14 Ways to Prevent Stomach Bloat in Dogs
A few years ago I lost Zoey, my Great Dane/black lab mix to bloat.
Unfortunately, with her being a mixed breed, I didn’t realize the risk factors for her, nor recognize the early warning signs.
I have done some research since and would like to share what I have found in order to help others prevent stomach bloat in their dogs, especially anxious dogs.
With this condition, prevention is the best hope. Once your dog has developed bloat, it may be too late to successfully treat and save her.
I’ll delve a little into the condition of bloat to explain what happens, but I would mostly like to stress the importance of what you can do to prevent bloat, especially if you have an anxious dog to begin with.
Table of Contents
What Causes Bloat in Dogs?
Bloat, also known as Gastric dilatation-volvulus, occurs when the sphincter between the esophagus and the stomach malfunctions and there is an obstruction of the outflow through the pylorus.
The pylorus is a small opening at the base of the stomach, allowing partially digested food to flow out to the duodenum. When this gets clogged for whatever reason, the food can’t pass through. With the malfunction of the sphincter closing off the other end, the stomach fills up with air.
The stomach may then torque or twist up to 360 degrees and the dog can’t throw up or otherwise relieve the condition.
The only hope of fixing the situation when it gets to this point is through aggressive surgery, and even then the outcome is not very promising. The best cure is prevention.
I don’t believe it’s 100% clear what exactly causes bloat for each dog. There are many possible causes ranging from excessive water intake and exercise to facing a stressful situation on a full stomach.
Anxious Dogs Are at Higher Risk
One thing I didn’t realize is that overly anxious dogs are at a higher risk of developing bloat than happy easy-going dogs.
My dog Zoey was rescued from a very abusive situation and pretty much lived at a high level of fear and anxiety, seemingly always waiting for something terrible to happen.
That, coupled with the fact that she was an older dog and had the deep chest of a Great Dane, made her highly susceptible to bloat.
Not all dogs have the propensity to fall victim to this condition. It is mainly seen in dogs with deep chests who may be underweight, older, fearful, or overly anxious.
Here are 14 steps on how to prevent bloat in dogs, especially anxious ones:
1. Don’t allow your dog to drink excessive water for an hour before or after a meal, but otherwise always have fresh water available.
2. Control your dog’s water intake on hot days. Some dogs will drink too much on their own. Only give them a few drinks at a time every few minutes.
3. Feed small portions of food two or three times a day. Feeding one large bowl of food once a day can cause some dogs to eat too fast, filling the stomach with not only food, but a lot of air.
4. Control rapid eating by putting a medium to large sized rock in with the food so your dog has to eat around it, but make sure its large enough that it is not eaten as well.
5. Don’t feed only dry food – add raw meat when possible.
6. When feeding dry food, look for a kibble that does not have fat as one of its first 4 ingredients and does not have citric acid as a preservative. If you can’t avoid the citric acid, do not add water to the kibble.
Wellness CORE Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food, Original Turkey & Chicken, 26-PoundsTaste of the Wild Dry Dog Food, Hi Prairie Canine Formula with Roasted Bison & Venison, 30-PoundsRachael Ray Nutrish Dry Dog Food, ‘Chicken & Vegetable Recipe’, 28-Pound
7. Also when feeding dry food, look for one that has rendered meat meal with bone product as one of the first 4 ingredients.
8. Feed a high quality diet.
Solid Gold Hund-N-Flocken Holistic Dry Dog Food, Lamb, Brown Rice & Pearled Barley, Adult DogsSolid Gold High Protein Holistic Dry Dog Food, Red Meat with Buffalo, Adult, 22lbGrain Free Dog Food – Natural Quality Protein Dry Dog Food with Vitamins and Minerals
9. Don’t elevate the food bowl. This is one I would have never thought of, but it seems to be a possible contributing factor in dogs that are possible candidates for developing bloat.
10. Avoid brewer’s yeast, alfalfa, or soybean products, because these can produce gas.
11. Promote good bacteria in your dog’s intestinal tract by supplementing with probiotics such as acidophilus.
Probiotics for Dogs and Cats – Powder for Digestion, Diarrhea ReliefLuvMe Probiotics for Dogs Canine Total Health Formulated with CFU’sPet Ultimates Probiotics for Dogs, 137 grams Ultra ConcentratedProbiotic Miracle Dog Probiotics for Dogs (360 servings)
12. Some people also believe it helps to give a bloat-susceptible dog 1Tbs of apple cider vinegar after each meal to aid in digestion.
13. Avoid subjecting your fearful or anxious dog to highly stressful situations if at all possible. If you can’t avoid such things as trips to the veterinarian or boarding your dog or changing your dog’s routine, try to make it as low-key as possible.
To help calm your anxious dog, try using something like a Thundershirt during times of stress. Also, Rescue Remedy may help calm your dog.
14. Keep a product containing simethicone on hand to give to your dog at the first sign of gas such as belching more than twice. This would be a product like Gas-X, Phazyme or Mylanta Gas (must be for gas, not regular Mylanta).
Which Breeds Are Most Susceptible
Deep-chested dogs of the breeds of Great Dane, Doberman, German Shepherd, Weimaraner, Gordon and Irish Setters, Rottweiler and even the Basset Hound are most susceptible to bloat.
Just to be clear, though, not every dog of these breeds is susceptible to bloat. However, dogs with deep, narrower chests than others of the breed seem to be at more risk.
Symptoms of Bloat in Dogs
Catching a dog showing the first symptoms of bloat can possibly save its life.
If you notice your dog belching several times, throwing up repeatedly, acting uncomfortable or attempting to poop without results, she could be starting to bloat. If you suspect symptoms of bloat in your dog, get that dog to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Other signs may include:
- Salivating excessively
- Looking for a place to hide
- Standing in a 4-legged spread eagle kind of stance
- Trying but unable to vomit
If surgery is necessary, your dog has a better chance at survival if caught early. The stomach can then be tacked to the wall of the abdomen (gastropexy) to prevent it from flipping back over.
One thing you can do to determine if there is anything going on in your dog’s stomach is to put your ear against her side and listen. If you hear absolutely no gut noise, that’s not a good sign.
Normally, a dog will have some noise going on all the time in their stomachs. Not hearing anything could mean it’s filling up with air.
Even having a stethoscope on hand is a good idea. You’ll be able to hear your dog’s stomach better that way.
In later stages, your dog’s stomach will actually enlarge and feel like a basketball full of air. Death usually comes within hours.
Don’t Panic if You Own a Deep-Chested Dog, But Be Aware
I don’t want to create a sense of fear among dog owners, but rather a sense of awareness.
Although these deep-chested breeds are at higher risk than other breeds, any fearful or anxious dogs within these breeds are certainly more susceptible to developing bloat.
All of these precautions should be taken for these dogs if at all possible. For any dog, it is always best to create a peaceful, calm environment whenever possible to ensure a well-balanced, happy, and healthy existence.
Remember, we are the stewards of these wonderful animals who love us unconditionally. Prevention of stomach bloat in these high-risk breeds is far better than trying to cure it with surgery when it might be too late.
(I am not a pet health care professional. I have worked with dogs for many, many years and speak from my own experience and research. The information in this post is not meant to replace any advice from professionals, but merely to help you with your own research. If you suspect your dog may be showing signs of bloat, please seek out your veterinarian immediately.)