Bloat in Dogs: Signs, Causes, and Prevention

dog at vet

Written by Niccoy Walker

Published: December 27, 2022

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Feeling bloated is a natural and normal part of human life. And like their human family members, dogs can also experience bloating. But there is a very big difference between human and dog bloat. Bloat in dogs can be extremely serious, and even life-threatening if left untreated. If you suspect your dog is bloated, seek medical help immediately. Learn about the signs, causes, prevention, and treatment of dog bloating.

What Triggers Bloat in Dogs?

Dog laying down on floor

Bloating is a medical emergency in dogs. Some factors like age, weight, and breed increase the likelihood of bloat.


Bloating is when food or gas stretches the stomach, cutting off blood flow to the abdomen. This can cause death to the stomach and other organs and even cause breathing troubles when the pressure becomes too great and obstructs the diaphragm. In extreme cases, bloat can lead to gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV), where the stomach twists and fills with gas. GDV is an extreme medical emergency and a very painful experience for any dog. If left untreated, dogs with GDV can die within 30 minutes to a few hours.

Bloat can occur in any dog, and researchers don’t know exactly what causes it. But some factors can increase the likelihood of bloat.

  • Deep-chested dogs, like great danes and poodles
  • Older dogs
  • Dogs that weigh over 100 pounds
  • Eating or drinking too much too quickly
  • Being active right after eating
  • Eating from an elevated position
  • Eating dry dog food with large amounts of fat and oil

What Does Bloat in Dogs Look Like (Signs and Symptoms)?

An anxious looking brown and black dog wrapped in an orange blanket

Look for signs and symptoms, such as dry-heaving, swelling of the abdomen, anxiety, and restlessness.

©Lindsay Helms/

You may be alarmed to know that bloat is a serious medical condition. Thankfully, the signs and symptoms are pretty obvious and easy to spot.

  • Retching and dry-heaving without vomiting or belching
  • Sudden swelling in the abdomen (this sign may not be evident in the early stages of bloat)
  • Extreme anxiety and restlessness. You may notice them moving around the room unable to get comfortable.
  • Visibly in pain. They may pull back from you or whine
  • Pale gums
  • They may get in a downward pose where their upper half is close to the ground, and the lower half is in the air.
  • Panting and drooling
  • In severe cases, they may experience shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat, and even collapse

How Can I Relieve My Dog’s Bloating?

Veterinarian examining dog.

If you suspect your dog has bloat, take them to the vet immediately. Do not try to help them with home remedies.


If your dog is experiencing any of the above signs and symptoms, you must take them for immediate medical care. Even if you suspect it is only simple bloat and not GDV, they will still need to be monitored by a veterinarian.

How Do Vets Diagnose Bloat?

Your vet can most likely tell that your dog has bloat by simply looking at their abdomen and noticing their anxious behavior. But they will perform tests to confirm. A blood test will give them a snapshot of your dog’s overall health, and an abdominal X-ray will show the severity of the condition. The X-ray will confirm if your dog has simple bloat, where the stomach is filled with food or gas, or if it has progressed to GDV, where the stomach has twisted.

Bloat treatment in Dogs

Dogs with bloat will need to be admitted to the hospital and placed on IV fluids and medication. For cases of simple bloat, they will be monitored and walked regularly to encourage the passage of gas. Dogs with GDV will need more intensive care, such as a procedure to relieve the gas, an electrocardiogram to monitor their heart function, and surgery to untwist the stomach, possibly removing portions that are dead. Recovery from GDV surgery typically lasts two to three days as long as there are no complications.

Can Bloat Resolve Itself in Dogs?

Some simple bloat cases can resolve by themselves. But they will still need to be monitored and have their food and water restricted.

How To Prevent Bloat in Dogs

Golden retriever eating from dog bowl

Provide small, frequent meals, avoid elevated food bowls, and limit their water intake.


Bloat may sound scary to a pet parent, but there are ways to prevent or lessen the likelihood of bloat in dogs.

  • Provide small meals a few times a day versus one big meal. The idea is to keep them from scarfing down food.
  • Don’t leave large amounts of food accessible to your dog, such as open dog food bags.
  • Find dry dog food without fat and oil as the main ingredients.
  • Avoid elevated food bowls unless instructed by your vet
  • Don’t allow them to gorge themselves when drinking water
  • Wait one hour after eating or drinking before exercising or playing
  • Some breeds are more prone to bloat than others. You may want to ask your vet about preventative surgeries.

*Note: AZ Animals does not attempt to give medical or veterinarian advice. Be sure to speak with your vet about any health concerns you have about your dog and get them emergency care if you suspect they have bloat.

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals, and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Metropolitan State University in Denver. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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