Many pet owners are faced with the question: ‘why is my dog’s stomach bloated?’ Bloat or gastric dilation in dogs is a serious issue. It mainly affects larger breeds like St. Bernard, German Shepherds and Great Danes. In canines, bloating or gastric dilation volvulus can cause twisting of the stomach and can need emergency surgical intervention. Let us study symptoms of dog bloat and ways to help prevent it.
What is Gastric Dilation or Dog Bloat?
Anatomically, gastric dilation or bloating in dogs can take on two forms:
- One where the stomach is filled with gas and fluid. In such a case, your dog looks bloated but may act normal and might not have pain.
- Two, wherein the stomach is not only distended, but also rotates on its long axis. In such cases, the spleen, which is attached to the stomach wall, also rotates causing severe pain, discomfort and vomiting.
Bloating can occur in dog of any age but is more common in middle aged or older dogs. Large breed dogs like Great Danes are anatomically predisposed to this issue. Even mid-sized dogs like Basset hounds and Chinese Shar-Pei can be affected. In small breeds, Dachshunds are also likely to get bloated owing to deep chests. Breeds most commonly affected are Labradors, Bloodhounds, Irish Setters, Weimaraner, Great Danes, Standard Poodles and Great Pyrenees. Bloating is usually also more common in dogs related to dogs who have had bloating issues before.
Symptoms of dog bloat
The signs and symptoms of dog bloat can come on suddenly. Your dog may have eaten a large meal or might have exercised vigorously just before/after eating or may have drunk large amounts of water right after eating. Often, foods containing large amount of soy or corn are blamed but there is no evidence to support this for a fact. Bloating mainly occurs due to gas caused by swallowing large amount of air. Here are the signs of dog bloat:
- Heaving or retching
- Unproductive attempts to vomit
- Enlarged abdomen
- Whining or groaning when stomach is pressed
- Thumping the abdomen might produce a hollow sound
In early stages, your dog might show warning signs of bloat such as tighter than normal abdomen, lethargy, discomfort, walking in a stiff manner, hanging the head, tail in between legs, looking anxious or distressed. In later stages of dog bloat timeline, your pet may show signs of shock, pale gums, rapid heart rate, labored breathing, weakness and collapse. Sometimes, a bloated dog may be able to successfully vomit in which case it may not be volvulus dilation. Only a vet exam can confirm the same.
How to help a bloated dog?
Time is of essence when it comes to treating a bloated dog. Do not try to treat your pet-take him/her to the vet immediately. Following methods are used to treat dog bloat:
- If there is no volvulus, your vet will pass a plastic/rubber tube through the mouth into the stomach. This will cause a rush of air and fluid bringing immediate relief to the distressed animal. Your vet will also wash out the pet’s stomach. It is best to avoid feeding your pet for the next 24-36 hours.
- Your pet may also be placed on IV fluids. The vet will observe it for recurrence. If there is recurrence of dog bloat symptoms, surgery may be needed. If not, your pet will be discharged and you can feed it usual.
Dog bloat home treatment
If your dog tends to get bloated every now and then and you do not have access to a vet, you must keep a stomach tube in your emergency medical kit. Here are the steps to relieve your dog bloated stomach no pain:
- Clean the tube
- Approximately measure the distance between the pet’s mouth and its last rib. Mark the same on the tube.
- Apply lubricant or KY jelly on the tube and insert it in the pet’s mouth gently.
- A roll of adhesive can be first inserted in the dog’s mouth so it will not bite down on the tube.
- Gently insert the tube until the dog begins to swallow
- Even if the dog gags, continue insertion.
- If the pet coughs, the tube has entered the trachea. In case this occurs, withdraw the tube and re-insert.
- Warning: If despite your best attempts the tube does not enter the pet’s stomach, you must stop and seek immediate medical help. The tube could hurt the dog further.
- In case you do not have a tube, a sterile 18-guage needle can be used to prick a hole in the distended stomach directly through the body wall to relieve gas. This is a stop gap arrangement to help a bloated dog until you can get him/her to the vet.
- Even if you are successfully able to relieve gas by passing a tube, you must still take your pet to the vet afterwards. A medical exam and x-ray can confirm volvulus. Emergency surgery may be needed to correct the twisted stomach. If your dog is able to tolerate anesthesia, your vet will schedule the surgery soon. A part of stomach and/or the spleen may be removed. A procedure called gastropexy may be performed to prevent the stomach from twisting.
How long does it last?
A bloat, if ignored, can kill your dog. Some dogs are dead within hours, others suffer longer. Many dogs die despite getting surgical treatment. Often, pet owners choose to euthanize their pets because dog bloating emergency surgery can cost 1000s of dollars.
Prevention of dog bloat
Dogs who respond to dog bloat treatment at home have a 70% chance of another episode. Following preventive steps can help prevent recurrence:
- Feed your pet 2-3 small meals. Divide the portions and ensure that your pet does not eat hurriedly.
- Avoid using raised food bowls.
- Do not feed your pet dog food containing high amount of fat. Also avoid foods containing citric acid. Home cooked meals are best.
- Restrict access to water one hour before and after meals. Do not let your pet drink too much water hurriedly.
- Avoid strenuous exercise on full stomach.
- Beware of warning signs of bloat so you can seek medical help immediately.
- Regular exercise will strengthen the abdominal muscles and also ‘massage’ the stomach and bowels to prevent bloating.
Herbal and homeopathic remedies to prevent symptoms of dog bloat
Using a powerful juicer, reduce fresh cabbage leaves to concentrated juice (do not add water) and feed this extract daily to dogs having a tendency to bloat. 1-2 ounces per day is ideal dosage for large breeds.
Homeopathic remedies to treat and prevent dog bloat
- Belladonna– 30 C potency can be administered when symptoms of dog bloat come on suddenly. Give crushed pellets every 30 minutes.
- Hepar Sulph 30 C-is a remedy to be given between crises
- Nux vomica 30 C can be given when dog is heaving and retching.
- Carbo vegetabilis-30 C can be given to bloated dogs with distended stomachs, cold legs and bluish gums.
Never ignore warning signs of bloat. If your dog looks bloated but acting normal, it is still advisable to have him examined by the vet.