In most cases, a dog with bloat will not be able to poop. The twisting of the stomach will prevent anything from emptying. Depending on where the twist occurred, dogs suffering from bloat may have diarrhea, but there will be no hard stool.
You know the feeling–you have eaten way too much delicious food for dinner. Your stomach feels heavy and protrudes out further than it usually does. People get bloated all the time, often because of what they eat or drink. This condition quickly goes away within a few hours.
But does the same thing happen for dogs? Dog bloat is nothing like human bloat. It’s a serious, even deadly condition.
For humans, bloating goes away quickly. For dogs, bloating causes intense pain and harmful side effects. Without proper treatment, bloat is deadly for dogs in a short amount of time.
To understand what your dog will do when they have bloat, it is important to understand what the condition is and how it affects their body.
What is Dog Bloat?
Dog bloat, otherwise known as gastric dilatation and volvulus, means that your dog’s stomach is filled with gas.
The stomach initially fills with gas, which is also known as gastric dilatation. The stomach ultimately twists on itself at either end, which is called gastric volvulus. Nothing can get in or out of your dog’s stomach after it has twisted shut on either end.
Gastric dilatation is harmful in itself, but gastric volvulus is especially dangerous to your dog. This torsion is especially dangerous because it restricts blood flow to the rest of the dog’s body.
Dogs will quickly go into shock, as none of their internal organs or extremities are getting the blood supply they need. This condition is much more severe when the stomach has twisted on itself.
The stomach twisting also affects the other internal organs, like the pancreas and spleen, causing them to function improperly.
When the pancreas does not get the blood or oxygen it needs, it produces hormones that are toxic to your dog. One of these hormones may cause your dog to go into cardiac arrest.
Why Do Dogs Get Bloat?
Veterinarians are unsure of the direct cause of dog bloat. There is no conclusive evidence about what causes it to happen.
Veterinarians know which dogs are more likely to get bloat and some behaviors that contribute to a dog’s likelihood of getting bloat, but it is hard to say exactly why it happens.
Here are a few things that could lead to bloat.
Breed is one of the biggest risk factors. Large or giant breed dogs with deeper chests like a Weimaraner, Saint Bernard, Gordon Setter, Irish Setter, Rottweiler, Standard Poodle, Doberman, and Great Dane are more likely to experience bloat.
The risk of bloat is much greater in these breeds, especially as they get older, but bloat can happen to any dog of any age.
Dogs who often gulp down air as they are eating, because they are eating too quickly, are at a higher risk for bloat.
If you have more than one dog, or your dog is usually eating in the presence of other animals or people, they may eat quickly because they feel overwhelmed and anxious.
Your dog may try to finish their food as quickly as possible so nobody else can take it, leading to them ingesting too much air as they eat.
Of course, some dogs just love their food and want to gulp it down as quickly as possible–after all, you like to eat delicious things, too! Using a puzzle feeder or other tool to slow down your dog’s eating may help.
No matter what your dog eats, you can break their meal into smaller portions to force them to take their time while eating it.
You may also slow your dog down by feeding your dog several smaller meals throughout the day. This will help prevent them from becoming overly hungry from a large gap between meals and may slow down the rate at which they eat.
How Will I Know if My Dog Has Bloat?
There are several signs and symptoms that indicate that your dog is suffering from bloat. You’ll notice that your dog is heaving as if they are attempting to vomit, but nothing is coming out. Your dog will not be able to have a bowel movement either, as the twisting of the stomach prevents its contents from emptying.
Besides attempted vomiting, you’ll see your dog has an excess of saliva forming, a common symptom associated with nausea.
If your dog has bloat, they will be visibly uncomfortable. They will pace around, attempting to make themselves feel better. They will be restless and won’t stay in one place for too long.
Their body is in severe distress, and it is painful for them to lie down or be still. Your dog will not be able to settle down, even when presented with their favorite bed, couch, or opportunity to snuggle with their human.
There is a particular stance dogs take on if they are suffering from bloat. They will stand with their elbows pointed outward, away from their body, with their neck extended out as far as possible.
As their stomach becomes more bloated and filled with air, it puts pressure on their other internal organs, including the lungs, making it difficult for them to breathe.
This stance is their attempt to relieve some of this pressure and breathe normally. Of course, this position is not effective in getting more air into the lungs or feeling more comfortable.
Because of the pressure on their lungs, your dog will have a difficult time breathing. They are also in a considerable amount of pain, which will increase the rate of their breathing.
Bloat causes metabolic abnormalities, which will cause them to breathe much faster than usual.
You’ll notice the above signs and symptoms, as well as excessive panting from your dog as their body shuts down on them.
You may not notice if your dog’s abdomen is visibly bloated or distended, especially if they have a deeper chest.
However, when you tap on their stomach, you will hear and feel that it is bloated. It will sound like you are tapping on a steel drum.
When you lay your hand on their stomach, it will feel hard, tight, and distended. If you notice that your dog’s abdomen feels like this, do not wait to call the veterinarian.
It may be difficult to notice this symptom if your dog has a lot of hair or is significantly overweight.
How Do I Treat Bloat?
There is no possible way to treat dog bloat at home. Medicine or other over-the-counter treatments are completely ineffective for this condition.
If your dog is experiencing bloat outside of your vet’s regular hours, you need to take them to an emergency veterinarian right away. This condition cannot wait until the next day to be resolved.
If possible, call the emergency veterinarian on your way in so they know to expect you. Bloat always requires surgery, so you want to be sure the hospital is equipped to handle your dog when you arrive.
The team will get to work right away to stabilize your dog, especially if they are already in shock. They will run diagnostic tests like an EKG, blood pressure measurement, and take a blood sample.
An X-Ray will be performed to confirm that your dog has bloat and to make sure they have no other conditions that would prevent surgery from being successful.
Your dog will then need surgery to repair their stomach. The built-up air will be released from their stomach, and any existing damage will be repaired.
The dog will also have a gastropexy procedure, which means that the stomach is tacked to the abdominal wall to prevent it from twisting again.
This does not mean your dog will not bloat again, but it does mean their stomach will not twist if it happens.
After the surgery, the dog will need continuous monitoring overnight at the veterinarian to ensure no complications from the surgery.
While dog bloat is a severe and scary condition, your dog is likely to survive if you notice the condition early and bring them into the veterinarian right away. The condition will not resolve on its own, so it is critical to get your dog to the vet as soon as you notice signs and symptoms. Being aware of what bloat is and the common symptoms is the best step to preventing an unexpected tragedy.
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Bryan Harkins is an avid dog lover and the proud owner of dogdorable.com, a website dedicated to all things canine. With years of experience working with dogs, Bryan is passionate about providing valuable information, tips, and resources to help pet owners provide the best possible care for their furry companions.