Canine Bloat: Know the Signs, Save A Life

Great Dane puppy

Great Dane dogs are at highest risk for canine bloat.

Canine bloat affects up to 60,000 dogs each year, and goes beyond a tummy ache. I worry about this because German Shepherd Dogs are one of the high risk breeds. Bloat (more technically called gastric dilatation volvulus) can cause a painful death.

I’m sharing a partial excerpt of the CANINE BLOAT entry from Dog Facts, The Series #2 (Chapter B) covering Babesiosis, Bad Breath, Balanopothitis, Bitch, Bladder Stones, Bleeding, Blindness, Bloat (Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus), Blood, Botulism, Breed, Bronchitis, Brucellosis, and Burns. I’ve broken the massive book into discounted treat-size alpha-chapter sections available ONLY to subscribers of my PETS PEEVES NEWSLETTER. Folks can choose which ones they most need. Each chapter will release every other week. Of course, you can still get the entire DOG FACTS book either in Kindle or 630+ pages of print.


Gastric dilitation is the painful swelling of the stomach with gas and/or frothy material. Volvulus is the rotation, or twisting, of the stomach. Bloat refers to one or both scenarios, and either can result in death.

When bloat occurs, the stomach contents cannot be expelled either by vomiting, burping, or by passing into the intestines. The stomach distention causes pressure on other internal organs, which results in shock. If the stomach twists, circulation is cut off and the stomach and spleen can die. The rotation also compresses a vein that returns blood to the heart, resulting in severe depression of normal blood circulation.

Large group of dogs in front of a white background

Canine bloat can affect any dog but large dogs are at highest risk.


All dogs can be affected, but purebred dogs are three times more likely to suffer bloat compared to mixed breed dogs. Breeds that have a narrow but deep chest have the greatest incidence of the condition.

Great Danes have the highest incidence. They have a 40 percent chance they’ll have an episode before they reach age seven. A recent survey estimated the lifetime risk of bloat at 24 percent for large breed (50 to 99 pounds) and 22 percent for giant breed dogs (over 99 pounds). Some research indicates nervous dogs have a twelve times higher risk than calm, happy dogs.



  • restlessness
  • unproductive attempts to vomit or defecate
  • swollen, painful stomach
  • pale gums
  • irregular breathing
  • collapse and death

EMERGENCY! Veterinary Diagnosis & Treatment

When a high-risk dog suffers any of the above symptoms, don’t wait. Emergency treatment can save your dog’s life. The stomach contents must be removed to reduce the pressure, and passing a stomach tube manages the distension. When the stomach twists, though, the tube won’t pass and surgery is required to return the organs to normal position, and evaluate any damage to the spleen or other tissue.

Great Dane and bloat

Managing meals can reduce the risk of canine bloat in Great Danes and other dogs.

What Is Gastropexy for Canine Bloat?

In high risk dogs, and those that have survived a bloat episode, gastropexy surgery is recommended. That fixes the stomach to the body wall so it can’t twist. Gastropexy prevents a recurrence of the condition in more than 90 percent of cases. It can be done at the same time as spay or neuter surgery, and laparoscopic surgery techniques can make the procedure much less invasive and reduce recovery time. Dogs with gastric dilatation-volvulus that do not undergo a gastropexy have recurrence rates of more than 70 percent and mortality rates of 80 percent.

Can Canine Bloat Be Prevented?

Although bloat can’t be completely prevented, predisposing factors can be reduced. Limiting water and exercise before and after meals, commonly recommended in the past, in fact did not reduce the incidence of bloat in more recent studies. Another recommendation—raising the food bowl—actually increased the risk of bloat by about 200 percent.

Avoid sudden changes in food, which can prompt gorging behavior. When a diet change is necessary, introduce it gradually over a seven to ten day period. Meal-feed your dog small quantities of food several times a day, rather than feeding all at once. And if there’s food competition between your dogs, feed them in separate rooms to help slow gulpers and calm their anxiety over stolen food.

Do you live with a high risk dog? Has your dog ever suffered from bloat? What steps do you take to reduce the risk? I hope you NEVER have to face this serious condition, and that learning more about the condition will help keep your beloved dog safe.


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39 thoughts on “Canine Bloat: Know the Signs, Save A Life

  1. It’ really important to know the symptoms and be aware of your dog. I’ve had 2 Doberman mixes, and I can’t tell you how many times I almost panicked with Lola.

  2. Bloat is something I did not know much about until I had a GSD. It is a very real and very scary issue with larger breed/larger chested dogs. We were always cautious, trying to make sure he ate slowly and not having him exercise or run around soon after eating. Great topic

  3. This is like declawing in cats, an issue that many more peope need to know about but do not – education is vital. Dog owners need to be prepared to recognise things like bloat so they can act on it.

  4. A family friend’s shepherd died of bloat about 2 years ago. It was so sad, he was a young, healthy dog. They did take him to one vet who thought it was a problem with his pancreas at first, the second vet diagnosed bloat, but it was too late to save him.

    • That’s horrible! So sorry this happened. It’s all about getting the info out about this. Based on the reaction to the blog (lots of folks NOT knowing about it), this was the subject today of my KXII Pet Talk tv segment, too. Hope it saves some furry lives.

  5. Bloat is so scary – I am so conscious of when my dogs eat and exercise because I am terrified of bloat. Thanks for posting!

  6. I get so worried about dogs and bloat. We had a Great Dane who lived on our street whom I swear died from it – he used to drink and eat so fast. I warned his owner time and again.

  7. Bloat is so scary and such a good topic to talk about. As a CVT I remember a few pet parents making the proactive decision to get gastropexy’s done proactively during spays and neuters — they had large deep chested breeds. It was a smart move — my .02. Thanks for posting such a great, detailed piece about this.

    • The more recent studies have indicated that activity before/after meals didn’t significantly influence having an episode. *s* But yes, he’s a little guy so not to worry!

  8. Bloat sounds so scary. I worry a little about Kilo the Pug – he is small but oh so greedy, he gulps like crazy. However he has a special bowl up set on a step and his food is divided up into small amounts. He works for at least 1/3 or 1/2 throughout the day. He has stolen vast amounts off tables etc like a ninja a few times but luckily no issues so far. Thanks for sharing important info.

  9. I had never heard of the surgery that can essentially anchor a dog’s stomach! I think this would be really important information to share with new pet owners so they can consider this procedure while their dog is already undergoing a spay or neuter procedure. Thanks for sharing this information!

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