Bloat in dogs

Risk of bloat is correlated to chest conformation. Dogs with a deep, narrow chest ó very tall, rather than wide ó

suffer the most often from bloat.  Great Danes, who have a high height-to-width ratio, are five-to-eight times

 more likely to bloat than dogs with a low height-to-width ratio. In addition to Great Danes,

 large- or giant-breed dogs at greatest risk include St. Bernards, Weimaraners, Irish Setters and

Gordon Setters, Standard Poodles, and Doberman Pinschers. Males are twice as likely to bloat as females.

 Neutering or spaying has no effect on risk.

If a dog has relatives (parents, siblings, or offspring) who have suffered from bloat, there is a higher

 chance he will develop bloat. These dogs should not be used for breeding. Certain dietary ingredients have

been blamed over the years, but the data is inconclusive. This is because most large-breed dogs are fed

 a cereal-based diet, so making a statement that those diets are to blame is difficult.

However, we do know that foods containing soybean meal or having oils or fats in the first four

 ingredients increase the risk by fourfold.

Over the years, I have seen studies that show that food bowls on the floor cause more cases of bloat,

but a few years later this was debunked,  and elevated food bowls are now known to be just as much of a risk.

With these conflicting results, a solid recommendation canít be made.

Dogs fed one meal a day are twice as likely to bloat as those fed two meals a day. Rate of

 eating is also a contributor. Fast eaters have five times the risk than dogs that are slow eaters.

Using bowls with fingers (or center posts) or putting  large rocks in the bowl slows dogs down

physically, but itís also important to address the anxiety that comes with feeding around other dogs,

because that can be a risk factor. Stressed dogs and those that are hyperactive are more likely to bloat.

 Separating dogs at feeding times may help reduce anxiety and stress surrounding food.

Unhappy or fearful dogs are twice as likely to bloat as those that are happy.

A recent trend is to perform a preventive surgical gastropexy on an at-risk dog. Often performed when

a dog is sterilized, some  veterinarians now do this procedure laparoscopically to reduce the invasiveness.

Unfortunately, the hardest part is determining which  dogs are at a high enough risk to warrant this surgery.

It could be said that all the above-mentioned breeds should have this surgery performed.

We just donít know if it is cost-effective. Consult with your veterinarian about this option.

We canít prevent all cases of bloat, but by implementing some of the above techniques, you may be able to reduce

your dogís risk. If your dog shows signs of bloat, take him to a veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic immediately.

Originally published in AKC Family Dog



With your new knowledge of bloat (GDV), you can see why itís imperative to quickly identify bloat symptoms should they occur. While the condition typically takes several hours to become critical, cases have been reported where a fatality occurred in 20 minutes.

The following symptoms are signs that your Dane may have developed bloat. In the event that these appear, you should immediately take them to your veterinarian or nearest emergency clinic for treatment.

Phase 1

Pacing, panting, and salivating

Attempts to vomit

Visible enlargement of the stomach/abdomen

Phase 2

Pacing, panting, and salivating

Attempts to vomit every 2-3 minutes

Continued enlargement of the stomach/abdomen and feels tight to the touch

Gums turn dark red in color

High heart rate ~200 beats per minute

Phase 3

Gums transition to white or blue in color

The dog is very shaky while standing, or potentially unable to stand

Stomach/abdomen and feels hard to the touch

Further escalated heart rate

Whimpering or other sounds indicating pain

As previously noted, symptoms typically take 1-3 hours to transition from phase 1 to phase 3. However, you should seek immediate care as soon as a case of bloat is suspected.



Wait at least one hour after eating or drinking to engage in exercise

Provide food in 2-3 meals throughout the day rather than a single large meal

Utilize slow feed bowls to prevent the guzzling of food if your Dane is a fast eater

Offer water at all times Ė by offering water at all times you limit their desire to quickly drink large amounts of water

Avoid teaching or encouraging your Dane to roll over, particularly around mealtimes. Although itís considered a low-risk movement, the twisting motion is considered a factor in causing bloat


In addition to the non-surgical approaches, there is also a surgery known as a gastropexy that you may elect to have done. Gastropexy is a surgical procedure where the outside lining of the stomach is attached to the body wall.

While this does not completely prevent the stomach from rotating, it does help limit movement and therefore lowers the risk. Gastropexies should be considered a preventative surgery and not a full-proof approach.

As with all surgical procedures, there are risks to balance with the potential benefits. Complications can arise from anesthesia, the surgery itself, or infection afterward, and are all things to take into consideration.

Some veterinarians are prone to recommend for high-risk breeds like Great Danes while others believe that the risks outweigh the benefits. This is a conversation that you and your family should have with your respective veterinarian to understand their opinion on