Stomach Bloat in Dogs: What Is It and What Are the Signs?

As dog parents, we don’t like to think about what can go wrong with our pets. Most of us would prefer to focus on the good times — the belly rubs, cuddles on the sofa, and long hikes that improve our lives in innumerable ways.

But part of being the best pet parent you can be is knowing the potential red flags that may indicate your dog is experiencing a health-related issue. Bloat should be at the top of your list if you have a large or giant breed dog, like a German Shepherd or a Great Dane.

To help you more quickly identify stomach bloat in dogs, we’ve compiled the essential information you need to know to keep your pet as healthy and safe as possible from this potentially fatal problem.

What Is Stomach Bloat in Dogs?

Stomach bloat in dogs, also called gastric dilation-volvulus (or GDV), is a dangerous condition where the stomach enlarges and rotates in the abdomen. GDV includes two different health issues that occur back-to-back, although veterinarians are unsure which happens first.

One-half of GDV is gastric dilation, where a build-up of gas in the dog’s stomach leads to its enlargement. While some gas in the stomach is an expected byproduct of eating, too much gas can cause distension that blocks blood flow to the stomach. In some cases, the stomach may even rupture or become so large that it impacts the dog’s ability to breathe normally.

Likely, this gastric dilation is due to sudden twisting of the stomach (volvulus). As the stomach flips, it traps gas inside of it and causes it to expand. Volvulus can have life-threatening consequences, including significantly reduced blood supply throughout the body, leading to tissue damage or death and hypovolemic shock.

Stomach bloat in dogs is always an emergency, so it is essential to recognize the signs and symptoms in their early stages and act quickly if this condition occurs. Other than traumatic injuries (like being hit by a car), GDV is likely the most serious health emergency that can happen to your dog.

What Causes Stomach Bloat?

There is no known cause of stomach bloat in dogs, but several risk factors have been identified that may increase the likelihood of this medical condition occurring.

One of the most frequent triggers of GDV is exercising too soon after eating a large meal or drinking a large amount of water. This risk is commonly seen in dogs fed one large meal daily and most often occurs with dry food-only diets.

However, not every potential cause of stomach bloat in dogs can be reduced with lifestyle changes. The risk of bloat is naturally higher in large-breed, deep-chested dogs, especially those with a higher anxiety level.

Older dogs also have a higher risk of GDV, and genetics may even play a factor (dogs with a first-degree relative — mother, father, litter mates, or puppies — also have an increased likelihood of developing GDV).

We’d also like to note that any dog can develop bloat, even small breed dogs like Chihuahuas and Dachshunds. Just because you don’t have a big dog doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be aware of the signs of bloat.



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