A Guide to Canine Bloat For Dog Owners

Canine bloat is a very serious condition that can quickly prove fatal if the affected dog is not treated fast. In fact this is one of those health conditions that should always be treated as an emergency situation. Recent research has estimated that out of all dogs that experience the condition as many as 50% will die.


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What is bloat in dogs

This condition actually refers to two events that occur inside your dog’s body. The first is when the dog’s stomach starts to distend due to a build-up of gas and other fluids (known as gastric dilatation). The second and potentially deadly event occurs when the stomach that has become distended starts to twist and rotate (gastric volvulus). As the stomach rotates this will also cause the spleen to twist (this is because the spleen is also attached to the stomach wall).

When the stomach rotates less than 180 degrees this is classified as gastric torsion and when it rotates from 180 up to 360 degrees this is classified as gastric volvulus. It is also important to mention that when the stomach twists and rotates the blood supply to the stomach is also significantly reduced. At this point the exit and entrance to the stomach are blocked so air and fluids are prevented from escaping. Due to the gas and fluid being trapped the stomach becomes further bloated and distended and this will continue to increase as the material inside the stomach begins to ferment.

Due to the gastroesophageal junction also being twisted this prevents the affected dog from being able to belch or vomit. And as previously mentioned due to the blood supply to the stomach being reduced necrosis will start to affect the stomach wall.

Your dog’s stomach is actually quite an amazing organ. Basically the stomach works like a large food grinder and uses enzymes to break the food into smaller molecules. Of course dogs just like humans can develop stomach problems including gastritis and ulcers. Serious problems can also develop including where the stomach twists (this is due to the stomach being attached to the body wall). Of course if the stomach does twist this can lead to the blood supply being stopped (which can then lead to the death of tissue and even the death of your dog). This is also known as Bloat or Gastrointestinal Volvulus.

Canine Bloat Symptoms

Unfortunately sometimes the symptoms of canine bloat are not always completely obvious – for example during the early stages of the condition the stomach may not appear distended (although it can feel a little firm and tight to the touch).

The most common symptoms of canine bloat are restlessness, retching and salivation. The affected dog may also start to pace around and try (unsuccessfully) to vomit. The stomach will also be swollen and when it is touched the dog may whine, yelp or even groan. Another useful method to determine whether your dog is experiencing bloat the owner can gently touch the abdomen and it may produce a hollow sound.

As the affected dog starts to pace or walk around the property he may appear stiff-legged, hang his head and just look as if he/she is uncomfortable. Most owners know their dog or puppy better than anyone and are the first to notice any behavioral changes due to illness and with canine bloat if you have any doubts always go with your gut feeling and call the vet. An affected dog may also appear extremely anxious and distressed as the condition takes hold.

Later signs of canine bloat where the dog is about to go into shock the gums and tongue may appear pale in color and the pulse may weaken (the heart beat may also start to increase). The dog may then start to have difficulty in breathing and may become so weak that he collapses.

Your dog should have trim figure. When you stand above your dog and look down the waist should be clearly visible. When you look from the side the waist should tuck up just before the hind legs. If your dog appears to be more rounded then this may be because your dog is a little obese. However, if your dog’s size suddenly increases then this may be a sign of Bloat. If your dog attempts unsuccessfully to vomit, appears restless and paces around looking in distress and uncomfortable then this could be a sign of this potentially fatal condition. This is a medical emergency and you should take your dog to the vet immediately.

Dogs with deep chests seem more prone to the condition including Irish Setters, Dachshunds and Great Danes.

Canine bloat treatment

As previously discussed if you have any suspicion that your dog has bloat you should take him straight to the vets (this is an emergency)!

If the dog is experiencing a case of gastric dilatation without suffering from torsion or volvulus then the fastest way to treat the condition (and diagnose it) is through the vet passing a plastic tube into the mouth and through to the stomach. As the tube enters the stomach the immediate response should be for a sudden rush of gas and fluid to come out of the inserted tube – this will bring instant relief for the affected dog or puppy. The next step is for the stomach to be washed out and food to be withheld for up to thirty six hours. The vet may also provide some intravenous fluid therapy.

If the affected dog is experiencing volvulus or dilatation then surgery will need to be performed. The surgical procedure will involve the vet repositioning the spleen and stomach – however if the lack of blood supply has led to necrosis then part of the stomach and spleen may need to be removed. It is possible for the vet to prevent the condition from returning by performing a surgical procedure known as gastropexy (this is when the stomach is sutered to the wall of the abdomen – this can stop the stomach from rotating or twisting).

When gastric volvulus or dilatation do occur the vet will need to monitor the dog’s heart and to help cure the shock and possible dehydration corticosteroids and intravenous fluids maybe prescribed. If infection has also taken hold the vet may also precribe antibiotics.

How to prevent canine bloat… It is possible to reduce ths possiblity of your dog developing the condition by following some of the advice below.

1. To help prevent canine bloat owners should space each meal out throughout the day rather than feeding your dog or puppy one large meal.

2. Although raising the dog’s food bowl was once thought to help prevent the condition it can now actually make things worst.

3. Try to avoid giving your dog any dog food that contains citric acid.

4. Try not to give your dog lots of exercise straight after eating or on a full stomach.

5. Do not allow your dog to drink water one hour before and after he eats.

6. Another way to help prevent canine bloat is to avoid feeding your dog any dry food that contains lots of fat.

Natural remedies for Bloat in dogs

Although the natural remedies listed below can help to alleviate the symptoms of Bloat, you should never use them until you have sought conventional emergency medical treatment first.

Carbo vegetabalis – This homeopathic remedy is sometimes prescribed by homeopathic vets to treat bloating. It can also help alleviate dogs that have a build up of gas or are suffering from indigestion.

Nux vomica – This natural remedy is very beneficial for Bloat. It can also help to alleviate anxiety,constipation, and indigestion. A great remedy for a variety of digestive problems.

Argentum nitricum – This is an excellent homeopathic remedy for the condition. It can also be used if there is vomiting, salivation or excessive mucus present.