause the stomach to twist
bulletDo not permit rapid eating
bulletFeed 2 or 3 meals daily, instead of just one
bulletDo not give water one hour before or after a meal
It dilutes the gastric juices necessary for proper digestion, which leads to gas production.
bulletAlways keep a product with simethicone (e.g., Mylanta Gas (not regular Mylanta), Phazyme, Gas-X, etc.) on hand to treat gas symptoms.
Some recommend giving your dog simethicone immediately if your dog burps more than once or shows other signs of gas. 
Some report relief of gas symptoms with 1/2 tsp of nutmeg or the homeopathic remedy Nux moschata 30
bulletAllow access to fresh water at all times, except before and after meals
bulletMake meals a peaceful, stress-free time
bulletWhen switching dog food, do so gradually (allow several weeks)
bulletDo not feed dry food exclusively
bulletFeed a high-protein (>30%) diet, particularly of raw meat
bulletIf feeding dry food, avoid foods that contain fat as one of the first four ingredients  
bulletIf feeding dry foods, avoid foods that contain citric acid  
If you must use a dry food containing citric acid, do not pre-moisten the food
bulletIf feeding dry food, select one that includes rendered meat meal with bone product among the first four ingredients
bulletReduce carbohydrates as much as possible (e.g., typical in many commercial dog biscuits)
bulletFeed a high-quality diet
Whole, unprocessed foods are especially beneficial
bulletFeed adequate amount of fiber (for commercial dog food, at least 3.00% crude fiber)
bulletAdd an enzyme product to food (e.g., Prozyme)
bulletInclude herbs specially mixed for pets that reduce gas (e.g., N.R. Special Blend)
bulletAvoid brewer's yeast, alfalfa, and soybean products
bulletPromote an acidic environment in the intestine
Some recommend 1-2 Tbs of Aloe Vera Gel or 1 Tbs of apple cider vinegar given right after each meal
bulletPromote "friendly" bacteria in the intestine, e.g. from "probiotics" such as supplemental acidophilus
Avoids fermentation of carbohydrates, which can cause gas quickly. 
This is especially a concern when antibiotics are given since antibiotics tend to reduce levels of "friendly" bacteria.  [Note: Probiotics should be given at least 2-4 hours apart from antibiotics so they won't be destroyed.]
New
bulletDon't permit excessive, rapid drinking
Especially a consideration on hot days

And perhaps most importantly, know your dog well so you'll know when your dog just isn't acting normally.

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Breeds At Greatest Risk

Breeds most at risk according to the links below:

bulletAfghan Hound
bulletAiredale Terrier
bulletAkita
bulletAlaskan Malamute
bulletBasset Hound
bulletBernese Mountain Dog
bulletBorzoi
bulletBouvier des Flandres
bulletBoxer
bulletBullmastiff
bulletChesapeake Bay Retriever
bulletCollie
bulletDachshund
bulletDoberman Pinscher
bulletEnglish Springer Spaniel
bulletFila Brasileiro
bulletGolden Retriever
bulletGordon Setter
bulletGreat Dane
bulletGerman Shepherd
bulletGerman Shorthaired Pointer
bulletGreat Pyrenees
bulletIrish Setter
bulletIrish Wolfhound
bulletKing Shepherd
bulletLabrador Retriever
bulletMiniature Poodle
bulletNewfoundland
bulletOld English Sheepdog
bulletPekinese
bulletRottweiler
bulletSamoyed
bulletShiloh Shepherd
bulletSt. Bernard
bulletStandard Poodle
bulletWeimaraner
bulletWolfhound
bulletSighthouds
bulletBloodhounds

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Links

bulletBloat - - the life threatening canine emergency
Overall summary emphasizing high-risk factors
bullet Canine Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat)
Research from Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine
bullet Meteorological influence on the occurrence of gastric-dilation volvulus    New
Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine study on possible influences of temperature and weather on GDV
bullet Bloat:  Strikes in Minutes, Kills in Hours     New
Excellent pdf trifold to give to people watching your dog or to hand out to the public for educational purposes
bulletBloat:  The Mother of All Emergencies     
Interesting statistics and clear medical explanations.
bulletGreat Dane Links Directory - Bloat   
First-Hand Experiences, Articles, and Links
bullet On My Soapbox  
A commentary on the Purdue studies
bullet Bloat and Torsion:  Is Nutrition a Factor?  
Explores nutritional factors
bullet Bloat and Allergies:The Relationship to Yeast Overgrowth and/or Pathogenic Bacteria   
Explores possible relationships to yeast overgrowth and pathogenic bacteria
bulletPrevention of Bloat and Torsion in Dogs
Maintains avoidance is possible in high-protein diets with raw meat that avoid carbohydrates
bullet Gastric Volvulus and Dilatation (Stomach Bloat)  
Excellent description from a medical perspective.  Detailed descriptions, photos, and drawings.
bulletUnderstanding Bloat and Torsion
Lots of good information and advice
bulletBloat First Aid
Describes the stages and associated symptoms
bulletBloat First-Aid Kit
May help those who are unable to get to a veterinarian
bulletHow to Tube Your Dog
Same comment as above
bullet Signs of Bloat
Many first-hand descriptions by dog owners of the symptoms they observed
bullet Overview of Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)
Provides an overview of GDV.  Describes causes. Photos.
bulletGastric Torsion in Dogs
bullet Bloat (Gastric Dilatation & Volvulus) 
bullet Feeding Regimen and Bloat
bullet Bloat - - A Medical Emergency
bullet Bloat During Recovery from Anaesthesia
bullet GDV - - Animal Health Channel
bullet Bloat and Torsion - GDV
bullet Gastric Torsion - - Bloat in Dogs
bullet Canine Bloat and Temperament
bulletGDV (a veterinary surgeon's perspective) 
bulletHomeopathic information 

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Information written by GlobalSpan.net using the references above.  Although we have summarized information we found from the links, we cannot attest to the accuracy.  Please consult with your veterinarian for medical information.
We have a deep-chested dog who has never experienced bloat.  We hope he never will. 
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