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Bloat is the common name for several related conditions in which a dog's stomach fills with gas.  It is always a very serious emergency that requires immediate veterinary attention.  Even with prompt emergency care the mortality rate is high so owners should memorize the signs of bloat and the location of the nearest 24 hour emergency veterinary hospital.

Terminology

Symptoms

Initial Symptoms

  • Anxious, restless, pacing
  • Trying to vomit-may bring up stiff white foam but no food
  • Salivating; Abdomen may be swollen.

Advancing Symptoms

  • Very restless, whining & panting
  • Salivating copiously
  • Tries to vomit every 2-3 min
  • Stands with legs apart & head hanging down
  • Abdomen swollen & sounds hollow if tapped
  • Gums dark red; Heart rate 80-100 beats/min
  • Temperature raised (104f)

Print out this
 symptom chart
for quick access

 

Treatment and Outcomes

Bloat is always an emergency.  Rapid treatment is essential.  If you suspect your dog is bloating find veterinary treatment as soon as possible.

Emergency treatment for bloat centers on untwisting and relieving pressure in the stomach, plus treating for shock.  When the stomach swells and twists there is often blood flow loss and damage to other organs including tissue death.  Therefore, even after the stomach is relieved there can still be very serious problems to manage.  Hospitalization, IV fluids and close observation are routine.  About 25% of dogs who bloat will die within seven days.  Dogs who are physically depressed when they arrive for treatment are three time more likely to die.  Dogs who are comatose are 36 times more likely to die.

Risk Factors

Prevention

A surgical procedure where the stomach is tacked to the body wall (called prophylactic gastropexy) prevents the stomach from twisting.  This is commonly done for dogs who have had one episode of bloat and are  therefore at grater risk of another.


Copyright 2012 Philip Shaffer
pshaffer@bmd.org