There are emergencies, and then there are pet emergencies. Bloat in dogs is one of those situations that take precedence to almost any other urgent situation in an animal emergency room. Untreated, it is deadly. Even with aggressive care, many dogs who suffer from this condition will not have a good outcome.
The key to beating bloat is recognizing and treating it quickly. So do you know what bloat in dogs looks like and what you should do if you thought your pet was in trouble?
Bloat happens when a dog’s stomach fills with gas, making it float in the abdomen like a balloon. This can be uncomfortable for the pet, but the true emergency happens when things progress to the next level.
The next progression of bloat in dogs is a gastric-dilatation-volvulus, or GDV. When an air-filled stomach begins to float, it can turn on itself. This causes the entrance and exit of the stomach to be twisted shut, trapping food and air inside. It also cuts off blood supply to the stomach, which can eventually lead to the death of those tissues. Many times the spleen also becomes entangled in the mess as well, adding to the seriousness of the situation.
Recognizing Bloat in Dogs
Dogs who are bloated or have a GDV often exhibit a few characteristic symptoms. Recognizing them and acting quickly can mean the difference between life and death. Seek immediate, emergency care if your dog:
- Appears to have an enlarged abdomen
- Acts as if he or she needs to vomit but does not bring up much/anything
- Is very restless
- Seems to be painful in the abdominal area
- Is breathing shallowly and quickly
- Is drooling excessively
Any dog can bloat, however owners of at-risk breeds should be at heightened attention. Dogs who have a deep, narrow chest are at greatest risk for developing a GDV. Such breeds include the Great Dane, German Shepherd Dog, Basset Hound, Weimaraner, Dachshund, and Setter breeds.
Beating bloat in dogs is no easy task; however, there are things you can do to decrease your pet’s risk. When possible, try to:
- Prevent your dog from eating very quickly
- Separate the daily food amount into at least two meals
- Feed your dog on the ground, instead of from a raised dish
- Do not allow your pet to overeat
- Discourage heavy exercise after eating
- Decrease stress in your pet’s environment
The real key to beating bloat, if it does occur, is to act quickly if you think that your pet is in trouble. The free VitusVet app features a “Find an ER” function so that you can locate the closest pet emergency hospital should you suspect that your pet is suffering from bloat. You’ll also be able to share your pet’s medical records with the emergency staff before you even arrive!
Some dog owners also choose to have a prophylactic gastropexy performed on their pet. This surgical procedure tacks the stomach to the inside of the body wall, making it impossible for it to twist. Breeds who are at high risk of GDV may benefit from this procedure.
Bloat in dogs is no joke, but by knowing how to prevent and recognize it quickly, you are doing everything you can to prevent ever encountering it. Never hesitate to seek medical attention if you think that your pet is in trouble. Doing so without hesitation can very well make a big difference in how things progress, and it is always better to be safe than sorry.