First Aid for Dogs: Understanding and Treating Bloat


Bloat, also known as gastric torsion (GT), is a condition in which the stomach twists on itself. It's a life-threatening emergency that can be fatal if not treated quickly. The symptoms of bloat are often mistaken for other issues, so it's important to know how to recognize this condition and what you should do if you suspect your dog is suffering from it. Let's explore exactly what bloat does to dogs, why it happens, and how you can treat or prevent this condition from happening in your pooch.

What is Bloat?

Bloat is a life-threatening condition that affects dogs of all ages, breeds, and sizes. It can occur when the stomach becomes distended with gas or fluid, often as a result of stress, eating too fast, or drinking too much water after eating.

Bloat occurs when the stomach twists on its axis and prevents blood flow to that area of the body. If you notice any signs of bloat in your dog--such as an enlarged abdomen with or without pain--take them to the vet immediately!

If you are feeding your dog a diet that contains a lot of fat, this can lead to bloat. Fat is harder for dogs to digest than other foods, so if you notice your dog gorging on fatty treats or human food and then vomiting shortly after eating it could be a sign that they have an upset stomach. If this happens regularly, talk with your vet about changing their diet.

How to Treat a Dog with Bloat

If  you believe your dog is experiencing bloat, also known as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), it is important to keep them as comfortable as possible while seeking veterinary care immediately. Bloat is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate medical attention. You can help keep your dog comfortable by keeping them calm and minimizing stress. Avoid any physical activity or exercise, as it can worsen the condition. It is best to keep your dog in a quiet and safe area, away from other pets or children. Do not offer food or water, as it may worsen the bloat. Contact your veterinarian immediately and follow their instructions for transport to the clinic. Remember, time is critical in treating bloat, so swift action and ensuring your dog's comfort are of utmost importance.

The vet will monitor his heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. He will also check for fluid in the abdomen by feeling around on the outside of it or using an ultrasound machine if he thinks there might be fluid inside (this can be hard to see). A dog who has undergone surgery for this condition should not eat or drink anything until after he leaves recovery and is given medication by mouth for pain control. If you have any questions about what medications are safe for your pet after surgery, ask the doctor before administering them yourself!

Preventing Bloat

  • Don't overfeed your dog.
  • Don't allow your dog to exercise after eating.
  • Don't allow your dog to drink large amounts of water before and after eating.
  • Don't allow your dog to eat too fast, especially if he's been exercising recently--this can cause bloat because the stomach fills with gas that can't escape when there's not enough room left in the esophagus for it all!
  • Be careful about what kind of toys or treats you give him; some have been known to cause bloat as well (especially those made from rawhide). You might want to avoid giving him anything new until after his next vet visit, just so we know whether or not it had any effects on his health! If possible, try keeping track of what foods/treats seem like they're causing problems by writing them down every time he eats something questionable to show to your veterinarian.

If your dog has bloat, get him help fast

How? Call your vet or an emergency clinic immediately and tell them what's going on with your dog.

If you can't reach a vet right away, here are some steps for handling the situation:

  • Massage the area between his ribcage and spine; this may help relieve pressure on his stomach and intestines.
  • Turn him upside down so that gravity helps drain fluids from his abdomen into his chest cavity (this is called "pumping").
  • If he's having trouble breathing or isn't responding to commands after 30 minutes of pumping, take him straight to an animal hospital immediately!


While there are many different causes of bloat, it's important to know the symptoms and what you can do if your dog suffers from this condition. If you have any questions or concerns about your pet's health, please contact a veterinarian immediately.


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