A close-up of a Boxer dog against a blurred hardwood floor

Pet emergencies happen, and it is nice to know that The Pet Experts at Wheaton Animal Hospital are there for you. Some urgent pet problems are more serious than others, and it is important to understand those that cannot wait.

Some of these, like a pet who has been hit by a car, are pretty obvious. Others are a little less in your face. In particular, suspected bloat in dogs is one of those do-not-pass-go situations that requires a vet visit yesterday and is one that every pet owner should know about. 

Bloat Defined

Bloat in dogs simply refers to a condition in which a pet’s stomach fills with air. As you might imagine, this can be an uncomfortable condition. In many instances, however, when people speak of bloat they are actually referring to a condition known as gastric-dilatation-volvulus (GDV).

When GDV occurs, the stomach filling with air is the first event. The air-filled stomach then twists on itself, trapping air and stomach contents within it and simeotaneously cutting off blood supply to itself. Oftentimes the spleen, which is partially attached to the stomach, becomes entrapped as well. 

Bloat in dogs often presents with:

  • A distended, painful abdomen
  • Retching to vomit, usually without bringing anything up
  • Restlessness
  • Changes in breathing
  • Salivation

Untreated, bloat can lead to shock, sepsis, and death. It is not a “wait and see” condition – without surgery it is typically fatal.

Bloat in dogs can happen in any breed, but those with a deep chest with room for the stomach to move more freely are at higher risk. Breeds that are more commonly affected include Great Danes, Basset Hounds, Weimaraners, and setters. 

Beating Bloat in Dogs 

We do not fully understand why and when bloat in dogs occurs, so it’s difficult to totally prevent it. Being vigilant about the known risk factors are important. These include:

  • Rapid eating
  • Eating only one large meal per day
  • Eating dry food only
  • Eating from a raised dish
  • Overeating
  • Drinking a lot in a short time frame
  • Heavy activity after eating 
  • A more nervous personality
  • Stress

If you have an at-risk breed, doing things like feeding a few small meals per day from a dish on the floor may decrease your risk of experiencing bloat in dogs.

If you have a predisposed pet, you might also consider a prophylactic gastropexy. This elective surgery is done by strategically stitching a small portion of the stomach to the body wall. This prevents it from being able to twist and can lower the chances of a serious bloat episode.

Bloat in dogs is a scary condition. As a pet owner knowing how to recognize it and understanding that immediate care is needed, though, can help to save your pet’s life. If you ever have concerns about your pet, want to talk about your pet’s risk, or have questions about gastropexy, give us a call. We would love to help you in any way when it comes to this devastating condition.