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Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs

Source: PetWave, Updated on July 16, 2015

Effects of Bloat – From the Dog’s Point of View

In the early stages, a dog that is bloating will feel uncomfortable and edgy, and it won’t know why. In no particular order, without treatment an affected dog will become increasingly restless, painful, weak and depressed, and it will deteriorate rapidly. Its abdomen will become swollen, firm and excruciatingly painful from accumulating gasses and fluids in the stomach. It may retch and try to vomit, but those attempts won’t be productive, because its stomach has been cut off from the esophagus on the one end, and the small intestine on the other end (the tube taking digestive contents from the stomach to the end of the digestive tract). The dog’s breathing will become rapid, shallow and difficult. It will drool profusely. The dog’s pulse will become thready while its heart rate races. It will become weak, wobbly, uncoordinated and disoriented. Ultimately, without surgical intervention, the dog will die.

Symptoms of Bloat – What the Owner Sees

Clinical signs of bloat are not always easy to distinguish from signs of other types of gastrointestinal distress. A dog that stands uncomfortably and seems to have abdominal pain for no apparent reason may be suffering from bloat or from a number of unrelated conditions. Unfortunately, bloat is always a medical emergency. It is extremely important for all dog owners to recognize the signs of bloat. The first thing that most owners notice is a firm, hard, swollen abdomen and signs of obvious abdominal discomfort that come on suddenly. Retching and non-productive attempts to vomit are also common. Key signs may include one or more of the following:

  • Distended belly
  • Non-productive attempts to vomit
  • Retching
  • Restlessness; pacing
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal pain (looking at and biting at the belly; whimpering; abnormal peg-legged stance)
  • Depression
  • Lack of appetite
  • Rapid shallow breathing (tachypnea); difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
  • Profuse drooling/salivation (“frothing at the mouth”; usually indicates severe pain)
  • Pale to blue mucous membranes (gums; others)
  • Weak pulse
  • Rapid heart rate (tachycardia)
  • Abnormal heart rhythms (cardiac arrhythmias)
  • Collapse
  • Death

When a large, deep-chested dog is retching, restless, trying to vomit unproductively, painful and drooling, with a distended belly, he should be rushed to the closest veterinary hospital.

Dogs at Increased Risk

Middle aged to older, large and giant breed dogs with deep chests and of either gender are at the greatest risk of bloating, although any dog can be affected by this deadly condition. Purebred dogs seem to be at increased risk, and having a parent or sibling who has bloated also is associated with an increased chance of developing the disorder. Other predisposing factors include dogs with deep narrow chests, once-daily feeding, rapid eating, exercise soon after eating, consumption of large amounts of food or water at one sitting, stress, low body weight and fearful or timid temperaments. Breeds commonly affected include the Great Dane, Weimaraner, Saint Bernard, German Shepherd Dog, Gordon Setter, Irish Setter, Doberman Pinscher, Old English Sheepdog, Labrador Retriever, Irish Wolfhound, Great Pyrenees, Boxer, Collie, Bloodhound, Standard Poodle, Chinese Shar-Pei, Bassett Hound, Dachshund and Pekingese.

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