When a dog has bloat, it becomes a medical emergency. You may be wondering if it is the same as what we can get. So, the question is, what is bloat in dogs?

In This Blog:

What Is Bloat?

Bloat happens when gas fills their stomach and can twist around leading to a lack of blood flow to their gut. This means that once their stomach has twisted, no food or gas will be able to escape and instead becomes stuck in their stomach. 

Blood will begin to collect in the stomach and due to their being a twist, it is unable to return it to other areas throughout the body including their heart. This is where things start to become dangerous.

Not only can this affect their stomach, but it can potentially cause their spleen to twist cutting off the blood supply there too. Once the spleen has becoming twisted, the pancreas will follow.

A starved pancreas is life threatening to a dog and will stop your dog’s heart if it is left too long. Toxins become released into the body and one of these toxins can stop the heart quite quickly.

Whilst bloat can be a simple gas filled stomach, it can quickly become life threatening once the stomach has twisted and your dog can go into shock extremely quickly as organs and tissues begin to die and toxins are reduced.

Once it has become life threatening and the stomach has managed to flip over and twist, this then becomes known as gastric dilatation volvulus.

If bloat is left too long, it can become more severe. The dog with bloat will start to lose blood supply to the lower half of their body and become too weak to do anything. At this point, it is impossible for anything at all to pass through and enter the intestine.

As the intestine is now completely blocked off, food and gas has nowhere else to go apart from sit and collect in the stomach. In life threatening scenarios, their stomach can rupture and release toxins into the bloodstream and the rest of the body.

What Are The Symptoms Of Bloat?

Unfortunately, the symptoms can become apparent very quickly as they can deteriorate so it is paramount that you contact your vet at the very first signs of bloat to offer them the best chance of survival.

It is important for any dog owner or anybody who deals with dog to know the symptoms for bloat. Some may be more minor than others, but they are all important and key things to remember. Bloat can present itself in your dog by:

  • Their belly becoming swollen and hard
  • Producing more drool than normal
  • Showing unsettled behaviour
  • Excessive Panting
  • Whining
  • Heightened sensitivity around the abdomen
  • Retching but not being able to vomit

As things progress, so will their symptoms and these can include:

  • Depression
  • Collapsing
  • Pale gums
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Too weak to move

These symptoms can progress rapidly and often the symptoms don’t show until they are quite far into suffering. From the time their symptoms began to show, they may have only hours until they go into complete shock and sadly die. 

What Causes Bloat?

As frustrating as it is for our vets, the root cause for bloat is yet to be found. This illness is still taking dogs, despite the modern knowledge, extensive treatments, and advanced medicines.

However, they have managed to source a few triggers which can bring on bloat in dogs.

Eating Too Fast

When your dog is eating their food too quickly, you may be concerned in case they choke. But dogs who eat too quickly all the time can be at a higher risk of developing bloat.

This is down to the amount of air they are digesting with each mouthful and how quick they swallow their food. Food and oxygen which has been swallowed will start to expand in their stomach and cause bloat. This will be extremely distressing for them.

To help prevent your dog from eating too quickly, try them with a slow feeder bowl to try and help increase the time it takes them to eat.

Exercising Too Quickly After Eating

When our dogs realise that we are going for a walk, they usually become excited and start running and jumping around.

If they are doing this straight after eating, this will cause the food in their stomach to move around a lot which can cause excess gas to go into their stomach as well as it starting to swell.

It is important to allow the food to digest and wait at least two hours before they go for a walk or do strenuous exercise.

Drinking Water Too Quickly

When a dog consumes water at a faster rate than normal, they will take in an excessive amount of air with each gulp. All this air will then travel to our stomach and can lead to bloat and gastric dilatation volvulus.

To prevent your down from gulping down their water, ensure that they always have access to fresh clean water. This will prevent them from ever feeling extremely thirsty and needing to drink a lot.


Dogs which typically have a deep and narrow chest tend to more susceptible to bloat. Whilst any dog can develop bloat and it is dangerous no matter what the breed is, the following seem to be more at risk:

  • Great Danes
  • Boxers
  • Basset Hounds
  • German Shepherd Dogs
  • Akitas

How Can I Treat Bloat?

The first thing you must do when treating your dog for bloat is to contact the vet immediately. The quicker you can get your dog to the vets, the better chance they will have. Getting them to the vet before their stomach flips can be the difference between life and death.

The first thing your vet will do when they are presented with a possible bloat is to perform an abdominal X-Ray. This is to confirm that it is in fact bloat and not another emergency which can present similarly.

The X-Ray will help the vet determine whether this is bloat and the stomach has just distended and filled with gas, or it has turned into GDV. If it has advanced to a twisted stomach, the X-Ray will show a double bubble on the top and this is where it has flipped.

Releasing The Gas

The vet will pass a tube down their throat and into their stomach in an attempt to release the gas building up, providing their stomach has not twisted. If the stomach has twisted, this attempt may be unsuccessful.

If the stomach is twisted, they will need to perform surgery. But, due to your dog already being in shock and their organs being deprived from oxygen, they will be at a higher risk with complications during the general anaesthetic.

During the surgery, they will attempt to untwist the stomach and surgically attach it to the abdominal wall to try and stop it from twisting in the future. There is always the risk of further complications during the procedure once they get to the stomach.

They may find that too much of their stomach lining has been compromised and there is too much for them to remove. There is also a risk of post infection like with any surgery.

It is important to remember that whilst they may have survived the surgery, they are still not out of the woods yet!

Bloat is a killer…so always be on the lookout! It is important to remember the signs as well as knowing ways to prevent it. Here are some ways which will hopefully prevent you from having to go through this:

  • Try to avoid allowing them to go a period of time with no access to water
  • Slow their eating down
  • Avoid exercise for two hours after eating
  • Ideal body condition
  • Avoid meals which include high fats and oils

Unfortunately, we can do everything right and look after our dogs to the best of our ability and they can still become sick and develop bloat. As much as we never want to have to deal with this illness, you will hopefully be ready for if the worst is to occur.

Always remember the symptoms and if in doubt, contact your vet. When it comes to bloat, the sooner you diagnose it and treat it, the higher chance of survival and the less time they will be suffering.

Whilst it may be a daunting thing to go through with a long road to recovery, there can be a light at the end of the tunnel and there is evidence to suggest that 80% of dogs which were presented to the vets with GDV and underwent surgery survived and walked away.

Remember the symptoms and always get a second opinion.