Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who
partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

Stretching and twisting of a German Shepherd's stomach due to bloat.  The
dark area is gas trapped in the stomach.

Stretching and twisting of a German Shepherd’s stomach due to bloat. The dark
area is gas trapped in the stomach.

Joel Mills via Wikimedia Commons (CC-BY-SA-3.0)

What Is Bloat in Dogs?

Bloat in dogs is a dangerous condition where minutes really count. Owners
suspecting bloat in their dogs should rush their dog to the closest animal
emergency center.

Bloat is like a very grave case of indigestion where the dog’s stomach swells
up with too much trapped air or fluid, causing harmful pressure on the
surrounding organs, arteries and veins. It can cut off blood flow and set off
a condition of stomach torsion known as ”gastric volvulus.” This torsion will
eventually cut off blood supply to the stomach and other organs such as the
spleen. Soon, tissues will start to die, and the dog may succumb from shock.

What Breeds Are Susceptible to Bloat?

Bloat typically affects large, deep-chested dog breeds, though it could affect
virtually any dog.

As scary as bloat is, there is some good news: By understanding potential
causes of bloat, owners may be able to prevent it from occurring in some
cases. Also, by recognizing the symptoms, owners will be able to take their
dog to the vet immediately, without wasting precious minutes.

Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs

  • A painful, distended abdomen full of gas
  • Retching: frequent, unproductive attempts to vomit
  • Attempts to pass stool
  • Lack of gurgling sounds in the stomach
  • Drooling from nausea
  • Pacing, restlessness, anxiety
  • Dark red gums at first, then pale, cold gums signaling lack of oxygen

Causes of Dog Bloat

The causes of bloat can be a medical mystery. Sometimes bloat may occur for no
known reason (idiopathic). The following, however, are thought to be possible
aggravating factors.


Breeds that have a tendency to develop bloat include the following: Great
Danes, Labrador Retrievers, Standard Poodles, Dobermans, German Shepherds,
Malamutes, Labradors, Saint Bernards, Wolfhounds, Irish Setters and Akitas.
However, any dog may develop bloat, regardless of size and conformation.

Hereditary Factors

A tendency to bloat may run in a dog’s family. Having a first-degree relative
(a sibling, parent or offspring) suffer from bloat may be a predisposing


According to PetEducation, dogs over the age of seven are twice as likely to
develop bloat than a dog of 2 to 4 years of age. Also, male dogs are more
likely to develop bloat than females.

Eating Fast

Some dogs do not eat their meals; they swallow them without chewing. This can
often be seen in multi-dog households where dogs compete over food. Any dog
that is afraid that another dog may take away its food will be a naturally
fast eater. It helps, therefore, to separate dogs during meals or invest in
special dog bowls made to slow down fast eaters.

Large Meals

Some dogs eat too fast because they are fed a big meal once a day, and they
are hungry. Dividing food into smaller portions, ideally two meals per day,
may be helpful.

High-Fiber Diets

Dogs that eat high-fiber food have a tendency to develop gas because high-
fiber food tends to ferment and release gas once it’s in the stomach. Beet
pulp, soybeans and brewer’s yeast have a history of being linked to gas.

Elevated Food Dishes

At one time, many dog food bowls were elevated to help the dog reach the food
more easily. However, this caused many dogs to gulp down more air than needed,
making them prone to bloat.


Dogs that are under stress may develop a predisposition to ingest air and be
prone to bloat. The same applies to dogs that are particularly anxious and
fearful. Allowing the dog to lead a stress-free and happy life could reduce
the likelihood of bloat.

Scroll to Continue

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Strenuous Exercise

There is a belief that strenuous exercise and excessive excitement should be
avoided for an hour before eating and two hours following a meal (especially
of dry food) because they may cause bloat in some dogs.

Water Consumption

There is also a belief that drinking large amounts of water after eating may
cause bloat in some dogs. Dry food can expand greatly in water, creating a
large blob of food that the stomach was not prepared to contain.

Seek Veterinary Help Immediately

Owners suspecting bloat in their dogs should rush their dog to the closest
animal emergency center.

What Can I Do if I Suspect Bloat in My Dog?

The only answer, unfortunately, remains to take the dog to the vet as soon
as possible

Any time a dog owner suspects bloat in their dog, they should consult a
veterinarian at once, regardless if it is nighttime, a weekend or a holiday.
Bloat and gastric torsion are medical emergencies which may cause death in as
little as an hour or two after symptoms begin.

For educational purposes, here are some emergency first aid ideas; but
remember, these are to be employed on the way to the vet, not instead of going
to the vet.

1. Warmth and Honey/Karo

If the dog is starting to exhibit signs of shock with pale gums, keeping the
dog warm is ideal, and a little bit of honey or Karo syrup rubbed on the dog’s
gums may be helpful.

2. Gas-X

According to Walker Valley Vet,

Gas-X ( Simethicone ): Simethicone is used in dogs to help with unusual
flatulence or gas discomfort. Any dog suspected of bloat should get two
doses immediately before transport to the Emergency Clinic.

GAS-X Dosage for Dogs:

small: ¼ adult dose

medium: ½ adult dose

large: 1 adult dose

It is important to note that GasX will not cure the bloat, though it may buy
some time as you take the dog to the vet.

3. Intubation

If your vet is not within a 20-minute reach, the Kifka Borzoi website shows
how to administer first aid by tubing the dog. This desperate measure should
be done only if the vet is more than 20 minutes away and there are no other
options. Again, this is not treatment; it is just first aid as you head
towards the vet.

Dog With Symptoms of Bloat: Retching and Pacing

Related Issues

  • The Causes of Ascites (Fluid in the Abdomen) in Dogs
    What may cause a dog to have a swollen abdomen filled up with fluids? There
    are several causes, and most require the immediate attention of a

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It
is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription,
or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional.
Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a
veterinarian immediately.


Doll on June 29, 2018:

Everytime my dog eats he has stomach gurgling sound we have taken him to the
bed 3 times and they didn’t find anything something is wrong please help

Glinda Berks on July 24, 2014:

I need to say it’s been fun so far being a a part of this forum

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 18, 2012:

So sorry to hear that, bloat in dogs is very serious and potentially deadly.
At least he died in his sleep.

Mk on March 18, 2012:

I lost my 13 1/2 year old Dalmatian to bloat last week. He only had symptoms
of dry-reaching, nothing else then he died in his sleep. Very sad.

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 12, 2012:

Awareness is key to preventing this condition, owning two large deep-chested
dogs I always try to avoid triggers for bloat.

kk on March 12, 2012:

love this article. thanks so much for the advice. i hope i never have to do
this. wow. that’s all i can say.