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 degrees to 360 degrees, 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.

bullet If your regular vet doesn't have 24-hour emergency service, know which nearby vet you would use.  Keep the phone number handy.
bullet Always keep a product with simethicone on hand (e.g., Gas-X, Mylanta Gas (not regular Mylanta), 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.


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.

bullet Attempts 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 
bullet Some have reported that it can sound like a repeated cough
bullet Doesn't act like usual self
bullet Perhaps the earliest warning sign and may be the only sign that almost always occurs
bullet We'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.  
bullet Significant 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
bullet Lack of normal gurgling and digestive sounds in the tummy
bullet Many dog owners report this after putting their ear to their dog's tummy.
bullet If your dog shows any bloat symptoms, you may want to try this immediately. 
bullet Bloated abdomen that may feel tight (like a drum)
Despite the term "bloat," many times this symptom never occurs or is not apparent
bullet Pale or off-color gums
Dark red in early stages; white or blue in later stages
bullet Coughing
bullet Unproductive gagging
bullet Heavy salivating or drooling
bullet Foamy mucous around the lips, or vomiting foamy mucous
bullet Unproductive attempts to defecate
bullet Whining
bullet Pacing
bullet Licking the air
bullet Seeking a hiding place
bullet Looking at their side or other evidence of abdominal pain or discomfort
bullet May refuse to lie down or even sit down
bullet May stand spread-legged
bullet May curl up in a ball or go into a praying or crouched position
bullet May attempt to eat small stones and twigs
bullet Drinking excessively
bullet Heavy or rapid panting
bullet Shallow breathing
bullet Cold mouth membranes
bullet Apparent weakness; unable to stand or has a spread-legged stance
Especially in advanced stage
bullet Accelerated heartbeat
Heart rate increases as bloating progresses
bullet Weak pulse
bullet Collapse

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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.

bullet Stress
bullet Dog 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.  
bullet Activities that result in gulping air
bullet Eating habits, especially...
bullet Elevated food bowls
bullet Rapid eating
bullet Eating dry foods that contain citric acid as a preservative (the risk is even worse if the owner moistens the food)
bullet Eating dry foods that contain fat among the first four ingredients
bullet Insufficient 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
bullet Dilution of gastric juices necessary for complete digestion by drinking too much water before or after eating
bullet Eating gas-producing foods (especially soybean products, brewer's yeast, and alfalfa) 
bullet Drinking too much water too quickly (can cause gulping of air)
bullet Exercise before and especially after eating
bullet Heredity
bullet Especially having a first-degree relative who has bloated
bullet Dogs who have untreated Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency (EPI) are considered more prone to bloat 
Gas is associated with incomplete digestion
bullet Build & Physical Characteristics
bullet Having a deep and narrow chest compared to other dogs of the same breed
bullet Older dogs
bullet Big dogs
bullet Males
bullet Being underweight
bullet Disposition
bullet Fearful or anxious temperament
bullet Prone to stress
bullet History of aggression toward other dogs or people

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

bullet Avoid 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.
bullet Don't use an elevated food bowl
bullet Don't 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
bullet Don't permit rapid eating
bullet Don't permit excessive, rapid drinking
Especially a consideration on hot days
bullet Feed 2 or 3 meals daily, instead of just one
bullet Don't give water one hour before or after a meal
It dilutes the gastric juices necessary for proper digestion, which leads to gas production.
bullet Important!  Always keep a product with simethicone (e.g., Gas-X, Mylanta Gas (not regular Mylanta), Phazyme, 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
bullet Allow access to fresh water at all times, except before and after meals
bullet Make meals a peaceful, stress-free time
bullet When switching dog food, do so gradually (allow several weeks)
bullet Feed a high-protein (>30%) diet, particularly of raw meat
bullet Don't feed dry foods exclusively
Whole, unprocessed foods are especially beneficial
bullet Avoid dry foods that contain...
bullet Fat as one of the first four ingredients
bullet Citric acid 
If you must use a dry food containing citric acid, do not pre-moisten the food
bullet If feeding dry food, select foods that contain...
bullet Rendered meat meal with bone product among the first four ingredients
bullet Adequate amount of fiber (at least 3% crude fiber)
bullet Reduce carbohydrates as much as possible (e.g., typical in many commercial dog biscuits)
bullet Avoid brewer's yeast, alfalfa, and soybean products
bullet Promote 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
bullet Promote "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.]
bullet Consider adding an enzyme product to food to aid digestion (e.g., Prozyme)

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:

bullet Afghan Hound
bullet Airedale Terrier
bullet Akita
bullet Alaskan Malamute
bullet Basset Hound
bullet Bernese Mountain Dog
bullet Borzoi
bullet Bouvier des Flandres
bullet Boxer
bullet Bullmastiff
bullet Chesapeake Bay Retriever
bullet Collie
bullet Dachshund
bullet Doberman Pinscher
bullet English Springer Spaniel
bullet Fila Brasileiro
bullet Golden Retriever
bullet Gordon Setter
bullet Great Dane
bullet German Shepherd
bullet German Shorthaired Pointer
bullet Great Pyrenees
bullet Irish Setter
bullet Irish Wolfhound
bullet King Shepherd
bullet Labrador Retriever
bullet Miniature Poodle
bullet Newfoundland
bullet Old English Sheepdog
bullet Pekinese
bullet Rottweiler
bullet Samoyed
bullet Shiloh Shepherd
bullet St. Bernard
bullet Standard Poodle
bullet Weimaraner
bullet Wolfhound
bullet Sighthouds
bullet Bloodhounds

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bullet Canine Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (Bloat)
Research from Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine
bullet Bloat:  The Mother of All Emergencies     
Interesting statistics and clear medical explanations.
bullet Great 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
bullet Understanding Bloat and Torsion
Lots of good information and advice
bullet Bloat First-Aid Kit
May help those who are unable to get to a veterinarian
bullet How 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 or Bloat) in Dogs
Provides an overview of GDV.  Includes a video.
bullet Risk Factors and Prevention of Bloat in Dogs
Describes bloat risks, treatment and prevention.
bullet Bloat (Gastric Dilatation & Volvulus) 
bullet Bloat - - A Medical Emergency
bullet Bloat During Recovery from Anaesthesia
bullet Gastric Torsion - - Bloat in Dogs
bullet GDV (a veterinary surgeon's perspective) 

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Information written by 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.  Please share this link with any who might benefit.

Dogsitter Information:  If you would like to have the information we give to our dogsitter when we're away, you're welcome to print the attached.


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