So You Think You Know About Bloat?

*Reposted from 6/08

I thought I did. It’s the second leading cause of death among dogs, after all. I knew that a potentially fatal thing can happen when a dog’s stomach fills with gas and fluid, and that it’s often accompanied by gastric torsion—a twisting of the stomach. If the dog isn’t given emergency veterinary treatment in time, he will die. Bloat happens most often to deep-chested breeds, although the cause is still largely unknown. The warning signs include a stomach that’s bloated and hard, and dry heaving without the ability to vomit.

Well, that was the extent of my knowledge until a few short weeks ago when my own dog Mojo bloated. It was late afternoon on the Friday leading up to Memorial Day weekend. (There seems to be an unwritten rule that dog emergencies happen on holiday weekends and whenever else your vet is closed.) Mojo, my now 14 ½-year-old German shepherd/Rottie/Malamute/wolf mix, began pacing and whining. He vomited a little bit of white, foamy-looking stuff. I called the emergency vet, as my regular vet was already gone. The receptionist, after consulting with the vet on duty, told me to simply fast Mojo for twelve hours. Ten minutes later my husband came home from work and I told him what had happened, and that I was worried. As we were speaking, Mojo went outside and spewed a huge amount of that same white foam. We immediately rushed him to the nearest emergency clinic.

A tech took Mojo to the back room to be examined by the one vet on duty, who was busy trying to save another dog who was also having a very bad start to his weekend. The vet came out and told us that Mojo had bloated. I was floored—bloat had never even entered my mind. After all, he hadn’t been dry heaving; he’d actually been vomiting. But he was bloated, gastric torsion and all, and we were told that if emergency surgery was not performed immediately, he would die. The fee they quoted us was incredibly high and, as they warned, the aftercare was going to be very difficult. And he was fourteen-and-a-half. His chances of making it through the surgery were 50/50. Were we sure we wanted them to try to save him? Of course we were!

It was a very long and very difficult weekend, but thank goodness, Mojo pulled through. The first 72 hours after bloat surgery are critical, as many dogs develop heart arrhythmias during that time and die. Did I mention how long and difficult the weekend was? The following weeks involved, as promised, plenty of aftercare, but as my husband said, “He’s the Mighty Mojo Man, he’s a fighter.”

In the course of telling some of my dog training clients about the experience, I was shocked to realize how little people actually know about bloat. Most I spoke to hadn’t even heard of it. I am now on a mission to inform as many of my clients (as well as dog owners I encounter) about bloat, including the common warning signs, as well as the not-so-common ones.

If you’d like to research bloat for yourself, here are some links to get you started:

Mojo is laying at my feet as I finish typing this. He seems very happy to be at home where he surely must know how lucky and how loved he is.

*This blog first appeared in June ’08 on but I felt the subject was important enough to repost it here. Since then, Mojo has passed on, but he lived to be just shy of his 15th birthday. I miss him every day, and hope the information presented here will help your dogs to live long, healthy lives.

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7 Responses to So You Think You Know About Bloat?

  1. Don Gossett says:

    Another great blog and thank you for helping to raise awareness for this serious and life-treatening condition. As an owner of a large breed, I am always careful of limiting her activity after eating and fortuantely I’ve never had to confront bloat with my own dogs. Last year during vet checks of the wolves at the International Wolf Center, we had one wolf develope torsion during the check. The vet was present and was able to give quick treatment by inserting a stomach tube to decompress the stomach. An hour or so later, the wolf was up and moving as normal.

    • wildewmn says:

      Hi Don,

      Thanks for the comment. I’m constantly surprised at how many dog owners are completely unaware of bloat. I never thought it would happen to a dog of mine. It’s good that you’re being so careful. And what luck that if the wolf had to bloat a vet was on hand! What’s your affiliation with the Int’l. Wolf Center, are you on staff there? That’s one center I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting, hope to someday.

      • Don Gossett says:

        Hi Nicole,

        You are very much welcome for the comment. I always enjoy your writings so thought I would return the favor and send you some feedback on your wonderful blogs.

        I’m a volunteer at the IWC, helping to care for the resident wolves and educating the public about wolves.

        The torsion incident took place during the annual vet check of the wolves, so there happen to be a vet there that day for the examinations and shots.

        I’m sure everyone at the IWC would love to see you if you ever come up for a visit. When the public asks questions about wolfdogs, I refer them to the two books your wrote on the subject.

        Thanks for the reply.

        Happy Howls

    • Karen Fazio says:

      Congratulations on your blog. Thanks so much for reposting your original DSD blog on bloat. Since many of my clients’ dogs are deep chested breeds having more information on it is very helpful. And thanks for posting links as well!

  2. wildewmn says:

    Hi Don,

    Thanks for the book referrals! Love getting the education out there. That’s wonderful that you volunteer for IWC. Hopefully I will end up doing a seminar in that area at some point, if so I would love to visit the IWC. 🙂

  3. Abiectius says:

    I wish I’d found your blog back when you originally posted this article in ’08 instead of today. I’d heard about bloat in passing, but with it being such an innocuous word I never really thought about it until a crash course in it was foisted on me and my 14-15ish malamute/collie rescue in the middle of the night early in ’09. She survived the surgery, but her very slow recovery in ICU turned to an irreversible crash three days later, and there was nothing left to do but drive to the hospital to say goodbye to her.

    Naturally while sitting by the phone waiting for updates after her surgery I did a lot of reading online about the condition, and was kicking myself as I realized the symptoms I’d noticed as “something to keep an eye on” were dead giveaways. Instead, I kept watch over her, worried but figuring it could wait another 4 hours until my regular vet opened as long as it didn’t get worse. It wasn’t until she slipped into shock that I rushed her to the 24-hour ER, and the stress she endured while I waited and watched no doubt greatly reduced her chances of recovery. I’ve since made a point of passing the word around about bloat and underscoring how vital it is to react immediately to symptoms.

    • wildewmn says:

      Abiectius, thank you for sharing your experience with bloat. I’m so sorry about your dog, but please don’t blame yourself in any way. This could happen to anyone, and does, all too often. Thank you for reminding me how important it is to keep sharing this information, and for prompting me to soon repost this blog.

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