Know the signs of deadly bloat in your dog

You know that bloated feeling when you eat too much? It’s uncomfortable. But BLOAT, in DOGS, can become deadly in minutes. If you believe your dog is suffering from bloat, call your veterinarian and alert the office that you are on your way with bloat. Minutes can be the difference in life or death.

Bloat affects large dogs with deep chests and high stomachs. (Picture the shape of a standard poodle or Great Dane, especially.)


Bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV),  can cause gastric torsion and twisted stomach, which is life-threatening. This happens when the stomach twists on itself while filled with gas, food, or fluid. The stomach expands and puts pressure on other organs and blocks the esophagus and can trap blood in the stomach, restricting blood flow to the heart and stomach lining. Bloat can also tear a wall in the stomach and cause difficulty breathing. Knowing the symptoms can be critical to your dog’s survival. According to the ASPCA,” Even with immediate treatment, approximately 25% to 40% of dogs die from this medical emergency.” (07/11/15) Some sources cite it as the it is the second leading killer of dogs, after cancer. 


Outward symptoms of bloat usually come on quickly after eating or drinking. Signs of bloat in dogs include: 

  • Dry heaves, or trying to vomit while producing nothing, referred to as “the hallmark symptom”
  • Unproductive gagging, coughing
  • Heavy or rapid panting
  • Drinking excessively
  • Restlessness, pacing, whining
  • Drooling, foaming at the mouth
  • Licking the air
  • Swollen abdomen; the dog looking at its stomach or showing evidence of abdominal pain or discomfort
  • Standing spread legged, curling up, or going into a crouched position
  • Seeking a hiding place
  • Cold body temperature or mouth membranes

As the condition worsens, the pet might exhibit signs of shock, such as

  • Pale gums
  • Rapid heartbeat (which you can feel with your hand on the pet’s chest)
  • No gurgling or digestive sounds (which you should hear if you put your ear to its tummy)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Shortness of breath, shallow breathing
  • Weakness or collapse

Special considerations

If your vet does not provide 24-hour service, have the address and phone number of your closest emergency vet handy and know how to get there in an emergency.

Avoiding bloat

Veterinarians have not determined what causes bloat, but they agree on ways to minimize the risk.

  • Feed a couple of small meals daily instead of one or two large meals.
  • Slow the dog’s eating, with bowls designed for that or feed small amounts several times each day.
  • Limit water available before and after eating.
  • Avoid exercise immediately before or for a few hours after eating.
  • Provide a peaceful environment. Stress has been noted as a precursor to bloat. Anxious or fearful dogs might be safer if fed alone.
  • Change the dog’s diet (or food brand) slowly, over a week or longer.
  • Male dogs and dogs older than two are more likely to develop bloat.
  • If a first-degree relative has bloat, some pet owners consider prophylactic surgery to tack the stomach.


There is no home remedy for bloat.

If your dog is suffering from shock, the veterinarian might treat it with fluids through an IV, antibiotics, or steroids.

Then the vet can start with an X-ray or immediately insert a tube down the dog’s throat to release the pressure. If that doesn’t work, the vet will insert a needle into the stomach to allow the pressure to escape. If your dog is suffering from shock, the veterinarian might treat it with fluids through an IV, antibiotics, or steroids.

If the stomach is tortioned, the dog will have emergency surgery to untwist the stomach and put it back in its normal position. Then the vet will check to see if the condition damaged other parts of his body. Surgery poses the possibility of complications, such as damage to other organs, infection and shock, and in-clinic monitoring is necessary for several days after the surgery. Costs can exceed $500-1000 in complicated cases.

Suture the stomach in a way to prevent it from twisting again (a procedure called gastropexy). If gastropexy is not performed, 75-80% of dogs will develop GDV again. (, 07/11/15)

Learn to recognize the symptoms of bloat and know how to reach a vet any time of the day or night to save your furry family member from this quickly developing painful death.

Side bar: Any dog can have bloat, but it’s much more common in deep-chested, large breeds, like
Bassett Hounds
Doberman Pinschers
German Shepherds
Gordon Setters
Great Danes
Irish Setters
Old English Sheepdog
Standard Poodle
St. Bernards

By Beth Crosby