How to recognize bloat in your dog


Recently, one of my neighbors lost their beloved dog Callie to bloat (also known as torsion, gastric torsion, and gastric dilatation-volvulus or GDV). Most pet parents know that this is a serious condition, but may not know how to spot it early enough to increase the likelihood of recovery. Callie’s condition wasn’t caught in time to save her, but I hope that talking about what bloat looks like to us can help save other dogs.

The “TL;DR” Video

If you want a quick summary of how to recognize bloat, watch this video:

Symptoms of bloat

A hard, round stomach. Get to know what your dog’s tummy feels like when he’s feeling chipper, so it will be easier to recognize this telltale symptom of bloat.

Unproductive vomiting. When your dog’s stomach twists and pressure builds up, she’ll want to vomit but her stomach opening will be closed off.

Signs of discomfort. If your dog is anything like mine, he won’t show any sign of pain until it’s reached a fairly critical point. Restlessness, whimpering, and excessive drooling can all be signs that your dog is in distress.

Some breeds are more susceptible to bloat than others

Large, deep-chested breeds such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, and Labs are popular pets – and more likely to suffer from bloat than other breeds. If your dog fits this profile, ask your vet about bloat, what you can do to prevent it, and how best to get in touch with the closest animal hospital if you ever suspect bloat.

Preventing bloat

Eating too soon before or after exercise, eating a large meal of kibble, and feeding in a stressful atmosphere are all suspected of causing bloat. Alexandra McLaughry, DVM, recommends putting small amounts of kibble in each section of a muffin pan to slow eating and lower the risk of bloat. I’ve also found that Jake takes longer to eat his meals when I put several of his toys in his bowl – I always make sure they are large toys with no chance of being swallowed whole.


Go to the vet. Now. Don’t wait.

Jake is half Lab and half Standard Poodle – two breeds that are both at high risk for bloat. Callie’s passing reminded me that part of my job as a responsible caretaker for Jake is being alert to his canine body language. Catching bloat in time can save your dog’s life.


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