Know the Signs of Bloat

The years I’ve had the privilege of taking care of this community’s dogs have given me quite an education about what might be wrong with a dog when he or she is acting a little off. This knowledge helped save the life of one of my own dogs recently, and I want to make sure you’re equipped with the same information in case you find yourself in a similar situation someday.

Bloat, or gastric dilatation-volvulus complex, is a serious and painful medical condition that kills nearly one-third of the dogs it affects, according to the American Kennel Club. It happens when a dog’s stomach fills with air and ultimately blocks blood from reaching the heart.

When Oscar, my eight-month-old Bernese/Poodle mix, began showing symptoms of bloat, I immediately took him to the vet and was able to get him emergency treatment. He has since recovered and is doing well. Early detection and quick action are key.


  • Swollen stomach
  • Drooling
  • Panting
  • Restlessness
  • Retching (trying to vomit, but not vomiting)
  • Pain if you press on the dog’s belly


If you believe your dog is experiencing bloat, take him or her to the vet as soon as possible. The only treatment is a surgery to untwist the stomach and surgically attach it to the body wall so it won’t twist again.


While there is no certain way to prevent bloat, you can avoid some practices that increase the risk.

How fast dogs eat can be a contributor to bloat. According to the American Kennel Club, feeding dogs multiple small meals each day, rather than feeding once per day, can decrease the risk. Anxious dogs tend to eat faster, so using slow feeder bowls and separating dogs at feeding time can also help.

In some cases, veterinarians will perform preventative surgery on a dog who is high risk, like Great Danes or other breeds with tall, narrow chests – called a (preventative Gastropexy). Consult your vet to see if this is a safe and cost-effective option!

Trust your instincts – if something appears wrong, get it checked out immediately! As is so often the case when taking care of anyone, information is key. Knowing and keeping an eye out for the symptoms means you can spot potential bloat earlier and increase your dog’s chance for survival. It saved Oscar, and may save your dog next!

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