Dog bloat is a life-threatening emergency in which a dog’s stomach bloats and twists on its axis, cutting off the stomach’s inflow and outflow. The bloated stomach pressures the surrounding tissues and blood vessels, causing necrosis and faulty blood circulation. 

Bloat in dogs is medically known as gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV). Gastric dilatation refers to stomach bloat, and volvulus refers to twisting. 

A twisted stomach in dogs is more common in middle-aged, large, and giant breeds with deep chests. Other contributing factors include swallowing air, eating too fast, exercising after mealtime, number of meals a day, type of food, and stress. 

A puppy bloated belly is one of the first signs of gastric dilatation and volvulus. Abdominal pain, retching, drooling, labored breathing, increased heart rate, and restlessness are signs and symptoms of dog bloat. 

Feed the dog smaller meals frequently, reduce stress, avoid exercise before and after mealtime, and consider gastropexy surgery to prevent dog bloat. Gastropexy surgery stitches the dog’s stomach to the intestinal wall to stop dog bloat. Gastropexy is often done when the dog is getting neutered.

At-home remedies, supplements, and medications do not help treat bloat in dogs. Home treatment of dog bloat delays necessary treatment and increases the risk of the dog dying. A dog with GDV requires immediate veterinary care and stomach decompression followed by surgery to reposition the stomach. 

What is Bloat in Dogs?

Bloat in dogs is a life-threatening condition in which the dog’s stomach fills with gas, fluid, or food, bloats, and twists on its axis. The twisted stomach traps the stomach content and prevents normal blood flow. The medical term for dog bloat is gastric dilatation and volvulus, or GDV. 

Dilatation refers to bloating, and volvulus refers to twisting or rotation. The dog’s stomach typically twists or rotates clockwise, called volvulus. 

Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) are common in middle-aged, deep-chested, large, and giant breeds. Predisposed breeds include Poodles, Irish Wolfhounds, Doberman Pinschers, and Old English Sheepdogs. Dog bloat occurs in all dogs and breeds. 

Dog bloat in a small breed  was first documented in a 2015 case report, “Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus in Shih-Tzu.” The dog with the bloat was a 17-year-old and spayed Shih-Tzu. 

Dog bloat is excruciating and evolves quickly. Dogs with GDV require emergency veterinary care, and without treatment, the condition is fatal within hours. 

Why Most Dogs Get Bloated?

Dogs get bloated as a result of several risk factors working together. Twisted stomach in dogs or “Gastric dilatation-volvulus in dogs is a fatal condition with a familial predisposition, thoracic depth/width ratio, dietary factors, fearful temperament, and stressful events.” according to the New Zealand Veterinary Journal paper titled “Gastric dilatation-volvulus in dogs” in 2003. 

The pathophysiology of a twisted stomach in dogs involves a cascade of events starting with stomach bloating. The stomach bloat triggers dilatation and volvulus, which occur quickly. Each event triggers the next cascade. 

Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) causes the stomach to fill with gas, fluid, or food, leading to distension. The stomach then twists or rotates between 90° and 360° around its axis, formed by the esophagus and the duodenum’s two fixed attachment points. 

The twisting cuts off stomach inflow and outflow, contributing to swelling and dilatation. The bloated stomach puts extra pressure on the abdominal blood vessels, predominantly the vena cava, decreases blood return to the heart, and impairs normal blood supply. 

The GDV chain of events results in hypotension or low blood pressure, ischemia and necrosis of the stomach, and shock. Internal organ damage is possible. Considering the close connection between the stomach and the spleen, the rotation often involves the spleen, causing a lack of blood supply and necrosis. 

Topics in Companion Animal Medicine issued a study, “Cardiovascular and systemic effects of gastric dilatation and volvulus in dogs” in 2014. The study authors concluded that “Gastric dilatation and volvulus in dogs can lead to multiple organ dysfunction syndrome.”

Can a Dog Still Poop while Bloated?

A dog can still poop in the early stages of bloating or GDV. The dog’s intestines are filled with content when gastric dilatation and volvulus occur, and that content transforms into poop and gets eliminated. 

Dogs are unable to poop in the middle to late stages of bloat. The dog’s ability to poop in the early GDV stages is not a sign the dog does not have GDV.

A dog with suspected gastric dilatation and volvulus requires immediate veterinary attention. No dog bloat home remedy options, medications, or supplements are effective for treating the GDV at home. 

What Causes Dog Bloat?

The causes of dog bloat are listed below. 

  • Breed: Bloat develops frequently in large and giant dog breeds with deep chests. “Selective breeding of Irish setters with lower thoracic depth/width ratios reduce the incidence of gastric dilatation-volvulus, potentially benefiting the breed,” according to the  Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association in the paper published a paper, “Predisposition to gastric dilatation-volvulus to the genetics of thoracic conformation in Irish setters,” in 1997. Breeds commonly affected by dog bloat include Irish Wolfhounds, Great Danes, Boxers, German Shepherds, Poodles, Weimaraners, Saint Bernards, Old English Sheepdogs, and Doberman Pinschers. 
  • Genetics: Genetics is the cause of dog bloat. Genetics determines the breed and affects the dog’s lineage. For example, a dog is at a higher-than-average risk of developing GDV if it has ancestors with the same condition. A dog with a first-degree relative with a history of GDV is a significant risk factor for dog bloat, according to The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association in the study, “Non-dietary risk factors for gastric dilatation-volvulus in large and giant breed dogs,” 2000. 
  • Swallowing Air: A leading cause of dog bloat is swallowing too much air. The air fills the stomach, resulting in severe distension. Dogs swallow air when gorging on food and exercising vigorously immediately after eating. Fast eating results in gulping down huge amounts of air along with the food, causing distension or bloating of the stomach. Some dogs are inclined to eat fast, described as voracious eaters, while others eat fast when scared someone is going to steal the food, which is associated with previous trauma. The mechanism is similar to when the dog is active after eating. 
  • Number of Meals: Eating one large meal daily increases the risk of gastric dilatation and volvulus in dogs. Eating one large meal distends the stomach, increasing the risk of GDV, while small, frequent meals are easier on the dog’s stomach and do not trigger excessive distension. 
  • Type of Food: There is a connection between the dog’s food type and gastric dilatation and volvulus development. For example, bloat is more common in dogs eating strictly dry food. GDV is more likely in dogs eating table scraps, too. Table scraps are very nutrient-dense, resulting in gas formation that distends the dog’s stomach and causes bloating.  
  • Older Age: Gastric dilatation and volvulus appear to be more common in older dogs. The exact reason is unknown, but scientists believe that the increased risk of dog bloat is associated with older dogs’ weaker and looser ligaments and muscles holding the stomach in position. The weak attachment of the stomach results in easier stretching and rotation. 
  • Stress and Anxiety: Stress plays an important role in developing bloat in dogs. Anxious dogs eat faster, resulting in swallowing air and an increased risk of GDV. The Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association published a study titled “Incidence of and breed-related risk factors for gastric dilatation-volvulus in dogs” in 2000. The study included 1914 dogs and found that happiness is a “breed-specific characteristic that significantly reduces the risk” of bloat.  

What Are the Signs of Bloat in Dogs?

The signs of bloat in dogs are listed below. 

  • Distended Abdomen: A visibly distended or bloated abdomen is a sign of gastric dilatation-volvulus or bloat in dogs, but it is not specific. Many health issues, such as ascites, internal bleeding, and Cushing’s syndrome, cause abdominal distension. Call the vet immediately if the dog’s abdomen looks bigger than normal. 
  • Dry Heaving or Retching: Dry heaving or retching is the term used to describe unsuccessful vomiting attempts. The dog tries to vomit  to feel better, but does not vomit. Retching is a dog bloat symptom. 
  • Excess Drooling: Dry heaving or retching is accompanied by hypersalivation or excess drooling, which is a sign of bloat in dogs. The vomiting reflex is associated with increased saliva production regardless of whether the dog vomits.
  • Abdominal Pain and Cramping: Bloat in dogs is painful, and dogs express pain uniquely. Some dogs whine and crouch and are sensitive if touched on the abdomen, while in other dogs, it is possible to see the stomach clenching and hear cramping sounds. 
  • Difficulty Breathing: Heavy breathing is a sign of bloat in dogs. The distended abdomen puts extra pressure on the diaphragm, resulting in heavy breathing. The pain and discomfort contribute to labored breathing. 
  • Increased Heart Rate: Elevated heart rate is a sign of bloat in dogs. The stomach pressuring the large blood vessels in the abdomen impairs normal blood flow, leading to increased heart rate. The heart starts pumping faster to compensate for the lack of blood volume and achieve proper blood supply. 
  • Pacing and Restlessness: Bloat causes pacing and restlessness in dogs. The pain and discomfort cause the behavior, a sign of bloat. Pacing and restlessness are coping mechanisms and are strikingly easy to notice.

When to See Your Vet Regarding Dog’s Bloat?

See your vet regarding a dog’s bloat when a worrisome symptom manifests. Dogs develop shock quickly in the gastric dilatation and volvulus timeline, and some dogs die in a matter of hours. 

Gastric dilatation and volvulus are life-threatening emergencies, and they are the second leading killer for dogs besides cancer, according to Xun Xin-Guo, in the paper “Risk Factors and Prevention of Canine Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus” (2011).

Do not practice the “wait and see approach” when dealing with the puppy-bloated belly scenario. Call the veterinarian, and if there is no immediate spot, take the dog to the nearest emergency veterinary clinic. 

How Long Does Bloat in Dogs Last?

Bloat in dogs lasts from a few moments to several days, depending on the situation’s complexity. 

“Bloats without torsion can last for minutes to hours, even days in low-level chronic situations, without it becoming life-threatening. But with torsion, the dog can progress to shock rapidly, even within minutes,” according to Alicia Faggella DVM, DACVECC, a board-certified specialist in veterinary emergency and critical care.

Dilatation and torsion (twisting of the stomach) are life-threatening, but the timeline for bloat without volvulus or twisting to get critical is longer. Do not wait for the bloat to progress; seek veterinary care immediately. 

There is no natural remedy for dog bloat, and prompt veterinary diagnosis and aggressive treatment are the only life-saving options. 

What Relieves Bloating Fast in Dogs?

Inserting a stomach tube helps relieve bloating fast in dogs. In some cases, the vet is able to pass an orogastric tube through the dog’s mouth and into the stomach. 

The accumulated gas or liquid is expelled through the tube, decompressing the stomach and sometimes resulting in derotation. Decompression is achievable through percutaneous trocharization or puncturing the skin, abdominal wall, and stomach with a large-bore needle. 

Stomach decompression, derotation, or untwisting are first aid, not permanent solutions. First aid stabilizes a dog with bloat, making the surgery simpler and safer. 

A dog with bloat relieved with a tube still needs surgery because the impaired blood supply has caused damage to the stomach and surrounding tissues. Some dogs experience shock, too, which does not resolve once the stomach is decompressed and derotated. 

Is Dog Bloat Treatment at Home Possible?

No, an at-home dog bloat treatment is not possible. No medication, supplement, or remedy helps treat the condition at home. 

Light exercise, a bland diet, adding pumpkin to meals, and using digestive health-boosting supplements are often recommended treatments for dog bloat. Exercise, dietary changes, and digestive health-boosting supplements reduce the risk of GDV, but once bloat occurs, at-home treatment is not an option.  

Attempting to manage GDV at home makes the situation worse. Dog bloat is an emergency; time is essential when treating a dog with a bloated and twisted stomach. Trying home remedies delays proper veterinary treatment, which is often fatal.  

Do Dogs with Bloat Still Eat and Poop?

No, dogs with bloat do not eat and poop. Small food consumption and some pooping are possible but only in the early stages of the gastric dilatation and volvulus problem. 

The dog stops eating and pooping in the middle and advanced stages of GDV. No eating and pooping is not a specific sign of bloat in dogs but warrants a vet visit. There is no dog bloat home remedy.  

What are Treatments for Dogs with Severe Bloat?

The treatments for dogs with severe bloat are listed below. 

  • First Aid and Stabilization: The first dog bloat treatment step is stabilization, which includes various approaches and medications such as gastric decompression, intravenous fluids, opioid analgesia, broad-spectrum antibiotics, antiarrhythmics, and oxygen therapy. Stabilizing the dog before the surgery increases the chance of a positive outcome. 
  • Surgical Correction: The dog bloat surgery has three goals, including repositioning the stomach, evaluating the abdomen, and performing a right-sided gastropexy. The veterinarian must return the rotated stomach to the normal anatomical position and evaluate the stomach and surrounding tissues. Partial removal of the stomach (gastric resection) is recommended if there is necrotic tissue, and splenectomy or removal of the spleen is required if the spleen is extensively damaged. The final step is right-sided gastropexy or pexy. Gastropexy is a procedure in which the stomach is stitched to the right wall of the abdomen to prevent future volvulus. According to VCA Hospitals, “gastropexy reduces the risk of recurrence from 55% to only 4%.” 
  • Post-Surgical Care: Dog bloat post-operative recovery lasts around 14 days, according to “Gastric dilatation and volvulus (bloat) – A case report and mini review of literature,” 2021. Careful monitoring and temporary dog hospitalization are vital during the recovery period. “Intensive postoperative management of dogs with gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) is crucial for survival, focusing on maintaining tissue perfusion and early identification of complications,” according to the Topics in Companion Animal Medicine study, “Postoperative management of dogs with gastric dilatation and volvulus,” 2014.

How to Prevent Bloat in Dogs?

To prevent bloat in dogs follow the steps below.

  1. Change the Feeding Regimen. Small changes in the dog’s daily feeding regimen help significantly reduce the risk of bloat. Serve frequent but smaller meals instead of one large meal. Keep the dog food and water bowl at ground level rather than using elevated bowls to prevent bloat in dogs. 
  2. Slow Down Mealtime. Quick stomach distension increases the dog bloat hazard, and slowing down mealtime helps prevent the problem. Use a slow-feeding bowl to ensure the dog does not gulp on kibble or wet food. Separating the dogs during mealtime is recommended if living in a multi-pet household. Dogs afraid of food stealing are naturally urged to eat faster.  
  3. Limit Exercise After Eating. Keep the dog calm and avoid strenuous physical activity for at least one or two hours after eating. Physical activity in dogs is accompanied by swallowing air, which, combined with the food already in the stomach, contributes to dilation. Exercise the dog on an empty stomach and enforce rest time after meals to prevent bloat in dogs. 
  4. Minimize Stress Triggers. Stress is a significant dog bloat risk factor. Prevent bloat in dogs by minimizing anxiety. Manage stress through training (counterconditioning and desensitization) and calming supplements like CBD oil and pheromones. 
  5. Consider Gastropexy. Gastropexy is a surgical procedure and the most effective means of preventing GDV. The surgery entails suturing the stomach to the abdominal wall and disabling twisting. Gastropexy is usually done when untwisting the stomach, but many vets recommend performing a preventive gastropexy at the time of spaying/neutering in high-risk breeds expected to develop GDV at a certain point. 

Is it Possible for Dogs to Aquire Bloat Externally?

No, it is not possible for dogs to acquire bloat externally. Gastric dilatation and volvulus happen internally in the dog when the stomach fills with gas or liquid, bloats, and twists on its axis. 

The risk factors contributing to dog bloat are sometimes external. For example, stress predisposes dogs to bloat, and a stressful environment is easily considered an external factor. 

Can you use CBD Oil to Treat Dog Bloat?

No, you cannot use CBD oil to treat dog bloat. CBD oil is not effective in treating bloated dogs. Surgery is the golden standard for gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) treatment. 

CBD oil helps prevent dog bloat. Daily CBD oil use eases anxiety and calms hyper dogs down, helping with stress and fast eating. Stress and fast eating (followed by swallowing air) are important risk factors for GDV.    

CBD oil use is beneficial for dogs following GDV surgery, too. CBD efficiently manages pain and calms the dog during the post-surgical cage rest period. 

How Much CBD Oil Can I Administer to My Dog with Bloat?

You must not administer CBD oil to your dog with bloat. Bloat is a life-threatening emergency in dogs and requires stabilization of the dog followed by a surgical procedure. Giving CBD oil to a dog with bloat is not helpful. 

CBD oil, however, is perfect for daily use in healthy dogs, and regular supplementation helps support digestive health, hence in some cases, reducing the risk of bloat and other stomach problems. 

The recommended CBD dose for dogs is between 1 and 5 mg per 10 pounds of body weight. Always start with a smaller dose, around 0.1 to 0.2 mg per pound, and gradually increase the dose to minimize the risk of side effects. 

Consult the vet before starting to supplement dogs with hemp-sourced CBD products, and  calculate CBD dosage for dogs to determine the best starting amount. 

Is CBD Oil Safe for Dogs?

Yes, CBD oil is safe for dogs. Hemp-sourced, THC-free CBD oil explicitly formulated for pets is secure for dogs of all sizes and puppies over four months. CBD is safe when used with the vet’s approval and following the manufacturer’s instructions. 

CBD is “well tolerated in clinically healthy dogs for six months,” according to a Frontiers in Veterinary Science study titled “Long-term daily feeding of cannabidiol is well-tolerated by healthy dogs” 2022.

The same was confirmed in the paper “Scientific Validation of Cannabidiol for Management of Dog and Cat Diseases,” published in 2023 in Annual Reviews of Animal Biosciences. The paper concluded that CBD Oil for dogs has “good bioavailability and safety profile with few side effects.”

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Ivana Crnec, DVM