Bloat in Dogs: Spotting the Signs and What to Do

You’re sitting at home chilling with your dog when you notice she’s acting a bit strange. She seems uncomfortable and keeps stretching out on the floor while making odd noises. Uh oh. This could be a sign of that dreaded canine condition: bloat. If you’re a dog owner, it’s so important to know the symptoms of bloat so you can get your pup the urgent care she needs. This potentially fatal condition can escalate quickly, so being informed and vigilant is key. In this article, we’ll go over the telltale signs of bloat in dogs and exactly what to do if you suspect your furry friend is suffering from it. You’ll learn how to spot the early symptoms, when to call the vet, and steps you can take at home to help relieve your dog’s discomfort until you can get her to the animal hospital. Let’s dig in and equip you with the knowledge you need to catch bloat early and take action to save your dog!

What Is Bloat in Dogs?

Bloat, or gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), is a life-threatening condition where a dog’s stomach fills with gas, food, or fluid and then twists. This traps the contents in the stomach, blocking blood flow. It’s most common in large, deep-chested breeds and can happen to any dog, usually those over 4 years of age.

The Stomach Expands

When a dog’s stomach expands due to excess gas, food, or fluid, it puts pressure on the diaphragm and surrounding organs. This makes it difficult for the dog to breathe properly or vomit to relieve the pressure.

The Stomach Twists

As the stomach expands, it can twist on itself, cutting off blood flow to the stomach and spleen. This is a medical emergency and without treatment, the dog will go into shock and die.

Signs of bloat include restlessness, drooling, unproductive retching, a swollen abdomen, and pale gums. If your dog shows these symptoms, get them to a vet immediately for diagnosis and treatment like gastric decompression, IV fluids, and in severe cases, stomach tacking surgery to prevent recurrence.

Early diagnosis and treatment of bloat is critical. By knowing the signs to watch for, you can help ensure your dog gets the care they need right away. While bloat can still be life-threatening even with treatment, fast action gives your dog the best chance of surviving this emergency condition.

Common Signs Of Bloat In Dogs

If your dog is suffering from bloat, you’ll notice some telltale signs. Pay attention if your dog seems uncomfortable or is acting strangely after eating or drinking.

  • Distended Abdomen: The most obvious sign is a swollen belly, often described as a “pot belly” appearance. Press gently on your dog’s abdomen—if it’s rock hard and distended, that’s a red flag.
  • Dry Heaving or Vomiting: Your dog may retch, gag, or try to vomit with little actually coming up. This is due to the stomach being unable to empty properly.
  • Restlessness or Anxiety: Bloat causes pain and discomfort, so your dog may seem restless, pacing, or unable to get comfortable. They may whine or cry due to anxiety from the pain.
  • Rapid Heart Rate: Bloat can cause a drop in blood pressure, so check your dog’s pulse. If their heart rate seems very rapid or weak, it’s an emergency.
  • Pale Gums: The gums may appear pale or bluish in colour due to poor blood circulation. Press on their gums—they should return to pink right away. If not, it’s a sign of shock and an emergency.

Bloat is life-threatening, so if your dog shows any of these symptoms, don’t hesitate to rush them to the vet immediately. Early treatment is critical, as bloat can quickly become fatal without prompt medical attention. It’s always better to be safe than sorry in this case, so call your vet right away if you suspect your dog may have bloat.

What Causes Bloat in Dogs?

Bloat in dogs, known as gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), occurs when the stomach fills with gas, food, or fluid and then twists. There are a few potential causes for bloat to develop in dogs:

Swallowing air

Dogs that eat or drink too quickly can swallow a lot of air, which then gets trapped in the stomach. This is more likely in large breed dogs with deep chests. To help prevent this, you can use special dog bowls designed for fast eaters or spread their food over a larger area.

Exercise after eating

Exercise increases the dog’s breathing rate, which means they swallow more air. Walking or exercising your dog right after they eat can lead to bloat, as the stomach is still expanding to accommodate the meal. It’s best to avoid strenuous activity for 1-2 hours after eating to give the stomach time to empty.

Eating from elevated bowls

Raised food bowls, especially for large breeds, may encourage dogs to swallow excess air when eating and increase the risk of bloat. It is best to feed large breed dogs from bowls placed on the floor.


Some breeds of dogs, especially large breeds with deep chests like German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Standard Poodles, are genetically more prone to developing bloat. While you can’t change your dog’s genetics, you can take extra precautions with at-risk breeds like feeding multiple small meals, avoiding elevated bowls, and restricting activity after eating.

By understanding the potential causes of bloat in dogs and making a few lifestyle changes, you may be able to reduce the risk of this life-threatening condition in your dog. Be vigilant for any symptoms of bloat like restlessness, retching, drooling or a distended abdomen and contact your vet immediately in case of an emergency.

How to Prevent Bloat in Dogs

The good news is there are several steps you can take to help reduce the risk of bloat in your dog. Prevention is always better than treatment, so make these part of your dog’s daily routine.

Feed multiple small meals

Instead of one big meal, feed your dog 2-3 smaller meals throughout the day. Large amounts of food and water in the stomach at one time can increase the risk of bloat. If your dog normally eats dry kibble, you may want to consider switching to canned wet food, as it contains less air. You can also try puzzle feeders or treat dispensing toys to make mealtime last longer.

Slow down fast eaters

If your dog eats at lightning speed, you’ll need to find ways to get them to slow down. Place a heavy object in their bowl that they have to eat around, such as a large rock or toy. You can also get special bowls designed for fast eaters that have ridges or mazes built in. Eating too quickly can lead to excess air intake, increasing bloat risk.

Avoid exercise before and after eating

Don’t give your dog intense exercise for at least an hour before and after they eat. High activity levels can stimulate their digestive system and lead to bloat. A casual walk on a leash is fine, but avoid activities that excite your dog like fetch, tug-of-war or rough play with other dogs.

Position food and water bowl

Place your dog’s food and water bowls on the floor, not elevated. Elevated bowls can allow more air to enter the stomach while eating and drinking. Non-slip bowls are also a good idea to prevent sliding and spilled contents.

By following these tips, you can help make mealtimes safer for your dog and lower their chances of suffering from bloat. Be vigilant and get your dog medical attention immediately if you notice any symptoms of bloat. Early treatment is critical in this emergency condition.

What to Do if Your Dog Has Bloat – First Aid and Treatment

If you notice signs of bloat in your dog, immediate action is required. You need to get your dog to the vet straight away for emergency treatment. Bloat can quickly become a life-threatening condition if left untreated.

Seek Emergency Veterinary Care

The only way to properly treat bloat is through medical intervention. Call your vet to alert them you’re on your way in with a suspected case of bloat. They will need to thoroughly examine your dog to determine if it’s truly bloat and the severity. If confirmed, they will need to stabilise your dog and release the gas buildup. In severe cases, emergency surgery may be required.

Offer Small Sips of Water

While rushing to the vet, you can offer your dog small sips of water to keep them hydrated. Do not allow them to gulp large amounts, as this can worsen the gas buildup. Only allow a few laps of water at a time until you arrive at the vet’s office.

Keep Your Dog Calm

Try to keep your dog as calm and still as possible. Excess movement can cause the stomach to twist, cutting off blood flow. Gently comfort and soothe your dog to alleviate stress and anxiety. Limit physical activity and do not allow jumping, running or rough play.

Follow Post-Care Instructions Carefully

After treatment, carefully follow all post-care instructions from your vet. This typically includes restricting activity, limiting food and water intake for a period of time, and administering any prescribed medications as directed. Your vet will schedule follow-up appointments to monitor your dog’s recovery and condition. In severe cases of bloat, additional treatment or surgery may be required to prevent recurrence.

With prompt diagnosis and treatment, dogs can recover well from bloat. However, in some cases there can be lasting damage, so careful management and monitoring is always needed for dogs that have experienced this condition. The key is knowing how to spot the signs early and get your dog medical attention immediately.


And there you have it, folks. Bloat in dogs is scary but treatable if caught early. Keep an eye on your pooch after big meals or lots of exercise. Watch for those key signs like restlessness and a swollen stomach. Don’t hesitate to call your vet if concerned – better safe than sorry. Act fast if bloat is suspected and get your dog to the vet pronto. Surgery can save your best friend’s life. While prevention is ideal, knowing what to look for and acting quickly are your dog’s best shot. Stay vigilant and trust your instincts. You know your pup better than anyone. With your help, hopefully bloat will never be a life-threatening issue. Keep your dog happy, healthy and bloated only with belly rubs!