What To Do About Dog Bloat?

Aug 20, 2023

Every dog parent wants the absolute best for their best friend. Our pets rely on us for their health and happiness, so we worry when something goes wrong, like dog bloat or Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV)!

What is Dog Bloat or Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV)?

Bloat in dogs is just that–any situation or event where dogs bloat or a dog’s stomach fills with something that gives them a distended stomach. In worse cases, bloat in dogs evolves into Gastric Dilation Volvulus (or GDV). This occurs when the bloated stomach rotates, effectively trapping gas inside and blocking blood flow to the rest of the dog’s body. GDV can be fatal if not treated, so pet owners should understand dog bloat symptoms and know how to act immediately.

Bloat vs. Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV): Understanding the Distinction

Dog bloat and (GDV) are terms that are often used interchangeably, but they represent two stages of a potentially severe condition. Understanding the difference between the two is vital for every dog parent to ensure timely and appropriate care for their furry family members.

Dog Bloat: Bloat, in its most basic form, refers to the swelling of a dog’s stomach due to the accumulation of gas, fluid, or food. This can cause the stomach to stretch, leading to discomfort and pain for the dog. Factors like rapid eating, gulping down large amounts of water post-meals, or certain dog breeds being more susceptible, can lead to bloat. While bloat is indeed a cause for concern, it doesn’t always progress to the more severe form, which is GDV. However, untreated bloat can quickly escalate, making it essential for dog parents to recognize the symptoms early on.

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV): GDV is the advanced stage of bloat. At this phase, not only is the stomach swollen, but it has also rotated on itself, effectively twisting. This blocks both the entry and exit points of the twisted stomach. As a result, the trapped gas and contents cannot find an outlet, causing a rapid expansion of the stomach. This can lead to a slew of complications, such as reduced blood flow to the stomach’s wall, pressure on surrounding organs, and even blockage of blood flow to the heart. Due to the severity of GDV, it’s considered a life-threatening emergency and demands immediate medical attention.

GDV is an escalated form where the rotation of the stomach leads to severe complications. Both conditions warrant immediate concern, but GDV is especially critical due to its potentially life-threatening consequences. That’s why recognizing the early signs of bloat may be able to prevent its progression to GDV.

Symptoms: Recognizing the Tell-tale Signs

If your dog displays any of these symptoms, it’s essential to act quickly:

  • Distended or hard abdomen: This might be the most obvious sign. If your dog’s belly feels unusually hard or looks swollen, it’s a cause for concern. Behavioral signs: Restlessness, pacing, and unproductive retching can indicate discomfort or pain.
  • Breathing issues: Heavy, fast, or difficulty in breathing or panting may suggest your dog is struggling.
  • Other symptoms: Excessive salivation, a rapid heart rate, sudden collapse, or pale mucous membranes are also red flags that you may want to seek emergency vet care.

Causes: Why is Your Dog’s Stomach Bloated?

When it comes to the well-being of our furry friends, understanding the potential reasons behind conditions like dog bloat can be instrumental in preventive care. Two primary risk factors stand out when it comes to talking about dog bloat: the speed at which a dog eats and the overall health of a dog’s gut.

1. Rapid Eating: More Than Just a Bad Habit

For some dogs, mealtime can resemble a race, with them gobbling down food at an astonishing pace. But what makes eating too quickly an issue?

  • Air Intake: When dogs eat rapidly, they swallow a lot of air. This excess air can lead to an accumulation of gas in their stomach, potentially resulting in bloat.
  • Immediate Activity: Dogs that eat quickly often return to play or other vigorous activities shortly after eating, which can contribute to the chances of developing bloat.
  • Incomplete Digestion: Eating too fast means food isn’t adequately chewed. Larger chunks of food can lead to digestion issues, further exacerbating the risk of bloat.

To counteract this, dog parents can consider using puzzle feeders or slow-feeder bowls that make dogs work a bit more for their food, which will help slow down their eating pace.

The Heightened Risk in Giant Breed Dogs

Some giant breed dogs or deep chested dogs, such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, and Mastiffs, have a unique anatomy that predisposes them to certain health concerns, with dog bloat or GDV being the most worrisome.

Their large chest cavities can become a reservoir for a swollen stomach, especially if filled with gas or food. There has been an ongoing debate about the role of elevated food bowls in contributing to this problem. While a raised food bowl is often recommended for giant breeds to ease their eating posture, some studies suggest they might also increase the risk of bloat. The exact reason for this isn’t clear, but it could be related to the angle at which they swallow food and air.

The real danger escalates when your dog’s stomach twists, though. This rotation is the precursor to GDV, and traps gas inside the stomach, making it impossible for the dog to burp or vomit to relieve the pressure. With the abdominal wall distended and the stomach’s blood supply cut off, the situation can quickly become life-threatening. It’s always recommended that giant dog breed owners should talk to their vets about the signs of bloat and consult with them about the best preventive practices, including the pros and cons of using raised food bowls.

2. Dog Gut Health: The Digestive Balancing Act

A dog’s gut is a complex ecosystem, hosting billions of bacteria that play a pivotal role in digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall health. When this gut flora is out of balance, it can pave the way for several health issues, including bloat.

  • Gas-Producing Bacteria: An imbalance in the gut can lead to a rise in gas-producing bacteria, which can contribute to bloat.
  • Poor Nutrient Absorption: A less-than-optimal gut health can hinder nutrient absorption. When food isn’t broken down and absorbed properly, it can ferment and produce gas. This can make your dog’s stomach wall extend and bloat.
  • Sensitivity to Certain Foods: Just like humans, dogs can be sensitive or allergic to certain food ingredients. If they have an imbalance in their gut flora, these sensitivities can become more pronounced, which can lead to an accumulation of gas.

Ensuring a balanced gut flora involves giving them a diet rich in fibers, prebiotics, and probiotics. This not only aids in digestion but also supports their overall immune health.

Dogs, like humans, have sensitive digestive systems. The wrong type of food, overfeeding, or sudden changes in diet can lead to gas buildup and potentially to bloat. This is where the importance of a balanced diet and understanding your dog’s nutritional needs come into play.

Treatment: Addressing Dog Bloat

GDV requires immediate medical intervention as it is a life threatening condition in dogs. If diagnosed early, the vet will provide a comprehensive treatment plan to address it, which may include pain medications or intravenous fluids. However, if the bloating is diet-related, then switching to nutritious meals, healthy treats, and possibly adding supplements can make a difference.

Bernie’s Perfect Poop: Good Gut Health From The Inside Out

Bernie’s Perfect Poop was specially formulated to help our own dogs with digestive issues. Bernie and Lady are both large breed dogs, and we wanted to help them be wholly healthy from the inside out. That’s why we combined the ingredients we did in Perfect Poop!


Fiber plays a crucial role in digestion. It can aid in forming bulkier, softer stools and may help with nutrient absorption.

Prebiotics & Probiotics:

These essential components can help maintain a balanced gut flora. A healthy gut flora might reduce the chances of gas buildup, a common cause of bloat in dogs.

Digestive Enzymes:

Digestive enzymes can assist in breaking down food more efficiently, potentially preventing gas excess and ensuring nutrients are adequately absorbed.

The Bottom Line: Doing the Best for Your Furry Friend

While dog bloat has numerous causes, addressing rapid eating habits and maintaining optimal gut health are two primary areas every dog parent can focus on. We can significantly reduce the risks associated with this potentially severe condition by making small adjustments in feeding practices and diet. And the best news is that we can do that in a way your dog will find delicious: adding Bernie’s Perfect Poop to each meal!

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