Bloat is a condition that should not be confused with human bloating. We might feel uncomfortable and bloated after a heavy meal, it’s a feeling that will pass. For dogs, bloat is far more serious and can become life threatening.
Bloat is where a dog’s stomach fills with excess gas, fluid or foam. Often caused by a dog swallowing excess air or after eating a large meal, it’s more common in larger breeds with big barrel chests – but this is not a scientific fact and other breeds are certainly not immune.
How to recognise the signs of bloat
Bloat happens quickly – if it’s severe bloat can be fatal in just 30 minutes. The typical symptoms of bloat are:
- The abdomen becomes swollen and distended very quickly
- The dog vomits or attempts to vomit
- Loss of strength or collapse
When the stomach becomes enlarged there is a risk that the stomach may twist. When this happens the digestive process is blocked and the stomach will continue to swell, compressing the abdomen and causing shortness of breath. Blood vessels can also be affected by pressure, which can lead to collapse and rapid death.
If your dog displays symptoms of bloat you need to go straight to your vet. If the stomach hasn’t twisted it can be decompressed and your dog will quickly return to normal. However, a twisted stomach will most likely require surgical intervention to untwist and reposition the organ. Your vet will also check the condition of the stomach tissue for any signs of tearing or deprivation of blood.
The best rule is – rather like humans – don’t expect your dog to go for a really active walk straight after a meal. Allow two hours for digestion before a walk or agility class – when dogs run with a full stomach, the stomach swings and there is then the possibility of twisting. And don’t forget to leave some time before feeding after an energetic activity too.