It seems like dogs are always getting into something, whether it’s the litter box, yesterday’s garbage, or that unidentifiable, dirt-covered lump they found in the backyard. Because of their, er, outside interests, tummy troubles in dogs are not all that uncommon, and most resolve on their own.

One type of gastrointestinal issue that is unlikely to “just go away” is bloat. Bloat is the second most common cause of death in dogs, and one that every dog owner should be aware of.

 The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital want to walk you through the signs of bloat in dogs, what you can do to help prevent it, and what your emergency and treatment options are.

The Downlow on Bloat

Bloat in dogs occurs when gas builds up in the stomach. This buildup can cause the stomach to twist at either end, or both. When the twisting occurs, the liquids and gas inside the stomach expand, a condition known as gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV). 

GDV can cut off blood flow to the stomach, spleen, and other organs, causing cell death. Without prompt medical attention, a dog can die from bloat within a few hours.

Although the causes of bloat can be attributed to a number of factors, the exact reason why some dogs develop the condition is unknown. Ingesting large amounts of food or water immediately before or after strenuous activity seems to play a role. 

Any dog can develop bloat, but deep chested breeds, such as St. Bernards, weimaraners, dobermans, and standard poodles, are at an increased risk. 

Signs and Symptoms

GDV is a serious medical emergency, and time is of the essence. Knowing what bloat in dogs looks like can save you precious minutes, and may mean the difference between life and death for your pet.

Contact Naperville Animal Hospital or the nearest veterinary emergency hospital if they are experiencing any of the following symptoms of bloat:

  • Hard/distended abdomen that may sound hollow when tapped
  • Unsuccessful attempts to vomit, belch, or gag
  • Labored breathing
  • Drooling
  • Pacing/restlessness/seeming uncomfortable
  • Reacting with pain when the abdomen is touched
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Collapse   

Treating and Preventing Bloat in Dogs

The type of treatment a dog receives for bloat will depend upon how far the condition has progressed. Diagnostics will likely include blood work, X-rays, EKG, and continued monitoring of the cardiovascular system.

In cases where torsion has occurred, surgery will be required to reverse the condition and prevent it from happening again. Sometimes, part of the spleen or other nearby organs have been affected and may need surgical intervention.

Bloat in dogs isn’t entirely preventable, but there are steps you can take to reduce the likelihood of it happening to your pet:

  • Don’t allow your dog to eat or drink immediately before or after vigorous activity
  • Don’t allow your dog to gulp large quantities of water rapidly
  • Feed your dog two smaller meals per day, one in the morning and one at night, rather than one large meal
  • Prevent your dog from eating too quickly by using a slow-feeder bowl, food puzzles, or by offering the meal in parts
  • Keep your pet’s life as low-stress as possible by adhering to a daily routine, making sure they get plenty of exercise, and lots of love and attention from you

Don’t hesitate to contact our staff for more information regarding bloat. We are here for you and your pet!