The Number Two Killer of Dogs – Bloat

It is surprising how many dog owners are not aware of what bloat is.  After cancer, which is the number one killer of dogs we have bloat.  Bloat is a life threatening condition that all dogs face but especially the large breed dogs.  Large breeds with deeper chests for some reason are more prone than other large breed dogs.

So what is bloat?

Bloat, also known as Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (“GDV”), happens when there is too much gas or fluid in the stomach and it is unable to be expelled.  Normally the gas is expelled by belching, vomiting or as flatulence.  Bloat can occur with or without the twisting (volvulus) of the stomach.    If an animal is diagnosed simply with bloat, sometimes the veterinarian can simply decompress the stomach with a tube or needle and no other treatment is necessary.  However if the stomach does twist the condition becomes much more serious.

As the stomach swells, it may turn 90° to 360° twisting between the esophagus and the duodenum which are the fixed attachments of the stomach.  The twisted stomach traps air, food and water while the bloating of the stomach obstructs veins in the abdomen, leading to shock, damage to internal organs and low blood pressure.  The effect of the bloating and twisting can be fatal to your dog.  Not only is it fatal but time is of the essence for treatment.  Getting your dog to the vet in time is a matter of life or death.


Signs of Bloat


*        A distended, swollen-looking belly, particularly one that

         appears quickly.

*        Unsuccessful attempts to vomit.

*        High anxiety and restlessness.

*        Appears hunched up or roaching.

*        Heavy drooling.

*        Whining, pacing, and licking the air.

*        Trouble sitting or laying down.

*        Gums are pale or off colour.

*        Drinking excessively.

*        Apparent weakness; trouble standing

*        Heavy or rapid panting.

*        Accelerated heartbeat(advance stages)

*        Weak pulse.

*        Collapse

*        Not acting their normal self.

*        Unsuccessful attempts to defecate.

Knowing your dog and knowing when something is not quite right can be the difference between life and death.  At the first signs of possible bloat you may have very little time to save your dog.   Bloat can kill a healthy dog in a matter of hours so immediate medical attention is vital.

Causes of Bloat

*        Large meals, eaten very quickly.  When dogs eat too fast

   they suck in a lot of air.

*        Drinking large amounts of water after a big meal.

*        A lot of exercise, usually within the first few hours after eating.

*        Anxiety

When your dog shows signs of bloat they need immediate medical attention.  Surgery is needed to correct the twisted stomach.  Not all dogs survive the surgery unfortunately.  When the stomach twists, the blood supply and oxygen is cut off which quickly leads to dead tissue.  The bloated stomach will also obstruct the veins, causing damage to internal organs, shock and low blood pressure.  The twisted stomach also blocks the esophagus which not only prevents the dog from belching or vomiting but also decreases the blood flow to the liver and spleen, which can cause toxic shock or blood poisoning.

During the surgery any unhealthy or dead tissue is removed and a gastropexy is performed.  A gastropexy is when the vet anchors the stomach so it cannot twist in the future.  Some people will have this done as a preventative measure when they are having their pet neutered, as it can be done at the same time.

Look for my next article to find out if there is anything, (other than a gastropexy); else we can do to prevent bloat.

Until next time

M. Brownell


12 Responses to “The Number Two Killer of Dogs – Bloat”

  1. Kim says:

    Last night my husband and i had to put our boxer to sleep,he had gastric dilation volvulus.
    It killed us to see him in that much pain,my dog talked and he yell ed mom to me on the way to the emergencyroom because he was hurting so bad. Branegan January 13th 1998 to March 3rd 2009

  2. Maureen Brownell says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. No words can take the pain away that you and your husband are feeling right now. You have my condolences.

    Maureen B.

  3. Trudy Garofalo says:

    Last April 22, 2008, my 11 year old doberman died and we had no idea what happened to her. We have a pet door, so when I woke up one morning, I found her outside, laying on her side, eyes still open but she was gone. Her abdomen was extended and hard. It was apparent that she had vomitted a foamy substance nearby.

    Tonight, we just finished watching “Marley and Me”. There was a scene referring to ‘twisted stomach’. I had never heard of it. I turned on my computer to look it up and came to this web site. All the symptoms listed here are exactly what we saw in our dog the night before she past away. If only we had known. Our hearts were broken that day.

    Most sincerely,

    Trudy Garofalo.

  4. Carolyn says:

    Dear Maureen

    My sisters dog, Rocky, who is a Rotweiler/Dobie mix suffered the exact same symptoms. When he started to drool and refused to eat, my sister immediately took him to an emergency Vet Center, where he was operated on and his life was saved. I have an aging Border Collie and intend to watch for similar symtoms in him. I am so glad that Rocky’s story has a happy ending.

  5. Maureen Brownell says:

    Hey Carolyn
    Thank-you for your comments. It’s nice to hear a happy ending to something that could have had quite a different outcome.

  6. Sheryl White says:

    My 10yr old Akita/Wolf came down with bloat on October 2008. We were able to get her to the vet and she had the surgery and all was well.
    In February 2009 she had the same symptoms and this time we weren’t able to save her. We had no idea there was a good probability that the condition would re-occur. I wish we would have been told. It would have eased the guilt of putting her down. Condolences to all who have has to deal with this awful malady.
    Tika – 5/1998 – 2/19/2009.

  7. Maureen Brownell says:

    Hi Sheryl
    Sorry to hear about your Akita/Wolf. No matter what the reason for putting your dog down it never gets easier. We tend to feel guilty about our decision and we(I know I have)tend to try and second guess our decision. What matters in the long run is that your decision was based on what was good for your dog.

  8. Carol Bamford says:

    We just lost our Large Munsterlander , Oliver this morning to GDV I had never heard of it before but my kids had seen the movie Marley and Me, they told us what happened in the movie when Oliver started to show his symptoms unfortunately we did not have enough time…Oliver passed away about 10 mins. after arriving at the vet. We will miss him dearly.

  9. Alicia Choromokos says:

    My best friends long haired german shephard just passed. He was staying in a kennel and has separation anxiety from his family because they had another dog that was taken away. My friends dad went and got him from the kennel and relized that he was not himself. He had many of the symptons above and they took him to the vet to find out that it was too late. They watched him pass and my friend told me about it. He was like my own dog and to find out that he could have had a chance to live if he wasn’t in the kennel just makes me sick. Titan will be loved always because he was the best dog anyone could have asked for. We all love you Titan, you will never be forgotten.

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  11. Mike says:

    I enjoyed reading this post about The Number Two Killer of Dogs – Bloat. Really interesting. I will come back to visit this blog again.

  12. Brett says:

    Dog bloat is a real and present threat to dogs its only in certain breeds the breed in Marley and Me was a labrador. By using a special feeding bowl dog bloat and stomach twisting can be avoided theres a video here with shows one

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