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Bloat – That only happens to other people’s Dogs

Bloat is a very serious and common condition, a health risk for many dogs and yet many dog owners know very little about it.

According to many experts, it is the second leading killer of dogs, after cancer. Bloat can kill in less than an hour, so time is of the essence and it is extremely painful.

It is frequently reported that deep-chested dogs, such as Dogue de Bordeaux, Shepherds, Great Danes, Greyhounds and Dobermans, even the Dachshund are particularly at risk. BUT any dog breed can be at risk given certain factors. The exact causes of bloat are unknown, but there appears to be a variety of recurring factors which are listed below.

What Is Bloat?

The technical name for bloat is "Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus" or "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/gas, fluid or foam in the stomach ("gastric dilatation"). The stomach swells, it may rotate, twisting between its fixed attachments at the oesophagus and 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 damages to internal organs. The combined effect can quickly kill a dog.

It is advised and a good idea to have around a product with simethicone e.g., Mylanta Gas (not regular Mylanta and if you have a doggie first aid kit add it in), 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.


Typical symptoms often include some (but not necessarily all) of the following:

  • Attempts to vomit (usually unsuccessful); may occur every 5-30 minutes

  1. This seems to be one of the most common symptoms & has been referred to as the "hallmark symptom"

  2. "Unsuccessful vomiting" means either nothing comes up or possibly just foam and/or mucous comes up

  3. Some have reported that it can sound like a repeated cough

  • Not typical self but perhaps the earliest warning sign and may be the only sign that almost always occurs: 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.

  • Significant anxiety and restlessness: One of the earliest warning signs and seems fairly typical

  • "Hunched up” appearance: This seems to occur fairly frequently

  • Lack of normal gurgling and digestive sounds in the tummy: Many dog owners report this after putting their ear to their dog's tummy. If your dog shows any bloat symptoms, you may want to try this immediately

  • Bloated abdomen that may feel tight (like a drum): Despite the term "bloat," many times this symptom never occurs or is not apparent

  1. Pale or off-colour gums Dark red in early stages; white or blue in later stages

  2. Coughing

  3. Unproductive gagging

  4. Heavy salivating or drooling

  5. Foamy mucous around the lips, or vomiting foamy mucous

  6. Unproductive attempts to defecate

  7. Whining

  8. Pacing

  9. Licking the air

  10. Seeking a hiding place

  11. Looking at their side or other evidence of abdominal pain or discomfort

  12. May refuse to lie down or even sit down

  13. May stand spread-legged

  14. May curl up in a ball or go into a praying or crouched position

  15. May attempt to eat small stones and twigs

  16. Drinking excessively

  17. Heavy or rapid panting

  18. Shallow breathing

  19. Cold mouth membranes

  20. Apparent weakness; unable to stand or has a spread-legged stance Especially in advanced stage

  21. Accelerated heartbeat

  22. Heart rate increases as bloating progresses

  23. Weak pulse

  24. Collapse


It is thought that the following may be the primary contributors to bloat.

  • Eating habits, especiall:y

  1. Elevated food bowls studies show 50% of dogs that eat from elevated bowls develop bloat

  2. Rapid eating or ingesting foods that contain Gas such as drinks that are carbonated or even lightly carbonated…foods that produce gas.

  3. Eating dry foods that contain citric acid as a preservative (the risk is even worse if the owner moistens the food)

  4. Eating dry foods that contain fat among the first four ingredients

  5. Insufficient pancreatic enzymes, such as Trypsin (a pancreatic enzyme present in meat) Dogs with untreated Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency and/or Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth generally produce more gas and thus are at greater risk

  6. Dilution of gastric juices necessary for complete digestion by drinking too much water before or after eating

  7. Eating gas-producing foods (especially soybean products, brewer's yeast, and alfalfa)

  8. Drinking too much water too quickly (can cause gulping of air)

  9. Exercise before and especially after eating

  10. Heredity: Especially having a first-degree relative who has bloated

  • Build & Physical Characteristics:

  1. Having a deep and narrow chest compared to other dogs of the same breed

  2. Older dogs

  3. Big dogs

  4. Males

  5. Being underweight

  • Disposition:

  1. Fearful or anxious temperament

  2. Prone to stress

  3. History of aggression toward other dogs or people


Reducing the chances of bloat are:

  • Do Not Give carbonated or lightly carbonated Beverages …there is no safe level of carbonation proven by scientific research..e.g. sparkling water, soda water ,carbonated mineral waters and or at present on the market lightly carbonated doggie beverages and increasing the risk by giving food or treats inconjunction.

  • Do not use an elevated food bowl particularly in prone breeds.

  • Do not exercise 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

  • Do not permit rapid eating use anti gulping bowls

  • Feed 2 or 3 meals daily, instead of just one

  • Reduce fluid intake immediately before or after a meal: It dilutes the gastric juices necessary for proper digestion, which leads to gas production.

  • ½ teaspoon of nutmeg can reduce gas symptoms

  • Allow access to fresh water at all times, except before and after meals

  • Make meals a peaceful, stress-free time

  • When switching dog food, do so gradually (allow several weeks)

  • Do not feed dry food exclusively as some can produce gases

  • Feed a high-protein (>30%) diet, particularly of raw meat

  • If feeding dry food, avoid foods that contain fat as one of the first four ingredients

  • If feeding dry foods, avoid foods that contain citric acid: If you must use a dry food containing citric acid, do not pre-moisten the food

  • If feeding dry food, select one that includes rendered meat meal with bone product among the first four ingredients

  • Reduce carbohydrates as much as possible (e.g., typical in many commercial dog biscuits)

  • Feed a high-quality diet: Whole, unprocessed foods are especially beneficial

  • Feed adequate amount of fiber (for commercial dog food, at least 3.00% crude fiber)

  • Include herbs specially mixed for pets that reduce gas

  • Avoid brewer's yeast, alfalfa, and soybean products

  • 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

  • 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.] New

  • Don't permit excessive, rapid drinking: Especially a consideration on hot days

Breeds most at risk:

  • Afghan Hound

  • Airedale Terrier

  • Akita

  • Alaskan Malamute

  • Basset Hound

  • Bernese Mountain Dog

  • Borzoi

  • Bouvier des Flandres

  • Boxer

  • Bullmastiff/ Dogue de Bordeaux and any Mastiff Breed

  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever

  • Collie

  • Dachshund

  • Doberman Pinscher

  • English Springer Spaniel

  • Fila Brasileiro

  • Golden Retriever

  • Gordon Setter

  • Great Dane

  • German Shepherd

  • German Shorthaired Pointer

  • Great Pyrenees

  • Irish Setter

  • Irish Wolfhound

  • King Shepherd

  • Labrador Retriever

  • Miniature Poodle

  • Newfoundland

  • Old English Sheepdog

  • Pekinese

  • Rottweiler

  • Samoyed

  • Shiloh Shepherd

  • St. Bernard

  • Standard Poodle

  • Weimaraner

  • Wolfhound

  • Sighthounds

  • Bloodhounds

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