Canine Bloat

Canine Bloat is a life-threatening pet emergency with a 50% mortality rate.  Canine Bloat, a.k.a gastric dilation and volvulus, is when the stomach distends (expands) with gas and fluid causing serious abdominal pain.  Volvulus (meaning rotation) is when the stomach literally twists and rotates on itself blocking off blood supply and occluding exits for the gas within.  Other serious conditions bloat can cause are: acute dehydration, bacterial septicemia (life-threatening bacterial infection), tissue necrosis (tissue death), shock and cardiac arrhythmia (abnormal heart rate). 

Without immediate treatment canine bloat is a very serious condition that can lead to a painful death within hours.  Every dog owner, no matter what breed you have, should know the warning signs and symptoms for this serious condition.


The initial symptoms of bloat can include, but are not limited to:

  • Distended stomach
  • Pacing
  • Hyper-salivation
  • Labored breathing
  • Lethargy
  • Whining or acting as if in pain
  • Retching with little to no food coming up

If your pet shows any combination of these symptoms, especially after eating, proceed to your veterinarian immediately!  Retching with lack of substance is a very serious symptom and should not be taken lightly.  If this symptom occurs it is considered an emergency.  DO NOT HESITATE; TAKE YOUR DOG TO THE NEAREST VETERINARIAN. 

Most Common Breeds & Risk Factors

Any dog can bloat however deep chested dogs are at a much higher risk.  Owners of Great Danes, St. Bernards, Mastiffs, Greyhounds and dogs with similar thoracic anatomies should be on the lookout for the symptoms listed above.  Other factors increasing a pets risk for bloat include:

  • weighing over 100 pounds
  • eating only one meal per day
  •  family history of bloat
  • rapid eating
  • no water before or after meals
  • excessive water after meals
  • underweight dogs
  • feeding dog food that lists animal fat within the first four ingredients
  • fearful, anxious or aggressive temperaments
  • males and senior dogs. 

Factors that decrease risk for bloat include:

  • happy demeanor
  • eating dry food high in meat meal
  •  no exercise for at least 30 minutes following a meal
  •  eating 2 or more smaller meals per day


If you own a dog with a high risk for bloat, gastropexy surgery is an option.  There are many different types of gastropexy surgeries; however the most common is the “Linear Gastropexy.”  During this procedure, our veterinarian will use a surgical laser to cut an incision into the stomach and another into the abdominal muscles.  They will then suture the stomach lining into the abdominal wall in order to create a stable connection.  Your pet will still be able to bloat after this surgery; however, the stomach will not be able to twist.

In the unfortunate event that your dog does bloat, immediately bring your pet in to our animal hospital in Fort Collins.  Once arriving, the veterinarian will palpate (feel) your pet’s stomach to see if it is hollow and distended.  X-rays on your dog are a common diagnostic tool used to confirm this condition.  Once the diagnosis is confirmed, our doctor and team of veterinary technicians will decompress the stomach and put your pet on IV fluids in order to reverse the shock your pet is in.  They will then assess your pet’s heart rhythm and determine whether your pet is stable or not.  After stabilization, your pet may need to do undergo exploratory and gastropexy surgery.  During the exploratory part of this surgery, our veterinarian will assess the internal damage and take out any dead tissue.  They will then perform a gastropexy in order to assure there will be no twisting of the stomach if your dog experiences bloat again.  Gastropexy is a very important part of this visit because statistics show that without this procedure the re-occurrence of bloat (even within the next few hours) is 75%.

Early detection and prevention of bloat are key to your pet’s survival.  If you have any questions please contact Aspen Grove Vet Care at 970-416-0232.  

Back to Blog