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Bloat in Dogs

Posted October 21, 2011 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Bloat is a serious and life-threatening disorder that occurs when a dog’s stomach becomes bloated because it’s full of food, foreign material, excess gas, fluid, or foam. It can happen very quickly and should be addressed as an emergency. Bloating is more common in large breeds that have a genetically inherited weakness in the ligament that holds the stomach in the correct position. It is often brought on by a dog gorging on large quantities of food.

Sometimes bloat can be complicated by a deadly condition called gastric dilation/volvulus (GDV) or “stomach twisting.”

If your dog is older or has a family history of bloat, he may be at greater risk for this disorder.

Larger-breed dogs, those that eat dry food, and ones that perform vigorous exercise are also at risk. Dogs with “barrel chests,” including the Afghan hound, basset hound, boxer, chow, collie, golden retriever, Great Dane, Irish setter, Labrador retriever, standard poodle, St. Bernard, and Weimaraner—as well as dogs of mixed breed that include one or more of these breeds—are also at risk for bloat or GDV. Make sure to keep your dog’s food under wraps to prevent accidental gorging.

If your four-legged friend has bloat or GDV, you may notice that she suddenly has a distended, swollen belly.

Other signs of bloat and GDV include:

  • Retching and nonproductive vomiting (i.e., failure to bring up any material other than small amounts of fluid or foam) 
  • Restlessness
  • Depression
  • Sudden weakness
  • Collapse
  • Pale mucous membranes
  • Cool extremities

Because bloat and GDV are life-threatening conditions, call your veterinarian immediately if you see any of these signs.


Only your veterinarian can determine if your dog is suffering from bloat or GDV. To confirm the diagnosis, your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam and obtain radiographs (x-rays). 

Additionally, if a surgical or anesthetic procedure is necessary, your veterinarian will recommend presurgical blood work.

This may include:

  • Urine tests to rule out urinary tract infection and to evaluate the ability of the kidneys to concentrate urine
  • Chemistry tests to evaluate kidney, liver and pancreatic function as well as sugar levels
  • A complete blood count to rule out blood-related conditions
  • Electrolyte tests to ensure your dog isn’t dehydrated or suffering from an electrolyte imbalance
  • Other specialized tests, such as lactate levels

If your veterinarian determines that your dog has bloat, they may perform a procedure that

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