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What is Bloat in Dogs: Know the Signs of Canine Bloat, Save A Life

by | Jul 17, 2016 | Dog Training & Care | 36 comments

Have you wondered what is bloat in dogs? Canine bloat affects up to 60,000 dogs each year, and goes beyond a tummy ache. I worry about this because I’ve had German Shepherd Dogs and a Great Dane/Mastiffs, both high-risk breeds. Bloat (more technically called gastric dilatation volvulus) can cause a painful death. Learn more about common “old dog” conditions in this post.

Great Dane puppy

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


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.


separation anxiety


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

danger sign dog

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

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.

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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Amy Shojai, CABC is a certified cat & dog behavior consultant, a consultant to the pet industry, and the award-winning author of 35+ pet-centric books and Thrillers with Bite! Oh, and she loves bling!




  1. Bryn Nowell

    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!

    • Amy Shojai

      Hopefully, many veterinarians do discuss this with dog owners particularly of the higher risk breeds.

  2. Talent Hounds

    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.

    • Amy Shojai

      When my husband and I began to date, his roommate had a Pug, and Tojo would eat until he got sick. Maybe something about those mini-mastiff-types, LOL!

  3. Cathy Armato

    I always thought bloat only happened in giant dog breeds, thanks for this info. Very scary condition.
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

  4. Jodi Chick

    Bloat is so scary. Even though my small dogs aren’t predisposed to it, it scares the crap out of. More people definitely need to know the signs.

    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks, Jodi, it scares me bunches, too!

  5. Tenacious Little Terrier

    Mr. N likes to run around and play right after he eats. I asked the vet though and he said I don’t need to worry as Mr. N is tiny.

    • Amy Shojai

      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!

  6. christycaplan (@christycaplan)

    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.

    • Amy Shojai

      Thanks Christy! Years ago with my first shepherd, there was no such thing as gastropexy. Now at least there’s that option!

  7. Carol Bryant

    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.

    • Amy Shojai

      Yikes! That’s so sad…and unfortunately not all can be saved. ;(

  8. The DIY Dog Mom

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

    • Amy Shojai

      You’re very welcome! Hope it raises awareness.

  9. Beth (@dailydogtag)

    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.

    • Amy Shojai

      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.

  10. Tricia Clements

    Great information! My dogs are both under 50 pounds, so they aren’t high risk, but it is good to know about because there is always the chance it could happen.

    • Amy Shojai

      Exactly! And you never know when a friend might share about his/her big dog and you can pass on the info.

  11. Rochelle BaRoss

    So scary! I did not realize that raised bowls did not help and actually made it worse. Learning new things! Thanks for the info!

    • Amy Shojai

      I know…and every time there’s a new study, we learn something more. Lots more detail in the entry in the book excerpt, of course.

  12. DashKitten

    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.

    • Amy Shojai

      Exactly true! Information prepares us to be more discerning.

  13. Kelly

    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

    • Amy Shojai

      One of Magic’s relatives succumbed to bloat. You never think it can happen to you, until you learn about a tragedy. *sigh*

  14. Juliet Chelton

    Thank you for sharing this information and the excellent guidance on what to look out for as it is a subject I knew nothing about.

    • Amy Shojai

      Hi Juliet, Thanks so much for visiting the blog. Glad that I could offer something new and helpful.

  15. Lola The Rescued Cat

    I’m going to share this info with my family members who have dogs. I never knew about this.

    • Amy Shojai

      Oh good! The more people know about it, the better we can prevent sad outcomes.

  16. Puppy Tales Studio

    Wow, I did not know about this! I’m happy I stumbled upon this article!! James is my only purebred, so I guess I have to keep a close eye on him! Thanks for sharing!

    • Amy Shojai

      You’re very welcome! My best to James…and your other furry wonders. *s*

  17. nichole

    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.

    • Amy Shojai

      Always better to panic (and discover there’s no problem) than the reverse. So glad Lola has been okay!

  18. anjum naqi

    Especially,8 ways,peoples hiss off cats

  19. anjum naqi




  1. Puppy Vomiting & Why Dogs Vomit: How to Treat Puppy Vomiting At Home - […] by proper vaccinations. In deep-chested breeds, unproductive vomiting may be a sign of bloat. Bloat (gastric dilatation and/or volvulus)…
  2. How Dogs Eat: Why Dogs Gulp Food, Love Veggies, and More - […] meals can reduce the risk of canine bloat in Great Danes and other […]
  3. Swallowed Objects & Dogs: Symptoms & First Aid for Dogs Eating Objects - […] complete blockage is a medical emergency that results in a bloated, painful stomach with sudden, constant vomiting. The dog refuses food…

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