How To Recognize Signs Of Bloat In Your Dog

Bloat in dogs is a serious and life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. But many dogs die from it, as it is difficult for many pet parents to recognize the signs. Recognizing the symptoms of bloat could save your dog’s life, as the condition progresses very quickly, and minutes can make the difference between life and death.

Also known as gastric dilatation, gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), or twisted stomach, bloat is a medical emergency that up to 40% of dogs die from, even if they get immediate care. Bloat causes a dog’s stomach to fill with air or fluid. The swelling stomach puts pressure on other internal organs, such as the lungs, which causes the dog to have difficulty breathing. Eventually the condition may decrease blood supply to a dog’s vital organs.

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Roscoe. Screenshot via YouTube

One foster family was extremely lucky when the Akita they were looking after developed bloat. The Akita named Roscoe had just arrived at his foster home with his rescuer. They were filming his arrival, and unknown to them at the time, he was already in the early stages of bloat.

It should be noted that nobody with the dog that day had ever witnessed a dog with bloat. Roscoe was very lucky that his new foster family acted quickly even though they had no idea what they were seeing.

“I can tell you from personal experience that we can talk to you about it forever, but until you actually experience it, it is very difficult to recognize,” YouTuber DancingAkitaLady wrote in the posted video. “They say a picture is worth a thousand words and in this case the video is priceless for its teaching value.”

That’s why the following video is so important as it helps people learn and recognize the signs of bloat.

Please note, the video may be hard to watch, but it has saved lives , as many commenters on the video have attested.

As noted in the video, Roscoe evinced many of the early signs of bloat. These include:

  • Gagging or attempting to vomit, but nothing coming up, except ropey, slimy, marshmallow-like saliva
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Saliva is stringy and marshmallowy with onset of bloat. Screenshot via YouTube

    • Extreme agitation
    • Pacing accompanied by the inability to sit or lay down comfortably
    • Swelling between the rib cage and the hips; it could start in the lower rib cage. (In early stages swelling may not be visible. Insist your vet do an x-ray for early diagnosis. Once swelling is visible, time is limited. This is an emergency!)
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Note the hunched posture and swelling around stomach. Screenshot via YouTube

  • Heavy panting, often accompanied with labored and loud breathing
  • Head and tail hanging down, with a roached-up back
  • WATCH FOR UNUSUAL OR UNCHARACTERISTIC BEHAVIOR FOR YOUR DOG (e.g. a normally active dog suddenly having no energy; a normally hungry dog refusing food; a laid-back dog who is suddenly restless.) Your dog looks uncomfortable or in pain

In Roscoe’s case his stomach filled with air, but luckily for him, he made it to the vet in enough time that his stomach had not torsed.

Torsion occurs when the stomach flips over, cutting off the blood supply causing stomach tissue to start dying. Torsion requires very expensive surgery, and even if your dog survives the surgery, they may not survive the aftermath, as toxins from the dying tissue can enter the bloodstream and cause heart arrhythmias and sepsis.

Nearly all breeds of dogs have been reported to have had gastric dilatation with or without gastric torsion, but bloat tends to appear in larger dog breeds. Some breeds appear to be more commonly affected, which can in part be genetic, and in other cases because of the shape of their diaphragm. These breed include but are not limited to: Akita, Bloodhound, Boxer, German Shepherd Dog, Gordon Setter, Great Dane, Irish Setter, Irish Wolfhound, St. Bernard, Standard Poodle, Weimaraner.

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Roscoe recovered from his episode of bloat. Screenshot via YouTube

So how can you avoid your dog getting bloat? Although the exact cause of bloat is unclear, the following precautions are recommended:

  • Feed dogs multiple small meals (2-3) per day rather than a single large meal
  • Avoid gas-producing foods (like cabbage, beans)
  • Avoid strenuous exercise one hour prior to feeding times and one or two hours after feeding
  • Do not feed your dog if he/she is panting
  • Avoid allowing your dog to gulp large quantities of water after exercising or when over-heated; instead provide small amounts of water periodically, until the panting has stopped
  • Do not allow your dog to roll on his/her back after eating or drinking.
  • Check to see if your dog’s food swells considerably in water. If it does, wet the food and allow it to absorb all the water before feeding
  • Do not make any sudden changes to diet; instead, gradually change diet over an extended period of time
  • Slow down your dog’s eating by using slow feed bowls
  • Avoid using elevated food bowls
  • Avoid stressful situations

As with any medical condition with your pet, seek the advice and medical expertise of your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about bloat and how to prevent it.

Please share this important information with the pet parents you know!