Bloat – Understanding the Signs and Symptoms
Growing up, we had two Samoyeds: Rascal and Clancey. I think that’s where my love of Great Pyrenees started. I loved their look and personality, but wanted a bigger dog with less energy. Rascal and Clancey were absolutely amazing dogs and we loved them dearly.
When I was 15, we took a vacation to Mexico while other family members cared for our dogs. A hurricane had just come through the area we were vacationing, so phone lines were down and we weren’t able to contact them. We had a great time, flew home, and then gave them a call to let them know we landed safely.
I remember this moment so clearly.
My mom called to say we’ve landed and I see the blood immediately drain from her face. She starts crying, completely in shock, and hands the phone to my dad. Tears started to well up in my dad’s eyes.
My dad doesn’t cry. My siblings and I knew it was bad, but we weren’t sure what happened.
While dad was still on the phone, mom looked at my brother, sister, and myself and said,
“Clancey passed away.”
Clancey was only 7 and he was a perfectly healthy dog. How could this have possibly happened?
Our family was heartbroken as we struggled to leave the airport and keep it together. We were all trying not to sob in such a public place, but we were a mess. Even though we could tell he was struggling, my dad kept us going and got us to the car.
As we crossed the street, my rolling suitcase tipped over and everything that I had balanced on it fell everywhere. My sister or I (I can’t remember who) tripped and we both lost it. Sitting in the middle of the street at the airport sobbing away with our stuff everywhere. The sweetest old man helped us get our stuff together.
When we made it home and to the vet to see Clancey one last time, we found out that he had passed away from bloat. Our family that was watching him couldn’t have done anything – it happened so incredibly fast.
Now that I’m sobbing after writing that, let’s move on to some facts about bloat.
Bloat is a serious and often deadly condition that occurs when a dog’s stomach becomes filled with gas, fluid, or food. The stomach expands which puts pressure on other organs. This can prevent blood flow to the heart and stomach lining, tear the wall of the stomach, and create a harder time breathing.
In some cases, the stomach will twist. Vets refer to this as gastric dilation volvulus. When the stomach twists, blood is trapped in the stomach and blocked from returning to the heart and the rest of the body. When this happens, your dog can go into shock.
The symptoms of bloat can vary and they happen extremely quickly. Some signs to look for include:
- Excessive drooling
- Pacing and acting restless and anxious
- Trying to vomit with nothing coming up
- A swollen stomach
As the condition worsens, the dog may have pale gums, a rapid heartbeat, or be short of breath. He might even feel weak and eventually collapse. If your dog is showing any of the preliminary symptoms, it’s important to get your dog to the vet immediately. Bloat is not something you should take lightly. The length varies, but dogs can bloat and pass away in a matter of minutes.
Here’s the rough part – vets aren’t entirely sure what causes bloat. However, there are some risk factors.
- Having a large meal once per day
- Eating too quickly
- Activity to soon after eating
- Eating or drinking too much
While any dog can have bloat, it’s much more common in large, deep-chested dogs. This includes, but is not limited to, Great Danes, Great Pyrenees, Irish Setters, Rottweilers, St. Bernards, and Weimaraners. There are several other breeds that are more susceptible to bloat than others so it’s important to research your own dog.
Treatment for bloat will depend on how severe the condition is. In order to release the built up pressure in the stomach, the vet will put a tube down the dog’s throat. If the stomach has already twisted and is preventing the tube from entering the stomach, the vet will use a large, hollow needle through his belly to release the pressure.
X-rays will be conducted to determine if the stomach has twisted, which will require emergency surgery to fix. IV fluids, antibiotics, steroids, and an examination of the rest of the body may also be necessary.
There are several ways to help prevent bloat from happening to your dog.
- No activity within an hour before or two hours after eating.
- Feed several small meals throughout the day rather than large ones.
- Ensure your dog isn’t gulping water and drinking a normal amount.
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned raised feeding bowls in this article. Well, that’s partly because I’m trying to keep these posts shorter, but partly because there doesn’t seem to be a right answer at this time.
If you research raised feeding and bloat, you’ll find several articles containing convincing theories as to why one is better than the other. Since this is such a complex and controversial topic, I’m planning a more lengthy post in the future to help summarize the research that is currently available.
What else do you feel people should know about bloat?
Bloat is my greatest nightmare… Easy’s mother passed away by bloat and I watch him like a hawk after lunch… there is sadly nothing we can do… even the surgery is no guarantor that it never will happen…
You’re right, which makes it even more heartbreaking and stressful 🙁
Liz Brownlee says
Always useful to know these symptoms – great post. I’m very careful about exercise not after food with my assistance dog. ~Liz http://www.lizbrownleepoet.com
Definitely one of the most important things!
Miss Harper Lee says
This scares my human mommy to death. I’m a dainty eater, but my little sister is more hog than dog. We have a slow feeder for her and Mommy is very careful. Thank you for the tips. Such an excellent reminder, and I am so sorry about your Clancey.
It scares me a lot too. I hope neither of us ever have to go through it.
Scary but good to know.
Looking forward to learning what you find out about raised dishes and bloat. The last I heard, it had been determined that the raised dishes were harmful. But I don’t have a link to that study. All of our dogs eat from raised dishes. They’re not breeds that are prone to bloat, but I know that this doesn’t mean that they’re immune.
It’s definitely something I need to take a lot of time to research. It seems there’s always a new study coming out as to which is better : /
Scarlett Braden says
Thank you for such an informative and well-written article. I shed a tear or two for Clancey as well. Enjoy the blog challenge!
<3 I see you're participating as well - I hope it's enjoyable for you!
That is so very sad. i always watch my doggie and tell my hubby to not do any major activity around the time of feeding.
Kaitlyn Hernandez says
on 11817 we had to put down my female Bernese mountain dog car see due to bloat at 3 a.m. she was perfectly fine and healthy but at 8 a.m. when we took my daughter to school her stomach was distended and swollen and she didn’t want to get up and move around and just didn’t seem like herself so we rushed her to the vet she was four and a half almost 5 years old and was my service dog she grew up with my five-year-old daughter and meant the world to my family and when I took her to the vet I had a feeling that she had bloat so when my vet told me that she had bloat and I needed to take her to the emergency animal hospital we rushed her there and we were told that her spleen was wrapped in with her stomach and that they had given her fluids and pain meds to make her comfortable but surgery and hospitalization overnight would be close to $10,000 which we did not have so we had to make the right decision to have her put down we made the choice to have her cremated so we can bring her home we never exercise done before or after eating they were never fed dry kibble it was always raw diet they always had a 40-gallon water bowl 2 free drink out of so they were never chugging water we knew what to watch for and we still lost her we even had Insurance on her bloat was not covered under her insurance
Kaitlyn Hernandez says
On 11/8/17 we had to put down my female Bernese mountain dog carsy due to bloat at 3 a.m. she was perfectly fine and healthy but at 8 a.m. when we took my daughter to school her stomach was distended and swollen and she didn’t want to get up and move around and just didn’t seem like herself so we rushed her to the vet she was four and a half almost 5 years old and was my service dog she grew up with my five-year-old daughter and meant the world to my family and when I took her to the vet I had a feeling that she had bloat so when my vet told me that she had bloat and I needed to take her to the emergency animal hospital we rushed her there and we were told that her spleen was wrapped in with her stomach and that they had given her fluids and pain meds to make her comfortable but surgery and hospitalization overnight would be close to $10,000 which we did not have so we had to make the right decision to have her put down we made the choice to have her cremated so we can bring her home we never exercise done before or after eating they were never fed dry kibble it was always raw diet they always had a 40-gallon water bowl 2 free drink out of so they were never chugging water we knew what to watch for and we still lost her we even had Insurance on her bloat was not covered under her insurance I have another Bernese mountain dog Goliath who is 4 and a one-year-old Great Pyrenees named Tundra I know what to watch out for and she will be missed dearly every day my children they are not pets they are family
Lisa Barton says
This article made me cry!! You see in August of this year(2017),I lost my sweet big boy to bloat. I miss him everyday!! I knew nothing about bloat,no one told me. His name was Riley,he was a Bernise Mountain dog. Only 6 years old. It happened so fast,even with emergency surgery,I had to make the decision to let him go! Broke my heart,looking into his eyes and having to say goodbye.
My vet said there is a procedure called Tacking. Basically stippling their stomach to help avoid this problem.
Neither my vet or humane Society told me when he was a puppy. Regardless of the cost,they should have told me.I did all I could as his mommy,if only they had told me I might still have my baby.
While I did what was best for him,I hope he forgives me and I see him again on day in heaven.
I had an Irish Setter who died of bloat 45 years ago. I still cry over him and miss him. I was going through a divorce and was gone away for one night. I knew nothing about bloat. I told my family not to put him in the bathroom as that was where he want at night when he was a puppy. He liked to sleep in the bathtub. He started fussing and bothering my sister, obviously looking for someone to help him. My sister shut him in the bathroom. He was 4 years old. They found him dead in the tub in the morning. It was bloat with torsion. . The vet who did a necrospy for me asked if I wanted the body back. I did not know about cremation or pet cemeteries. He is the only one of the 10 dogs I have had that I do not have the ashes. It still haunts me what happened to his body. In my heart I will always feel like I contributed to his death. I would have literally done anything for him. I feel I neglected him afterwards. I have had Airedale Terriers and Greyhounds and Galgos (Spanish Greyhounds) and my current boy is a Galgo and I had his stomach pinned a few years ago. Had to do it, just because. Grief lessens, grief hides, grief takes a holiday, but it is always there waiting for a trigger. I stopped believing in god when I was about 18 and it has never changed. I never believe I will see those who have died again. I believe we all live on through the hearts of those who love us. My pups are gone but I will always be their mother and they will always be my babies. I am 73 years old.