My dog is bloated

If your dog is trying to vomit, but can't, appears hunched over and won't get up, or has a tight, hard abdomen when touched, you need to contact your veterinarian right away, as these are potential signs that your dog may have bloat.

Also known as gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV) or a twisted stomach, bloat is a serious medical condition and can be fatal if not addressed immediately.

With bloat, your dog's stomach becomes overstretched by excess gas and then twists on itself, cutting off the blood supply to the stomach and spleen. Bloat/GDV mainly occurs in large breed dogs with deep chests such as St. Bernards, German Shepherds and Great Danes.

I think my dog has bloat. How can I tell?

Bloat/GDV may occur more commonly after your dog eats a large meal followed by exercise. Here are some signs to look for:

  • Distended abdomen
  • Abdominal pain
  • Unproductive retching
  • Restlessness
  • Increased respiratory rate

Remember, if you notice any of the above, go to your veterinarian's office at once, as this can be a life-threatening emergency.

Bloat Treatment

Once you have arrived at your veterinarian's office or pet hospital, your pet's vital signs will be evaluated. If your pet is stable, your veterinarian may try to relieve the pressure in the stomach. If this is unsuccessful, your dog will need surgery to untwist the stomach.

Associated Risks and Causes for Bloat in Dogs

Even if your dog's stomach is successfully untwisted, there can be complications. Bloat/GDV can cause serious problems with blood circulation, fluid balance and electrolyte levels. Therefore, your dog may need to stay in the hospital for potentially a week or more.

Other diseases can make a dog seem bloated (or have an enlarged abdomen):

  • Simple bloat. When the stomach is swollen with gas, but not twisted. It has similar causes and clinical signs as bloat/GDV. Simple bloat, however, can progress to bloat/GDV so you should get to your veterinarian promptly.
  • Mass lesions. Enlarged organs, caused by cancer or other disease, e.g., enlarged liver in dogs with right-sided heart failure or Cushing's disease.
  • Loss of muscle tone. Cushing's disease can lead to a loss of muscle tone and a seemingly enlarged abdomen.
  • Abdominal fluid. Caused by right-sided heart failure, hypoproteinemia (abnormally low levels of protein in the blood) or peritonitis (inflammation of the tissue that lines the inner wall of the abdomen).
  • Pregnancy. If pet owners aren't expecting that their dog is pregnant, the enlarged abdomen can be mistaken for bloat.

Preventing Bloat in Dogs

Bloat can be prevented by keeping your pet's food in a secure location where your dog can't gorge on it; feeding two or three small meals a day, rather than one large meal; feeding meals over a longer period of time if your dog tends to eat food quickly; and avoiding exercising your dog immediately after being fed.

Learn More

Learn more about proper feeding guidelines for your pet or visit our nutrition section for more information on diet and exercise.