Dog Bloat: Treatment & Prevention

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

Dog bloat is a frightening condition that happens to our beloved fur friends. In this lesson, we will talk about how dog bloat is treated and how it can be prevented.

Dog Bloat

Dog bloat is a common term used for a scary condition in which a dog's stomach will dilate and continue to expand, causing a tremendous amount of pressure. It is medically known as gastric dilatation-volvulus, or GDV. This condition is very traumatizing for dogs and their owners. We do not like to see our furry family members in pain. Once your dog starts showing symptoms of bloat, it's an emergency that requires immediate treatment. Find out what exactly what causes bloat, why it happens, how its treated and how we can prevent it.

Causes & Risk Factors

The exact cause for this condition is still unknown, but it's thought that when a dog overeats, the food and the gas that forms sometimes does not expel, causing the expansion and dilation of the stomach. This pressure can lead to blood flow problems to the heart and stomach lining. It may also lead to perforations of the stomach tissue or cause difficulty breathing due to pressure against the diaphragm. Prolonged symptoms can cause cells to die as blood collects in the dog's hind area and circulation is reduced or cut off. Occasionally, the stomach turns on itself when very dilated. This is known as volvulus, which can block the flow of blood to the stomach and spleen.

Research has also shown that certain dog breeds are more likely to be affected by bloat. In general, large dog breeds with a deep chest cavity, such as Saint Bernards, Great Danes, German Shepards, and Weimaraners are at an increased risk, as are older dogs. Other risk factors include eating food from a raised bowl, stress, eating one large meal each day, and playing or exercising right after eating.


Dogs will show signs like swollen belly, trying to vomit but noting comes up, salivation, lethargy and sensitivity to touch in the abdomen area. Dogs go into a state of shock when suffering from GDV within a couple of hours of this condition occurring. This leaves owners with a very small window of opportunity to save their pet's life. Your dog should be rushed to the local veterinarian immediately if he has any of these symptoms.


The first step in treatment is to stabilize the animal with oxygen and intravenous fluids. The stomach then needs to be 'deflated,' so to speak, which is known as 'gastric decompression.' A tube is passed down into the stomach via the esophagus to remove any fluids or gas. Sometimes a catheter is inserted into the stomach to ease the tube through the esophagus. The stomach is flushed with water to evacuate remaining food.

Depending on the severity of the condition, the veterinarian may have to perform surgery. If circulation to the pancreas has been cut off then it produces toxic hormones. This could possibly lead to the heart stopping and killing the dog. To correct this, the vet may have to remove part of the stomach or part of the spleen in order to flip the stomach back into position and secure it to the abdominal wall permanently. This helps volvulus from occurring again. The surgery comes with its own risks, including possibility of infection, rupture of stitches, susceptibility to cardiac arrhythmia and the risk of being under general anesthesia.


The best way to prevent dog bloat is to feed your dog two to three small meals a day instead of one large meal a day. Consuming one large meal once a day is a potential cause of dog bloat, as the dog is unable to digest the large quantity of food and expel any gas that builds up. Smaller meals are easier to digest and reduce the risk of gas and fluid build up.

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