Pet owners want the best for their dogs. Our canine family members enrich our lives and ask for very little in return. Dog owners are determined to care for their pooch properly, and enlist the help of their veterinarian when their dog seems unwell.

Bloat is one condition that pet owners need to be aware of. Bloat in dogs often restricts blood flow and causes damage to organs. It’s potentially life-threatening and also quite preventable.

Not to sound alarmist, but bloat claims the lives of thousands of dogs annually across the United States. So, it’s important for owners to know how bloat happens and be familiar with symptoms of bloat.

By understanding how serious this condition can be and knowing the signs to look for, dog owners will be well-equipped to help their pets. Without treatment, dogs may pass away before their time.

What is Dog Bloat?

bloated dog

Basically, bloat occurs in dogs when their stomach fills with gas, food, or fluid and expands. An extended stomach puts pressure on the surrounding organs and may impact their effective functioning. For example, when the stomach squeezes into the lungs a dog may find it more difficult to breath.

That said, a simple case of bloat in dogs is not usually life-threatening. It can mean a distended stomach and several other symptoms of bloat that may resolve within hours. While your pooch might look extremely uncomfortable, pant, drool, and be restless, gastric dilation may be short-lived and they’ll be back to normal soon.

Bloat vs Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus: How to Know When it’s Serious

danger of bloat in dogs

Bloat in dogs becomes life-threatening when it becomes gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV). Bloat GDV happens when a dog’s stomach has rotated or twisted.

The gastric dilation pushes on large arteries and veins in the area, and this impacts the blood supply the stomach needs. The stomach is then unable to function properly and toxic substances build up. This causes stomach tissue to begin dying off.

In addition, gastric dilation causes further pressure on nearby organs and blood supply is decreased or cut off to them as well. The constricted blood vessels are unable to circulate blood supply throughout the body. When blood flow to the pancreas stops, this organ releases toxic hormones into the body that can easily cause heart failure.

As this process continues, it’s critical to realize that your dog can quickly go into shock. That’s when you’ll have a very grave medical emergency on your hands, and any delay in getting vet assistance can definitely compromise their survival.

Keep in mind that while your dog’s risk of developing gastric dilation-volvulus from bloating are uncertain, the consequences of this condition should never be taken lightly.

Causes of Bloat in Dogs

asking a vet about dog bloating

The problem is, vets aren’t sure what causes bloat in dogs. However, the condition has been studied over the years and there’s enough data available to suggest a number of risk factors. Here’s what experts say may increase a dog’s risk for bloat and life-threatening bloat GDV:

  • Age
  • Being very active after eating
  • Drinking too much and too quickly
  • Genetics and family history
  • Having only one large meal per day
  • Overeating
  • Stress

With respect to age, bloat is more common as a dog gets older. This risk factor for our canine pets was discovered through research at Purdue University in Indiana.

A dog’s genetics is another interesting risk factor. According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, while gastric dilation has been seen in large- and small-breed dogs, Great Danes, St. Bernards, and other large breed deep-chested dogs are most prone to the condition. Moreover, if a member of the dog’s immediate family had bloat, it’s known to increase a dog’s chances of having it.

Another contributing factor to bloat could be feeding your dog from elevated food bowls. While there’s mixed option on this, getting rid of elevated food bowls and placing bowls on the floor can’t hurt.

Signs of Bloat

Bloat occurs quite quickly and, as mentioned, it can rapidly progress to gastric dilatation volvulus. Within hours you’re facing an emergency situation.

While the signs of bloat can mimic other conditions, there are some that you want to be very attuned to. Watch out for these things as they could be symptoms of bloat:

  • Appearing anxious
  • Drooling
  • Overall weakness
  • Pacing or being short of breath
  • Pale gums
  • Panting
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Reacting in pain when you touch their stomach
  • Restless behavior
  • Stomach swelling
  • Trouble standing, collapsing or weakness
  • Trying to vomit

By paying close attention to these signs of gastric dilatation, dog owners can enlist the help of their veterinarian and have the condition treated fast before it becomes life-threatening. 

How to Treat a Bloated Dog

The treatment your vet recommends will depend on the severity of their symptoms. The first thing your vet will look for is whether you dog is in shock. If that’s the case, the vet will begin treating them immediately by administering IV fluids.

They may also do blood tests at that time to confirm if there are any changes in the blood. For instance, if salt levels have dropped in the blood, that helps your vet determine the need for fluids. Your dog may also be given antibiotics at this time.

After making your dog comfortable, and ensuring that your pup’s vital signs are stable, their heart rate is normal and they have some pain relief, the vet will take the next treatment step. Your veterinarian will proceed to relieve the build up of gas in the stomach and the pressure on the organs.

Releasing the build up of pressure is done in one of two ways. The vet may proceed to thread a stomach tube down your dog’s throat into their stomach. However, if there are stomach twists, this approach may not be very effective.

In that case expect the vet to insert a large hallow needle into your dog’s body wall to decompress the stomach and relive the pressure that way.  Rest assured, that these procedures are just uncomfortable for your fur baby and mostly pain-free.

It’s likely that your vet will have X-rays done on your pet to determine the extent of any stomach twists. This is because if there are stomach twists, your pup will normally need surgery to correct them.

Essentially, there are two different surgical procedures that you dog will undergo. First, the veterinarian will untwist your dog’s stomach and place it back in the right position within the dog’s abdomen. At this point, any damaged tissue will be removed as well.

The other surgery usually performed at the same time is a gastropexy. Since the rate of recurrent of gastric dilatation is extremely high in dogs that have experienced this once, a gastropexy is essential. It’s not something that you may have much choice about. 

Be aware that you might be having a tough conversation with your vet about the value of surgery. If your pup has stomach twist but their health has been severely impacted by gastric dilatation volvulus, surgery is probably going to be very high-risk and you pet may not survive it.

When to Go to the Vet

dog at the vet for bloating

It’s hard for pet owners to see the difference between a simple case of bloat and volvulus GDV. The bottom line here is that if you’re are seeing any signs of bloat you should immediately reach out to your veterinarian, or emergency vet clinic in your community.

Chances are strong that when your vet hears the symptoms, they’ll ask you to bundle Harley into the car and come to the animal hospital right away. Surgery may be required.

This situation is an emergency that requires swift diagnosis and may necessitate emergency surgery. If volvulus GDV is occurring, our pets can die without treatment. Your vet is the person with the medical expertise to get to the bottom of what’s occurring and treat the ailment accordingly.

If your pet isn’t experiencing bloat after all, you can feel assured that you’ve acted quickly to make sure their health is looked after and any treatment administered.

How to Prevent Bloating

You can’t prevent bloat in dogs. But there are several proactive things to do to reduce the risk of this life-threatening condition and prevent emergency treatment.

Talk to Your Vet

Consulting with your veterinarian is always a good place to start. If Milo or Maggie is one of the large-breed dogs that have deep chests, you’ll want to know how this may increase their risk of developing gastric dilatation volvulus.

Great Danes, St. Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters, Standard Poodles, and Doberman Pinschers are some of the dog breeds that are more susceptible to bloat GDV. Plus, if your pooch is a male they’re twice as likely to bloat as their sisters.

Speaking of your doogo’s family members, you should let your vet know if any of their siblings, parents, or offspring have experienced gastric dilatation volvulus. This can be another risk factor.

Finally, ask your veterinarian about the pros and cons of surgery called a gastropexy for your dog. If bloat happens, a gastropexy can be helpful in preventing the stomach from rotating or twisting within deep chests and bloat progressing to bloat GDV. Gastropexy involves suturing the stomach to the dog’s body wall to keep it in place.

A gastropexy can often be done at the same time as sterilization so that your dog doesn’t have to go into surgery a second time. Furthermore, you don’t want to be having this emergency surgery when Fido is suffering from gastric dilatation volvulus!


Another preventative measure to reduce the risk of bloat is to add probiotics to your dog’s food. Since probiotics aid digestion, they can help your dog’s stomach break down food more efficiently.

As the stomach fills, food will be processed faster and moved on through the digestive system. Therefore, there’ll be less gas accumulating, fewer tummy troubles and a lower risk of bloating.

Slow Down Eating

If your canine is like most dogs, they absolutely love food! The problem is, many will devour their dinner at lightening speed the moment you put the food in their bowl. If this sounds like your pooch and you seem unable to encourage them to eat more slowly, there are a few things you can try.

A feeder bowl that dispenses food at a slower rate is one answer. The other helpful item is a snuffle mat. This can also be a fun game for your pet! You simply hide their dog kibble in the mat and your pup uses their incredible sense of smell to locate the morsels, eating them one piece at a time.

One more comment about feeding. It’s a good practice to divide your dog’s food into two meals – one in the morning and one in the evening. This is far easier on their digestive system as their stomach fills and they’ll have less gas and bloat.

Reduce Stress

Let’s face it, some dogs are just naturally more anxious. It’s not surprising that a dog’s abdomen fills with gas and bloat happens if they’re eating while stressed. Even if Bella or Bailey is fairly laid back, keeping stress to a minimum will help their digestion.

Be sure to put their food and water bowls in a quiet corner of the house where they can eat and drink in peace and with a little privacy.

Regulate Water Consumption

Here’s another way to help prevent life-threatening bloat in dogs. Just as eating too fast can be a problem, drinking too much water, or drinking too much too fast, is also a cause for concern. This can lead to gulping a lot of air.

As this air enters the stomach it can cause the stomach to fill with gas. So, make sure that your pet drinks a normal amount of water and doesn’t lap it up too quickly.

Our Final Thoughts

pet parent with happy puppy

No one wants to experience the worry of having a bloated dog. When your dog’s stomach fills with gas and their stomach quickly distends, they normally need X-rays and treatment to relieve the pressure.

This life-threatening condition in dogs can very rapidly lead to dilatation volvulus, necessitating emergency surgery. Without proper treatment, dogs can have their blood supply cut off to a number of organs and their body will begin to shut down. Knowing your dog’s risk factors and what preventative steps to take can make all the difference!

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I give my dog for bloat?

There are several preventative measures you can take to help avoid life-threatening bloat in dogs. These include adding probiotics to their food, slowing down their eating and drinking, reducing stress, and discussing gastropexy surgery with your vet.

What should you do if your dog is bloated?

Pet owners should immediately seek assistance from your veterinarian for this life-threatening condition since without treatment your pet can die. The pressure that their distended stomach causes on their organs needs to be relieved, and blood supply to them must be restored.

Will a dog with bloat poop?

No, a bloated dog will not poop. If you see problems like this, make sure that you know the signs of bloat and act quickly.