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Question:  What does it mean when a dog has bloated? And is it as dangerous as they make it out to be in the movies?

The most common signs of bloating are that your dog will begin to have non-productive retching or only producing variable amounts of stringy, foamy vomitus or drool. Often times these dogs are also very restless and cannot seem to get comfortable, and can be quite painful in the abdominal area.  Sometimes (but not always!) you can see that their abdomens look very large and bloated, hence the name.   Due to the close proximity of the stomach to the diaphragm, these dogs may show signs of respiratory distress, and may seem as if they cannot catch their breath, which will sometimes lead to your dog collapsing and not be able get up. The most common sequence of events leading to bloating is that the pet eats a meal and then soon after begins to play or rough-house, and then begins to exhibit the aforementioned signs shortly thereafter.

When a dog “bloats” it is an emergency and they should be seen by a veterinarian immediately, as time is truly of the essence in this disease process. Gastric Dilatation Volvuolous or “bloat” is a fairly common problem of large breed, deep-chested dogs such as Labrador Retrievers, Standard Poodles, German Shephard Dogs, Great Danes, and multiple others.  What actually happens is that the dog’s stomach flips around on itself anywhere from 90 to 360 degrees; when this happens not only are the contents of the stomach not able to get out into the intestines, but the blood supply to and from the stomach are also diminished.  Due to this twisting and lack of blood movement, the dogs enter into a state of shock wherein their bodies are unable to maintain proper blood pressure and blood flow to their bodies, which if left untreated is deadly.  Once the dog arrives to the hospital, the doctors will immediately start to give aggressive volumes of IV fluids and pain medications to help with the shock, however, until the pet is taken into surgery, he will remain in great danger.  Once in surgery, the doctors will manually untwist the stomach and then examine the tissues to ensure that the blood flow has returned and that the stomach tissue is healthy.  Sometimes the veterinarian will have to remove part of the stomach or even the spleen of the pet to ensure a full recovery.  Once the stomach is deemed healthy, the veterinarian will perform a procedure called a gastropexy, wherein they will attach the stomach to the dog’s body wall in the natural position, in an attempt to prevent the twisting from ever happening again.  The success rate of the surgery is very good, with almost 80-90% of the pets returning to a completely happy and healthy life!

Steven Berkowitz