Formally known as gastric dilation and volvulus, canine bloat is always a veterinary emergency. Gastric dilation refers to a buildup of gas or air in the stomach, while volvulus means stomach rotation. Without swift treatment, a dog will die if his stomach twists, cutting off the blood supply to his internal organs. Bloat can strike anywhere, anytime leaving your previously healthy dog at death's door just hours after symptoms appear. Only emergency surgery can save your dog if he experiences torsion, or stomach twisting. Seek immediate veterinary care if your dog is showing signs of bloat.
While any dog can experience bloat, it's more likely to occur in older, large breed dogs with deep chests, such as the Saint Bernard, Great Dane, Doberman pinscher and Weimaraner. The build of these dogs makes it easier for the stomach to twist. Risk factors include eating once daily, a dry food only diet, anxious or aggressive temperament, less than ideal weight and a canine family history of bloat. The condition occurs more often in males than females.
Signs of bloat include a distended stomach, which will cause your dog pain. He might constantly look at his stomach, as well as frequently lie down and get up again. You'll notice anxiety in his eyes. He may be restless and pacing. Inside, his stomach is filled with gas and stretching, expanding far beyond normal size. As it expands, it has the potential to twist, which stops gas from escaping via the rest of the intestinal tract as it would normally.
If your dog attempts to vomit, or retch, and nothing comes up, that's a bad sign. It's a classic indication of bloat, since his stomach is no longer capable of bringing forth its contents. Your dog might start dry heaving as he attempts to relieve his abdominal pain. He might start salivating excessively as well.
A dog suffering from bloat generally experiences a rapid and irregular heartbeat, accompanied by heavy panting, pale mucous membranes or shortness of breath. His body temperature drops significantly. An affected dog will often go into shock, or become weak and collapse. If not treated immediately, oxygen can no longer reach your dog's internal organs, and his kidneys and liver will fail. His whole gastrointestinal tract's lining could die off and shed. Toxins might start circulating throughout his bloodstream, with related bacteria causing blood poisoning. It's imperative to seek immediate veterinary care.