Last Modified on May 22, 2014
Bloat is a medical condition in which the stomach becomes overstretched by excessive gas content. It is also commonly referred to as torsion, gastric torsion, and gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) when the stomach is also twisted.... The condition occurs most commonly in domesticated animals, especially ruminants and certain dog breeds.
In dogs, gas accumulation in the stomach is usually associated with volvulus of the stomach, which prevents gas from escaping. Deep-chested breeds are especially at risk. Mortality rates in dogs range from 10 to 60 percent, even with treatment. With surgery, the mortality rate is 15 to 33 percent....
Symptoms are not necessarily distinguishable from other kinds of distress. A dog might stand uncomfortably and seem to be in extreme discomfort for no apparent reason. Other possible symptoms include firm distension of the abdomen, weakness, depression, difficulty breathing, hypersalivation, and retching without vomiting. A high rate of dogs with bloat have cardiac arrhythmias (40 percent in one study). Chronic bloat may occur in dogs, symptoms of which include loss of appetite, vomiting and weight loss.
Bloat is an emergency medical condition: having the animal examined by a veterinarian is imperative. Bloat can become fatal within a matter of minutes.
03/29/2014: Stephanie from Minneapolis, MN: "For many years of having dogs, I have encountered, from time to time, the symptoms of bloating and discomfort in my dogs after they have been eating other animals' feces (I presume) or some other un-nameables. When I notice this discomfort, I immediately give two or more capsules of activated charcoal to my dog. This works very well. Sometimes I may give 3 capsules now and another dose later. Then, the only thing to be concerned about is if they would get constipation from too much charcoal. That has never happened that I know of but I know that is something to be aware of.
i wonder if anyone has tried this with cattle. I once treated a calf with bloat. There was no charcoal so we just burned toast and scraped it to crumbs and gave it to the calf. However, I also applied some Jin Shin Jyutsu for indigestion, so, when the calf recovered, we did not know if it was one or the other treatment, or both, that had helped the calf, or if the calf just recovered on its own. If anyone has input about bloat in calves, and treatment with charcoal, I would be very grateful to hear it. (A family member owns cattle). Thank you."Replies
03/31/2014: Theresa from Mpls., Mn replies: "Hey Stephanie!
I suspect that the bloat symptoms you saw in your dog was not bloat but rather a sour stomach from too many cow pies. The use of AC is spot on.
Bloat involves the dog's stomach twisting and cutting off the blood supply to the stomach tissue. Symtoms are unproductive retching - trying to vomit but bringing nothing up, along with excessive drooling, restlessness, and a large, bloated painful stomach.
Interestingly enough, in ruminants the twisted stomach condition is a secondary form of bloat, the primary type of bloat being "an overdistention of the rumenoreticulum with the gases of fermentation, either in the form of a persistent foam mixed with the ruminal contents, called primary or frothy bloat, or in the form of free gas separated from the ingesta, called secondary or free-gas bloat. It is predominantly a disorder of cattle but may also be seen in sheep. The susceptibility of individual cattle to bloat varies and is genetically determined."
So for this form of bloat I see the AC being a remedy for this too."
[YEA] Marguerite from Wrightwood, Ca: "My dog started to come down with the bloat. Her stomach was distended but she would not eat and she was throwing up white foamy bile. I stopped all food and massaged her tummy for a day, ready to take her to the vet if things didn't improve. I read that kibble can exaserbate the problem, so the next day I made a big pot of lentils, split peas, vegetables and ground turkey. She made a complete recovery and all my dogs love this homemade dog food now."
[WARNING!] 03/08/2010: Aysha from Oakland, California, Usa: "I'm not seeing anything on Bloat (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus) in Dogs. Sadly, in my case, it's too late, but if it could help someone else, it should definitely be on here. I fed my 12 yr. old dog a very expensive and well-known all natural dog food and within 3 hours I had to put her down. She got bloat so bad that she could barely move. The vet was not helpful in the least and within 15 minutes of arriving, told us that it would be best to put her down. It was a complete shock to us as she was the healthiest 12 yr. old dog I've ever known. She had been on a raw diet for about a year and it was working wonders. We heard that this natural kibble was excellent food, so thought we'd try to start incorporating it into her diet slowly, thinking it might be a less expensive way to go since we had two 60 lb. dogs. We got the food from my brother, whose dog had died about a week or two before. We never thought it could have been the food that caused his death, but it must have been because his dog had similar symptoms, but lasted a little longer than my dog. He was 7 yrs. old. The same vet that put him down (and my girl) said that he might have had cancer, but it was never confirmed. We will never go back to kibble EVER again. I stick by the raw diet 100%. I think that, had I never tried that food, my dog would still be alive."
We are so sorry for your loss. Thank you so much for writing in with your feedback. We have just created a new page for this condition.
02/12/2011: Karylls from Sanford, Maine, United States replies: "Regarding bloat: I never heard before that there was any connection with kibble. The only thing I heard was that my dog probably did too much jumping around or activity after a meal. I had a large Doberman (very deep chested) who was well on her way of dying a painful death before I could get her to the emergency vet in time. All the times I had been to any vet, no mention was ever made to be cautious for bloat because of her deep chest. If only I had known what it was or any of its symtoms. If large deep chested animals are prone to this, you would think it would be something that a vet would mention. Thank you for the information regarding kibble."
[YEA] 03/11/2011: Great Dane Mom from Conneautville, Pa replies: "Raise your dog's food and water dishes! Owners of deep chested dogs should elevate their food and water dishes to help avoid gulping, which can result in bloat."
09/09/2011: Bilzhorse from Stafford, Va, Usa replies: "Dry kibble should be soaked in water until it completely expands(about 30 mins. ). This is what our vet told us years ago. You would be shocked if you saw how much expansion there is in dry dog food."
01/04/2012: Barbara from Omaha, Ne replies: "Just a warning. There is new evidence that raising your dogs food/water bowls can actually exacerbate the problem with bloat."
01/02/2013: Juan from San Diego, California replies: "Well the dog bloating we have going in right now, may have been some dog food, but mainly its the owners fault. My mother takes care of two dogs whos owners are now currently living with her, one of the owners is uneducated and is the male hes like 45, so he feeds the two dogs, the fat dog which is extremely overweight constantly steals the food from the small dog and and no one takes them for a walk, the fat dog is now finally bloated after 5 years of not been taken care of correctly. So now its bloated and slowly dying, I keep telling them go walk the dog, but seem to care less about it- very sad. I stay out of it."
02/09/2013: Leslie from Winnipeg, Manitoba,canada replies: "Regarding Bloat or gassy dogs - I was told to give my Chihuahua Ovol. This is medication for human babies with gripe problems that you purchase over the counter. It comes in a small bottle and must be well shaken then attach the dropper and give 0.25 mls for a 3- 10 lb. Dog. Do not give more without checking with your vet. Usually this amount will settle my dog down and bring him relief swiftly that lasts at least 8 hours or usually until the next day. If bloat or gassy tummy is extreme you must give this Ovol dosage 2 x daily. I realize that we are looking for alternative meds but whatever works for this ailment is probably welcome and certainly worth a try if your dog is suffering from gas that just won't come out. I also pat my dog on his upper back the way I would a baby after feeding to burp him."
04/20/2013: Mindy from Nashville, Tn replies: "NOOOOOO to elevated food bowls! It is a CAUSE of GDV!
Cumulative incidence of GDV during the study was 6% for large breed and giant breed dogs. Factors significantly associated with an increased risk of GDV were increasing age, having a first-degree relative with a history of GDV, having a faster speed of eating, and having a raised feeding bowl. Approximately 20 and 52% of cases of GDV among the large breed and giant breed dogs, respectively, were attributed to having a raised feed bowl. " (J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;217:14921499)
My dog (english mastiff) had bloat two years ago. Luckily we were able to get him to the vet in time even though he showed no visible signs of bloat other than distress and listlessness. It was terrifying and caused me to go into a research frenzy over what causes bloat and how I can prevent it.
Changes we made after our dog had bloat was the following:
1. No longer elevated his bowls!!!! This is big, because companies market their elevated bowls as keeping bloat at bay. Incorrect, it makes it worse because the dog can eat quicker and swallow more air because its easy to snatch at and gulp down.
2. Changed our food to a better organic brand that does not swell when it is in the stomach or water is added to it. You can test your own food by adding water to the kibble and seeing how much it expands. If it expands more than a little. GET A NEW BRAND.
3. Spaced out feedings to 3 times a day. Once in the morning and twice at night (waiting 30 minutes in between). Knowing our mastiff and how much he swallows air when he eats we generally wait for him to burp. No playing, just resting 30 minutes before or 30 minutes after eating. Which is easy once we got him into the routine."
[YEA] 12/12/2013: Theprincessmommy from Sacramento, Ca: "IN A NUTSHELL:
- 3 drops peppermint essential oil
- 1 tsp. carrier oil (like almond oil or even baby oil)
- Rub it onto the belly, gently, in downward strokes.
- Apply lightly to bottoms of paws.
My 7-year-old, <5 lb. Yorkshire Terrier was suffering from some very severe symptoms that looked an awful lot like Bloat. His mid-section was large and very hard, stomach was rock hard, listless, laying "funny", drooling excessively, wouldn't eat or drink, wasn't going outside, acting like he'd vomit but didn't, wasn't barking at anyone out the window like he normally does. At one point he suddenly became very restless, and although I was happy that he was moving at all, he was acting very frantic or restless as he ran through the house. He had just eaten a lot more kibble than usual the previous day - gorging himself after we changed his eating situation so he didn't share the same space with the bigger dog. (We hadn't been aware of Bloat at the time so didn't think to control his portions. He'd never gorged himself before.) We did not have the money to take him to the vet, so he was not diagnosed or given veterinary care. We knew it meant he could die and we warned our older children of the possible outcome so they could pray for him.
Peppermint essential oil is safe for dogs is used for digestive problems and bloating (among other things.) I applied peppermint essential oil to his stomach. I did this by putting about a teaspoon of natural, organic baby oil in my cupped hand to use as the carrier oil and adding about 3 drops of peppermint essential oil to that. I laid my dog down on his back and gently rubbed the oil on his belly. I gently massaged it in, repeating downward strokes with my hand.
With what was left on my hands I rubbed some onto the bottoms of his paws. I rubbed his back a little in downward strokes toward his tail, kind of grasping his sides as I stroked downward, hoping it would help in some way. Then I let him rest.
The next morning he was doing very well. Running around like normal, his ears up, the hard bulge in his middle was much smaller and the hardness was almost gone from there as well as from his stomach. He went outside again. Later he started eating. By that evening I was sure he was completely fine again. The next day is today and he is back to completely normal."Replies
12/13/2013: Theresa from Mpls., Mn replies: "Hey TPM!
Thank you for sharing this remedy!"
05/01/2014: Leann from Nashville, Tn: "BLOAT - Bloat is a very dangerous, usually fatal incident. It is NOT indigestion, a sour stomach, being overweight, or expelling gas, etc. Once your dog begins to show signs of bloat it will require quick emergency surgery. If the bloat is caught in the beginning and surgery is not required then your dog will most likely have another episode. Most surgeries are in the thousands of dollars and vets will inform you that a favorable outcome is not guaranteed. During the surgery the vet will clear the stomach, if there is any damaged tissue it will be removed, and the stomach will be anchored inside the body so that it can not twist in a future bloating episode.
Please note that this is not something that massaging, giving an herb, etc. can cure when the event occurs. Only a vet can save the dog. Since bloating has such a dire outcome in most instances the best thing to do is to prevent it. Practice preventive pet parenting to decrease the odds your dog will bloat.
Dogs with deep chests that arch up into a tight stomach area are most prone such as Dobermans, Greyhounds, Golden Retrievers, Flat-Coated Retrievers, Labrador Retrievers, etc. However, all dogs could bloat. Males are more prone than females.
Stress is considered an issue that can contribute to bloat so do not feed your dog prior to any stressful situation or afterward by at least one hour. Exercise before or after eating is also considered a factor as is feeding a dog in one meal a day.
Therefore, keep your dog as stress-free as possible. Visitors, holidays, traveling, boarding, fireworks, swimming, extreme heat and cold conditions, training, and other situations are all stressful. Overactive children, arguing, the neighbor mowing, and other human interactions can be stressful to a dog. During these situations prevent your dog from eating prior by at least one hour, during, or after by at least one hour.
Symptoms vary. Dogs may try to throw up without anything coming out. They may try to find comfort by lying down flat on their side, then up onto their stomachs, again to their side, and keep moving because they cannot get comfortable. They may pace around because they are uncomfortable. They may pant heavily before they begin pacing, trying to vomit, or trying to lie down. They may begin showing a bulging or descended stomach. They may cough trying to clear their airway and then gag in between coughs spaced out by minutes or seconds.
Years ago, dog owners were told to raise their feed and water dishes but this has proven to be bad advice. Feed your dog from bowls located on the floor.
Do not feed dry kibble. It should be watered down and allowed to rest for a few minutes before giving it to the dog.
Several meals spaced throughout a day are better than one heavy meal.
The only thing that can help when on your way to the vet is simethicone. Show dog handlers and event competitors (agility, tracking, etc.) are known to have it with them at all times. Compounding pharmacists will sell it. I have a small bottle of it on hand with me in my home and when I travel with my dogs. If you can't get 100% simethicone you can find it over the counter in a gas treatment. It is a key ingredient in Gas-X. If you use it you will need MANY pills to stabilize a bloating dog not just one pill. Open them up and give them directly.
As preventive, a Gas-X or generic brand with simethicone can be given in the dog's food with their meal. I use one pill per meal for a dog that I have that is a senior Doberman that bloated and had surgery 6 years ago.
Some vets will offer to anchor the dogs stomach as a preventive measure when a female is spayed. Bloating that occurs when full stomach torsion is almost always fatal. By anchoring the stomach the torsion cannot occur. The bloat will still require medical attention but the torsion is prevented which offers a better outcome.
I hope no one ever has to experience real gastric torsion or bloat with their dog. It is frightening, it is painful for the dog and it kills way too many of them. Prevention is the best course of action and in the event you think your dog may be bloating - don't wait, get to the vet ASAP. The sooner you do the more positive outcome you will face. It is better to be over-cautious than not when it comes to bloat."
03/30/2014: Deidre from Fairfield County, Ct: "I lost my first large breed dog to Bloat years back, it was such a tragedy - I then became obessed with preventing it. What I have learned is as follows:
- Elevated Food Bowls increase bloat risk
- Feed your dog a supplement with Ox Bile along with food
- Provide a mixture of wet and dry food versus wetting the kibble
- Give your dog a good probiotic supplement, as balancing intestinal flora is critical
- Bloat increases with age, so feed an older dog smaller amounts more frequently
- Do not exercise your dog within an hour before or after eating, especially older dogs
- If your dog is a fast eater, place a tennis ball in the middle of his food dish to eat around. This will slow eating down
- The first sign of bloat is usually restlessness with a very dry, unproductive cough. It can develop very quickly, so bring your dog to the vet immediately after seeing the first signs
- Have Maalox/Mylanta with Symethicone handy, as the vet may ask you to start treatment with it for the build up of gas
Remember to listen/watch your animals for a change in behavoir - it may save their life!"