Dog Bloat: Symptoms, Signs, and Treatment

Dog Bloat: Symptoms, Signs, and Treatment

Just like humans, pets can also experience bloating. Bloating in dogs can cause extreme discomfort, irritation, and pain. If left untreated, this can even be life-threatening.

Identifying the key signs and symptoms early to get effective treatment is crucial. So what are these symptoms, and how can they be treated?

What Are the First Signs of Bloat in Dogs?

Bloating is characterized by a buildup of gas. Bloating is often due to impaired digestion and increased digestive muscle movement, but it could also be from other underlying causes. All of this leads to a stomach area that feels swollen and can cause changes in eating or bowel habits (1).

Because dog bloat symptoms can be relatively subtle and can arrive suddenly, observing changes in your dog's behavior and patterns can be vital in identifying the earlier signs and symptoms.

Signs of possible bloating in a dog include:

  • Having a swollen, hard, or distended stomach area
  • Pacing anxiously
  • Acting restless, not being able to sit still
  • Showing signs of pain when the stomach area is pressed
  • Excess drooling

How Does Bloating Affect Dogs?

Regardless of how many of the above signs are exhibited, bloating can be life-threatening in dogs. While minor bloating usually goes away on its own, the alternative is a medical condition known as gastric dilatation-volvulus, or GDV for short. 

GDV primarily affects large breed dogs such as Great Danes or Saint Bernards due to their deep-set chests. The reason behind this is still relatively unknown, but some believe it may be because larger dogs tend to eat and drink more rapidly and exercise straight after. However, any dog can be affected. Stress and continually gulping large amounts of air are also other factors.

Other studies suggest that specific genes for immunity alter dogs' gut microbiome, playing a role in changing a dog's predisposition to have GDV (2).

What Happens When Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) Occurs?

When the stomach fills with gas, this causes simple bloat, resulting in stomach distention. If this is the only sign of bloating, this will usually go away within a few hours. However, prolonged, painful, and incessant bloating with more than one of the above signs usually indicates that it has progressed to GDV. 

When GDV occurs, the gas-filled and distended stomach twists back onto itself, resulting in blockage of the entrance and exit. GDV will not go away on its own and will require surgery as soon as possible to correct it. If left untreated, GDV can progress to develop multiple organ dysfunction syndrome or MODS for short. 

MODS is characterized by renal, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal dysfunction, leading to cardiac arrhythmias, pneumonia, and vomiting, amongst other factors (3). 

Other Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs

It can sometimes be hard to distinguish whether your dog is in pain or not. In addition to signs of pain, look for:

  • Change in bowel movements: One key symptom is a noticeable change in bowel movements, such as vomiting or not passing stools. A dog may also try to vomit but be unsuccessful, with little or nothing coming out.
  • Loose stool: Your dog’s stool may be loose to the point of diarrhea, and you may find your dog trying to defecate more than usual, even if nothing much is coming out.
  • Change in body position: A bloated dog will also often stretch their body into a position that helps to alleviate the pain. This may result in odd conformations, with their head repeatedly pressed down to the ground, and their bottoms up in the air. 
  • Lethargy and fatigue: You will also notice that a bloated dog is lethargic, overly tired, and has low energy. Your dog might seem less interested in activities they may have enjoyed prior and show less interest in eating or exercising.

If you notice a combination of these symptoms, bring your dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Prolonged symptoms can be detrimental to their health if left untreated.

Dog Bloat Treatments

Treatment for dog bloat is highly dependent on how severe the bloating is. 

Supplementation

For simple bloating, symptoms will usually go away within a few hours. Adding some probiotics or additional supplements to your dog's diet can help digestive inflammation, which often leads to bloating, loose stool, or excessive gas production. 

Probiotics work by giving the good gut microbiome a boost. A 2019 study showed probiotics positively impacted the gut microbiome of older dogs, increasing their strains of beneficial bacteria and decreasing the strains of potentially harmful bacteria. In turn, this enhanced the immunity and digestive health of the dog (4).

For an excellent dog food supplement that supports their digestive health, try AppleLove's Digestive & Maintenance Blend.

AppleLove Digestive Blend

It’s full of great ingredients like apples, pumpkin, and rosemary. This treat provides daily digestive support and can help relieve constipation, diarrhea, or an upset stomach to enhance your furry friend's well-being.

Seek Help from a Qualified Veterinarian

It's worth seeing a veterinarian for a consultation, especially if this is the first time bloating has occurred in your dog or if several symptoms are experienced at once. The vet will usually do an X-ray to determine what course of action to take. If the bloating is still in the initial stages, they may relieve the buildup pressure by inserting a needle or tube. 

If the bloat has progressed into further stages, such as GDV, the vet may need to do surgery. During this surgery, the vet will untwist the stomach, and they will check other parts of the body to ensure no additional damage has been done.

The Bottom Line

Dog bloat can be very uncomfortable, inconvenient, and painful for your pet. Not identifying dog bloat in time may result in digestive discomfort and even further development into GDV, so knowing the different signs and symptoms to look out for is very important. 

From this, you'll be able to get the correct treatment to ensure your dog remains happy and healthy.