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Bloat in pets

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Bloat in dogs is formally known as gastric dilatation and volvulus (GVD). In this condition, the stomach fills with air (dilatation) and then twists over on itself (volvulus). The distended abdomen interferes with breathing, and the twisted stomach can lose its blood supply. Shock develops rapidly. The result is an emergency situation that needs immediate veterinary attention.

Bloat is most common in large, deep-chested breeds of dogs, especially German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Standard Poodles. It can occur at any age, but it is most common in middle-aged to older dogs.

Bloat is associated with abdominal swelling, although this may not be obvious because most of the stomach is under the ribs. Dogs often drool and try to vomit, which is usually seen as dry heaves. Dogs seem anxious or in pain, and their breathing is rapid and labored. They often collapse, and many die without immediate veterinary attention.

Contact your veterinarian or emergency service immediately if you see signs of bloat. The abdomen needs to be decompressed, usually by passing a tube through the dog’s mouth into the stomach. Intravenous fluids and other medications are needed to treat shock and other serious problems associated with bloat. Surgery is often necessary to untwist the stomach and then stabilize it, in an effort to prevent the dog from bloating again.

Although the specific cause of bloat isn’t known for sure, you can do a number of things to help prevent it. Bloat often develops after a dog has eaten a big meal, so feeding several smaller meals per day is prudent. Although dogs should have free access to water, they should not be allowed to gulp large quantities at a time. Meal times should be calm and relaxed, without distractions or household excitement that could make your dog nervous. In addition, strenuous exercise (such as running or rough play) immediately after meals should be avoided. Your veterinarian can discuss additional ways that you can help avoid this life-threatening condition from developing in your pet.

 

Q&A

What is bloat?

Bloat is a condition in dogs in which the stomach fills with air and then twists over on itself. 


Is bloat serious?

Canine bloat is an emergency situation that should be seen by a vet immediately!  The distended abdomen interferes with breathing, and the twisted stomach can lose its blood supply, rapidly leading to shock and death. 


What dogs are most likely to get bloat?

Bloat is most common in large, deep-chested breeds, especially German shepherds, great Danes, and standard poodles.  It can occur at any age, but it is most common in middle-aged to older dogs.


How can bloat be prevented?

Feed your dog several small meals per day rather than one big one.  Keep meal times relaxed (without distractions or household excitement) and avoid strenuous exercise immediately after meals.  Your vet may have additional recommendations.




Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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