Skip to content
free shipping on every order
10% off any subscription order

Common FAQs about Stomach Bloat in Dogs (a.k.a. Gastric Dilation-Volvulus)

Learn about stomach bloat in dogs - a.k.a. Gastric Dilation-Volvulus - including causes, treatment, and if you should try home remedies for your pup's tummy troubles.

A woman lies on a sofa and comforts her dog by rubbing its stomach.

Learn about stomach bloat in dogs - a.k.a. Gastric Dilation-Volvulus - including causes, treatment, and if you should try home remedies for your pup's tummy troubles.

By: Dr. Juli G., DVM

Belly rubs and slobbery kisses are among the many joys of sharing life with a dog. Our pets are family, and part of responsible pet ownership is understanding your dog's needs and being prepared for illnesses or accidents. It can be terrifying when your pup suddenly becomes sick. Preparation and understanding of what to do during an unexpected illness are a pet owner's best defense for keeping their dog healthy.

Bloat is one of the most severe and common dog emergencies that dog owners must understand, as it is fatal without emergency veterinary treatment. Dog owners often have many questions about their pet's health, so read on for answers to common FAQs about canine bloat

A woman lies on a sofa and comforts her dog by rubbing its stomach.

Q: What is Canine Bloat?

A: Canine bloat, sometimes called gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), describes some of the most severe and life-threatening medical conditions that can affect a dog’s digestive system. The terms are frequently used interchangeably, but GDV or gastric torsion often occurs once the initial bloat has progressed.

A healthy dog's stomach contains a small amount of gas, mucus, and food. Bloat occurs when excess air, food, or fluid in the stomach causes excessive distention of the stomach wall. Stomach distension is often referred to as a "simple bloat." However, there is nothing simple about this condition.

Dogs with stomach distension have an increased risk of GDV, in which the stomach twists on itself, blocking both the entrance and exit to the stomach. GDV also cuts off the blood supply to the stomach and surrounding organs. This limited blood flow puts the affected dog at risk for shock and tissue death. When this occurs, affected dogs require immediate emergency veterinary treatment.

Q: What are the Risk Factors for Canine Bloat?

A: A GDV can occur without warning, and the cause is often unknown. However, there are a variety of risk factors that increase the chances of a dog suffering from bloat or GDV. According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS), nearly every dog breed has been reported to suffer bloat or GDV; however, deep-chested, large-breed dogs have the highest risk. A Purdue University study reported that Great Danes are the number one at-risk breed, followed by Saint Bernards and Weimaraners. Other breeds with a higher risk of bloating include German shepherds, greyhounds, and Irish setters. Any aged dog can be affected, but it is more common for middle-aged dogs.

In addition to genetics, other factors affecting a dog’s risk for bloating include:

  • Dogs who exercise immediately before or after a large meal or ingestion of a large amount of water
  • Dogs who suffer underlying illnesses that decrease the gastrointestinal (GI) peristalsis or motion
  • Dogs who suffer from anxiety, stress, fear, or hyperactivity 
  • Dogs who eat only one meal daily
  • Voracious/fast eaters 
  • Dogs who have a history of bloat or a genetic line with a history of bloat

Q: What Are Signs of Bloating in Dogs?

A: Bloat can occur quickly and without warning, and signs may mimic other severe medical conditions, including metabolic disease, liver disease, kidney failure, bleeding disorders or trauma, and cancer. The distended stomach will push on the rib cage, giving an affected dog's abdomen a swollen, bloated appearance that is usually more evident on the left side of the body near the last rib.

Other signs may include:

  • Retching or attempting to vomit without any vomitus
  • Excessive drooling 
  • Restlessness and pacing
  • Excessive panting
  • Lethargy
  • Pale gums
  • Rapid heart rate or irregular heartbeat
  • Whining or biting when touched
  • A hard/taut abdomen 

Q: How Is Canine Bloat Diagnosed and Treated?

A: GDV is one of the most severe emergencies that can affect a dog’s digestive tract. It requires immediate veterinary care for the best chance of survival. While the stomach may not twist in every bloat case, there is no way to determine the severity of a dog's bloat while observing your pup at home.

Bring your dog for immediate veterinary care at the first sign of bloat. Your veterinarian will confirm bloat by observing your dog's clinical signs and taking a stomach X-ray. Dogs with bloat are often in shock and may suffer from dangerous cardiac arrhythmias.

Upon admittance to a veterinary hospital, affected dogs must first be stabilized and treated for shock, which includes:

  • Decreasing the stomach pressure by sticking a needle into the abdomen or using an oral stomach tube to release excess air
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids to treat shock and correct any electrolyte imbalances
  • Pain medication
  • Monitoring and treating heart arrhythmias   

Once stabilized, most dogs will require surgery to untwist the stomach and remove any dead tissues or organs, which may include the spleen, which is located next to the stomach. A gastropexy (suturing of the stomach wall to the abdominal) will also be performed to prevent future torsion events. However, this does not prevent future bloating episodes. Dogs who suffer bloat have a guarded prognosis in the days following surgery. Still, one UK study estimated that up to 80% of dogs who receive prompt care and who do not suffer surgical complications will survive. 

Q: Are There Home Remedies for Dog Bloat?

A: There are no home remedies for dog bloat other than following general best practices with your dog’s diet. Time is of the essence when it comes to bloat, so never attempt to monitor at home or use home remedies if you suspect your dog is suffering from bloat. In rare cases, a mildly bloated stomach may resolve on its own. However, dogs with any degree of stomach distention are at risk for volvulus, and there is no way to determine the severity of a dog's bloat at home or if torsion is present. Without treatment, a GDV is fatal to all dogs. 

A light-colored dog has its stomach examined at the vet.

Q: Can You Prevent Bloating in Dogs?

A: Because the underlying cause is not always known, bloat is not 100% preventable in dogs. However, dog parents can implement various tools and actions to decrease the chances of their dog suffering from this potentially fatal illness. For some high-risk breeds, veterinarians may advise a prophylactic gastropexy to prevent a stomach volvulus. This procedure is often done during a dog's spay or neuter procedure.

Other ways to decrease bloat risk include:

  • Using a slow feeder food bowl or puzzle dish to prevent excess food and air ingestion.
  • Ensuring your dog eats meals at least twice daily
  • Consulting your veterinarian to ensure you are feeding the right amount and type of dog food for your dog's age, breed, and activity level
  • Waiting to feed your dog following exercise. A good rule of thumb is to wait until an exercised dog has stopped panting and is relaxed for an extended period post-exercise.
  • Proving a calm and low-stress environment and consider giving a calming supplement like Native Pet Calm Chews before a known stressful event
  • Consulting a Board Certified Veterinary Behaviorist for dogs who are chronically anxious or stressed
  • Keeping the contact for the closest veterinary emergency hospital readily available in case of bloat or other unexpected illness

Canine bloat is one of the most severe dog emergencies and is fatal without treatment. Ensure to bring your dog for immediate veterinary care if they show bloat signs because this will give them the best chance of recovery.

For more information and tips on your dog's health, check out the Native Pet blog.

need our help choosing the right supplement for your fur-baby?

Your cart

your cart is empty

Check out our most popular products:

    The Daily
    Help your dog carpe that diem with this everyday, snout-to-tail super supplement powder.
    Give your dog a glow up (and more) with this targeted oil.
Free shipping always included!