Bloating in Dogs and Cats

Image of Barrel-Chested Dog for Bloating in Dogs Post

Courtesy of Chris / Flickr

Human beings use the term “bloating” to describe the general feeling of satiety they experience after a large meal or a heavy drinking session. The actual medical condition is caused when the stomach is overfilled with fluid, air or food. Thanksgiving dinner and Oktoberfest are probably the two most common causes of human bloating. But for our furry friends, the condition is far more serious.

For domesticated dogs and cats, bloating is a potentially deadly disorder; stuffed with too much stuff, a distended stomach puts undue pressure on nearby organs and can cause a medical emergency.  In fact, between 25 to 40 percent of dogs with the condition die from it, and cats are not far behind. With this in mind, let us take a moment to discuss the disorder.

General Symptoms of Bloating in Dogs and Cats:

An enlarged stomach puts pressure on other organs, causing a decrease in blood supply to vital organs; it can also make it much harder for your pet to breath. Animal doctors refer to the condition as gastric dilation-volvulus (GDV) or gastric torsion, which is commonly referred to as “twisted stomach”. In extreme cases, it can result in death in only a few hours. But even if it is treated as soon as possible, the condition should be considered a medical emergency.

How to spot Bloating in Pets? Look for these common symptoms:

  • Swollen stomach
  • Repeated, unsuccessful attempts to regurgitate
  • Pallid gums
  • Lethargy
  • Drooling or excessive salivation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Low body temperature
  • Tachycardia (rapid heartbeat)
  • Fainting or collapse

What’s behind bloating in pets?

The cause of canine and feline bloating is currently unknown. Veterinarians are aware of the fact that the condition is generally the result of overindulgence in food, drink or air, but they do know why the disorder is so deadly for our pets. The common consensus has always been that early detection is not possible because dogs and cats cannot alert us of a serious problem; in fact, they often to try to hide their ailments from us until it’s too late. As a result, a poor pouch or pussycat often suffers from a serious bout of bloating for several hours before we notice unmistakable symptoms.

How is bloating in pets treated?

Because they know how serious it can be, veterinarians generally take X-rays of the abdomen when they believe bloating is involved. In most cases, they may be able to decompress a distended stomach, which can relieve gas or fluid pressure. However, when GDV is the diagnosis, the stomach has rotated and most be corrected immediately.

The only way to address torsion is with emergency surgery, which is both dangerous and fraught with potential post-surgical complications. Infection, shock, and heart damage kill most of the dogs and cats that are operated on for GDV.

At-Risk Breeds of Bloating:

Dogs and cats are opportunistic eaters, hence their tendency to overeat. Certain breeds, however, are more likely to engorge themselves whenever food is on hand. Dogs, in particular, are susceptible to this behavior, since they evolved as wild pack animals that ate whenever food was available. Canines with smaller or skinnier stomachs are more likely to suffer from both bloating and GDV than others. Chihuahuas and Greyhounds are the two breeds that are most likely to be struck with a bout of bloating; in other words, dogs that do not have deep and/or large body cavities are more likely to bloat.

Prevention of Bloating in Pets:

As with most veterinary issues, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The following tips should help you reduce the risk of bloating in your dog or cat.

  • Instead of two or three large meals, feed your pet several smaller ones throughout the day. This will prevent them from eating too much food too fast.
  • Keep a close eye on their waistlines. Overeating will stretch your pet’s stomach, allowing them to eat a lot more and increasing the odds of bloating.
  • Presoak meals before serving. This will prevent them from having to chew too much, which can cause them to swallow too much air.
  • Don’t put out too much water. Because they do not have nearly as many sweat glands as human beings, dogs will drink more than necessary if given the opportunity. This can cause bloating in short order. Therefore, you should always be mindful of the amount of H20 you serve your animal throughout the day.
  • Limit exercise or activity after large meals. When a dog or cat eats heartily, they may not take the time they need to properly digest their food. This can cause bloating or GDV in a matter of minutes, which is why you should not play with or walk your animal soon after mealtime.

Do you have any experiences with bloating in pets or GDV in dogs? Let us know by sharing in the comments section below. Thank you.

Leave a Reply