Bloat in Dogs — How to Manage a Bloated Dog and Keep Them Healthy

March 07, 2023

Bloat in Dogs — How to Manage a Bloated Dog and Keep Them Healthy

Every owner wants to protect their dog's health to keep them living a happy life for as long as possible. But unfortunately, dog bloating has a reputation as a non-urgent matter.

That's most likely because we think of bloating as just being full. When we've eaten too much, we usually wait out the discomfort and digest food naturally. However, bloat in dogs is a very serious health condition that can cause long-term effects.

The good news is that dog bloat is preventable; the bad news is, if left untreated, it can put your pet's health at severe risk.

Here is all the information about dog bloat you will need. If your dog gets sick, you'll be grateful that you detected dog bloat, managed it, and learned how to prevent it with proper dog care. 

What is Bloat in Dogs?

Bloat in dogs, or Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus, is a swiftly progressive, life-threatening dog health condition. Dog bloating is associated with eating full meals, causing the stomach to dilate and twist. Excess food and gas get blocked up and don't digest, leading to uncomfortable symptoms.

The pressure and size of the stomach can have negative effects on your dog's health. It will affect their blood flow, stomach wall, and ability to take a full breath of air. And with poor oxygen ventilation in the body, a dog's cell tissues can die with fatal results. 

To treat this dog health condition right away, your pet would need to be taken to a veterinarian, stabilized, and surgery may be performed to return the stomach to its normal position. 

What Breeds are More Prone to Dog Bloating?

Dog bloat can affect all breeds, but it is most prevalently seen in larger dogs that eat rapidly. According to the American Kennel Club, dog bloat is on the top of the list for dog health risks in larger and deep-chested breeds. 

The breed with the most risk of dog bloat and need for dog care is Great Danes. Great Danes have a high height to width ratio, making them five to eight times more likely to experience dog bloat than a dog with a low height-to-width ratio.

However, other breeds that are more likely to bloat include:

  • St. Bernard
  • Weimaraners
  • Irish Setters
  • Gordon Setters
  • Standard Poodles
  • Doberman Pinchers

What are the Symptoms of a Bloated Dog?

While practicing proper dog care, like measuring food and bringing them out for plenty of exercise, it is also crucial to look for signs of bloat in dogs. It could be a life and death situation for your dog's health, so look out for these warning signs:

  • Distended stomach
  • Anxious pacing or restlessness due to pain
  • Whining in pain
  • Hyper-salivation
  • Fast or heavy breathing
  • Retching with little to no vomit being expelled; i.e., dry heaves

If your pet is experiencing a combination of these symptoms, especially after a large meal, it may be time to take your dog to the nearest veterinarian. The most important symptom to be aware of is if your pet is trying to vomit but lacks any food. That is a serious issue and should be treated as soon as possible.

What are the Causes of Bloat in Dogs?

Unfortunately, dog bloat has no exact cause, but there are several risk factors of bloat in dogs to keep in mind:

  • The Way They Eat. A cause of dog bloat could be from dogs eating from an elevated food bowl. It could also be from dogs exercising an hour before or after eating.
  • Frequency of Meals. Another cause of bloat in dogs could be from your dog only eating one meal a day, at a fast pace, and in a major portion size.
  • Size. Make sure your dog is at a healthy weight. Having a dog that is too underweight or overweight could be a cause of bloat in dogs.
  • Sex and Genetics. Males with a family history of bloat are also at a higher risk of experiencing this dog health issue. And the risk of bloating becomes greater with age. Unfortunately, there's a 20 percent chance of an increased risk of bloat in dogs each year of their lives.

What is the Treatment of Bloated Dogs?

You must handle the treatment of bloat in dogs quickly, as soon as you notice the severe symptoms listed above. This is a dog health condition that cannot be treated at home and is a serious medical emergency. You will have to take your bloated dog to the veterinarian. 

Veterinary treatment of bloat in dogs requires a veterinarian to stabilize your bloated dog through IV fluids. Oxygen therapy and other methods are used to relieve the built-up pressure and expel the gas. 

First, a gastric tube or stomach tube is inserted into the bloated dog through the esophagus. Sometimes the stomach tube can not be inserted. In this case, sharp-pointed valves called trocars may be used. These tubes or valves will release any air and fluid accumulation. 

Next, the bloated dog may have water flushed in and out of the stomach to remove any remaining food particles. A catheter may be placed in the stomach from the outside of the body, which will cast out any air. General anesthesia and surgical stabilization will be determined at the veterinarian's discretion and how stable your pet will be.

Because of dog bloat, the pet's stomach may be twisted. The best way to fix this is through surgery. This surgery will correct the placement of your dog's stomach and see if any additional surgery is necessary to the stomach wall, spleen, or other organs. 

It's an intense surgery, but once the stomach is returned to normal, it will be permanently fixed to the abdominal wall. This will prevent any future rotation of the stomach if your pet acquires dog bloat in the future.  

What's the Recovery Process for Bloating Dogs Like?

The prognosis for your pet to recover from dog bloat is high. With proper dog care after surgery, 90 percent of dogs have survived Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

However, their recovery will take time. Not only does your dog's stomach need time to heal, but all the other organs involved in the surgery as well. If you do not catch the life-threatening symptoms immediately, you run the risk of your dog taking a longer time to recovery. 

These factors may have serious consequence for recovery:

  • If your pet had been symptomatic for 6 hours without treatment
  • If your pet had any abnormal heart rhythms
  • If your pet lost a large amount of blood
  • If a portion of your pet's stomach died, in effect, and needed to be removed
  • If your pet's spleen or any other vital organs needed to be removed

It may take a while for your pet to heal from any cell death, loss of organs, or recovery from harmful toxins released in the body. It is also possible for your dog to develop an infection from the initial surgery. In this case, a second surgery would need to be performed before the infection has a chance to spread.

How Do You Prevent Dog Bloat?

If you have a large dog breed like a Great Dane, Saint Bernard, or Weimaraners, you may want to take extra measures to prevent your dog from getting bloated. 

For breeds most at risk of developing dog bloat, a prophylactic gastropexy surgery can be performed. This is the surgery performed on bloated dogs to untwist the stomach and can be a preventative measure. 

If you plan on neutering your dog, this surgery can be performed at the same time to tack the stomach to the stomach wall. Laparoscopic surgery techniques can help to make the procedure less invasive and reduce the recovery time needed. 

We also recommend keeping Gas-x, Phazyme, or Mylanta Gas at home to prevent bloat and initiate burping. Another way to avoid having a bloated dog is to create a scheduled feeding regime to prevent overeating. Overeating can occur when one dog rapidly eats their food to avoid other dogs from taking theirs. A good trick is to separate the dogs' eating times to reduce stress and make your dogs feel like they can take as long as they need to finish their meal.

Conclusion — Dog Bloating is an Urgent Matter

We all want what is best for our pets because they are like members of the family. That's why it's so important to learn the signs of bloating and consider prevention tips an essential aspect of dog car. 

Remember that this dog health issue is very curable and carries a high survival rate. Keep close watch of warning signs like dry vomiting, hyper-salivation and whining. Always have Gas-x in stock in case you have to deal with this emergency, and schedule appointments with your vet if you think there's anything that could indicate bloat. 

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