1. Seek veterinary attention immediately.
  2. Assess the animal and perform CPR as required.
  3. Do not attempt to induce vomiting.


Bloat, or gastric dilatation, refers to the stomach and/or intestines filling up with air or food giving the entire abdomen a bloated appearance. Bloat can progress to gastric dilatation volvulus in which the expanding stomach rotates and twists itself closed. This can lead to shock and eventually death.


  • Distension or bloating of the abdomen
  • Abdominal pain – usually severe
  • Tense abdomen
  • Hypersalivation
  • Nausea (lip smacking, retching)
  • Vomiting or attempting to vomit (may not be able to bring anything up)
  • Vocalisation
  • Collapse
  • Death


  • Over-eating or drinking excessive amounts of water or liquid in one session
  • Eating too quickly
  • Over-exercising
  • Stress (especially at the time of eating, for example competition with other animals)
  • Swallowing a lot of air (aerophagia) often due to excitement
  • Underlying disease of the stomach


Veterinary care usually involves passing of a stomach tube to empty stomach contents or decompression using a catheter or trochar. Your veterinarian may perform x-rays and blood tests to rule out other conditions and to evaluate the animal’s status.

In cases of torsion (gastric dilatation volvulus or GDV), surgery is required to untwist the stomach, remove any non-viable tissue and fix or pexy the stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent recurrence. Other medications include gastroprotectants, analgesics, antibiotics and anti-arrhythmics as GDV can cause life-threatening disturbances of heart rhythm.

Prognosis depends very much on the state of the animal at the time of presentation (delaying veterinary treatment by a matter of hours can mean the difference between life and death).


Boag A& Hughes D (2004) Emergency management of the acute abdomen in dogs and cats 1. Investigation and initial stabilisation.In Practice October 2004, pp476-483.

Buber T, Saragusty J, Epstein RE, Bdolhar-Abram T & Bruchim Y (2007) Evaluation of lidocaine treatment and risk factors for death associated with gastric dilatation and volvulus in dogs: 112 cases (1997-2005). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 230:1334-1339.

Kitchell, BE (1009) Gastric dilatation/volvulus In Clinical Veterinary Advisor Dogs and Cats ed. Etienne Cote. St Louis: Mosby Elsevier, pp426-428.