signs of bloat

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Bloat is one of the true medical emergencies. While “being bloated” may sound harmless enough in people, in dogs and cats it is used to describe a condition called gastric dilatation; literally distention of the stomach with gas. While the gastric dilatation may be merely uncomfortable initially, in some pets it will progress to a second stage called volvulus whereby the stomach rotates and the gas becomes trapped.

As the digestive processes continue in the stomach, the gas continues to form but, because the twisted stomach is effectively closed, cannot escape. As the pressure increases, the distended stomach can press on blood vessels and diaphragm, causing difficulties in circulation and breathing. If left untreated, bloat can be a rapidly progressing fatal condition.

The most common sign of bloating is a firm, distended stomach, especially if it has occurred very rapidly. Some pets will also try to vomit or belch but are not able to. As the condition progresses they become increasingly listless and have difficulty breathing. If you notice any of these signs, seek immediate veterinary care; some pets with gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) have succumbed in as little as 30 minutes after their owners first noticed signs.

While the condition is more common in large, deep-chested dogs, we are still not entirely sure what causes it. Some episodes appear to be related to eating abnormally large meals, eating or drinking very quickly or vigorous activity after a large meal. Feeding pets smaller meals or using special anti-bloat bowls are thought to be useful in preventing GDV.