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bloat in dogs

Health & Wellness

Bloat in dogs: causes, symptoms and prevention

And how to get ahead of this condition

Your pup, like many others, is famous for devouring their food just seconds after their bowl hits the ground. Their excitement over meals is understandable (afterall, those zoomies can really work up an appetite!), but quick eating can cause health issues — like bloat. Veterinarian and pet health advocate Dr. Aliya McCullough explains everything pet parents need to know about this serious condition. 

What is bloat in dogs? 

Bloat (also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV) happens when a dog's (or puppy’s) stomach fills with air or fluid and then twists on itself, which cuts off the blood supply to the stomach. If left untreated, bloat can be a rapidly progressing, fatal condition in just a few hours.

This condition is most commonly seen in dogs older than 5 and large breeds, like Great Danes, boxers, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Gordon and Irish Setters, St. Bernards, standard poodles and Weimaraners. Lean dogs with chests larger than their waists (also known as deep-chested) can also be at risk.

What causes bloat in dogs? 

The direct cause of bloat in dogs is unknown, but the following factors can put your pet at risk:

  • A family history of bloat 
  • Eating rapidly
  • A single large meal once a day
  • Food that’s been moistened
  • Elevated bowls
  • Food (especially dry) that has a high-fat content

Symptoms of bloat in dogs

Some of the most common symptoms of bloat in dogs include: 

  • Bloated painful abdomen
  • Retching (dry heaving)
  • Restlessness
  • Shallow breathing
  • Weakness 
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Collapse

Will a dog with bloat poop?

It’s unlikely that a dog with bloat will poop.

Will a dog with bloat eat?

Similar to going to the bathroom, it’s unlikely that a dog with bloat will eat.  

How to help a bloated dog

Bloat is a medical emergency that requires quick intervention, as it can be fatal. Visit your veterinarian or emergency clinic as soon as possible if you notice signs of bloat in your dog. Bloat in dogs won’t resolve on its own, so it’s important to get help quickly. 

It’s always great to have a pet emergency preparedness plan in place, so you can act fast if a surprise health incident occurs. 

How to prevent bloat in dogs

Signs of bloat in dogs
Signs of bloat in dogs

Pet parents may be able to decrease the risk of bloat in dogs by following these easy tips: 

  • Feed your dog small meals 3 to 4 times a day.
  • Buy “portion pacers” or special bowls that make dogs work harder for their food, which slows them down.
  • Serve a combination of wet and dry food.
  • Ditch foods that are high in fat. 
  • Avoid exercising your pet after a meal.
  • Try to keep your pup away from stressful situations.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about gastropexy (a preventive surgery that’s typically performed at the same time as neutering) if your dog is an at-risk breed.

Is it safe to walk my dog after meals?

Some dogs experience bloat due to vigorously exercising after a meal. Talk to your vet about how safe it is to exercise your dog after eating, and take it slow even if your vet gives your dog the green light to get active. 

Hopefully, bloating isn’t something your pup will ever have to experience, but if it does occur, you’ll know what to look out for and how to act fast. 

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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