Bloating in dogs is a frightening stomach condition that can lead to death. What’s called “bloating” is in fact the main symptom of gastric torsion or gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV), a potentially deadly condition that causes their stomach to fill with air, liquid, or food, and to turn, thereby moving the stomach out of its normal position. This twisting activity can result in severing the flow of blood and oxygen into the stomach, and, if left untreated, eventually to the heart as well.
Be Aware: If you suspect your pet is suffering from bloat, seek out medical attention right away. According to the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 25 to 40 percent of affected dogs will die as a result of gastric torsion. Death, cautions the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, could happen within minutes or hours.
Symptoms of Bloating in Dogs
- Vomiting without yielding any contents (empty retches)
- A noticeably swollen midsection
- An increase in saliva production
- Breathing troubles
- Fatigue and even collapse
- Faster than normal heartbeat
- Loss of color in the gums
- A drop in body temperature
- Pain at the abdomen
Causes of Bloating in Dogs
While the cause of gastric torsion is not known, the symptom of bloating has been found to be more common in dogs who eat too fast, eat too much, have one big meal per day, eat only dry food, who drink too much, who get overly active after a meal, who are older, who have immediate relatives who have had bloat, or who have experienced stress and trauma.
GDV is most common in breeds of dogs with large chests like Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters, Gordon Setters, Standard Poodles, Bassett Hounds, Doberman Pinschers, Greater Swiss Mountain Dogs, and Old English Sheepdogs.
Treatment of Bloating in Dogs
The main thing your vet will want to assess is whether your dog’s stomach has turned as a result of bloating. An X-ray may be necessary. To reduce the bloating, the vet may put a tube in the esophagus, used to decompress the stomach.
Surgery may be required if, in fact, the stomach has twisted itself. To avoid future movement of the stomach, the organ may have to be affixed to the side of the abdomen during surgery. Yet even performing this surgery can have potentially critical side effects, including heart issues, infection, and shock.
Preventing Bloating in Dogs
Preventative gastroplexy, a surgical procedure (for which there a few different options), may be recommended for dogs susceptible to bloating. The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation has cited studies that show that dogs with GDV that don’t undergo a preventative surgery have repeat bouts of GDV over 70 percent of the time and die from GDV 80 percent of the time.
- Feed smaller meals several times a day.
- Add wet food (where possible) to avoid a dry-food-only diet.
- Refrain from overfeeding and giving too much water.
- Keep your dog from getting too active before and after eating.
- Don’t feed from an elevated bowl, unless OK’d by the vet.
More on Your Dog's Tummy
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This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.