Bloat is a life-threatening emergency in Great Danes and other breeds with large chests.

As a Great Dane owner, it is your repsonsibility to know the signs and to educate pet sitters, dog walkers and family on what to look for should a bloat event happen to your dog.

WHAT IS BLOAT?

Bloat is a painful, distressing condition where the stomach fills up with gas, food, fluid and/or air.

Left untreated, the stomach can ‘flip’ (also known as ‘torsion’). Stomach flipping is especially dangerous. 

Treatment for bloat may involve pressure relief (medications, tubes, incisions and/or needles into the stomach) or surgery, depending on the severity. 

Bloat can quickly kill a healthy Great Dane that was previously running around playing as normal. It is extremely important to know the signs. 

All Great Danes are at risk. The treatment for bloat can start at $2K and may cost thousands more. 

 

SIGNS OF BLOAT

These are the signs of bloat. If you see any one of these, get to the veterinarian immediately. Bloat can progress quickly and the longer you wait, the more serious the prognosis is. 

  • Swollen, painful or distended abdomen/stomach.
  • Acting distressed
  • Pacing and restlessness
  • Drooling and/or panting
  • Looking at the stomach
  • Pale gums
  • Vomiting or retching without anything actually coming up
  • Whining, crying and stiffness, unable to move
  • Collapse, unable to get up

STOMACH TACKING/GASTROPEXY

Stomach tacking, also known as ‘Gastropexy’ is a surgical procedure where a veterinarian permanently tacks the stomach to the abdominal wall.

This procedure may buy time by helping to keep the stomach from flipping, however it does NOT prevent bloat itself. 

Gastropexy is an abdominal surgery, and all surgery involves risk. Risks of stomach tacking may include complications related to blood clotting, infection, rejection and anesthesia. Rarely, during a bloat event the stomach can flip anyways, and the stitched area may open and cause internal bleeding.

If you choose to do this surgery, please work with a highly qualified veterinarian who has a LOT of experience with the procedure. 

CAN BLOAT BE PREVENTED?

There is no actual sure-fire way to prevent bloat. All dogs are at risk, but especially Great Danes and other breeds with large chests.

Here are some common things people believe will prevent bloat:

Raised Bowls – while raised bowls may be easier on your dogs neck, there is no legitimate data on its effect on minimizing or preventing bloat. As a matter of fact, some studies indicate that bloat incidence is higher among dogs that regularly eat out of raised bowls. 

Resting Before/After Meals – the idea behind this one is to prevent the dog from sloshing a full tummy of food around while running, playing and being excited. There may be some merit to this, however it is NOT likely a notable preventative. Many cases of bloat happen in the middle of the night when a dog is resting on an empty stomach, or hours after eating (even if a dog had been rested first!). 

Some owners are so committed to this that they only allow their dogs to eat on a strict schedule, which may actually increase bloat risk if the dog hoards, gulps and scarfs down large meals at once. Find a healthy balance here if you choose to rest your dog for several hours each day.

Puzzle Feeders – We do believe there is some merit to making sure a dog eats slowly and works for their food. Puzzle feeders can be especially helpful for dogs that tend to gulp down meals without chewing.

Gas-X – Gas – X (Simethicone) or Bloat Buster is extremely important to have on hand. It may buy you time if you notice your dog start to burp, heave or act uncomfortable. Some owners dose it with every meal, we aren’t convinced that over-medicating is the answer but we DO recommend having Simethicone in. your cabinet, just in case. 

 Burping – Many Dane owners swear by ‘burping’ their Great Dane like a baby! You can stand behind or next to your Dane and gently whap their side until they burp. Some dogs enjoy this, others don’t. If your dog doesn’t like this, don’t do it! Stress and anxiety contribute to bloat, so you may be making things worse. 

 

CAUSES OF BLOAT

Veterinarians and scientists don’t actually know  specifically what causes bloat, however there are some things that may correlate with an increased incidence and risk. 

We believe that the three factors (listed below in greater detail) are infinitely more important to address than all of the precautions and practices outlined above, combined! 

Much of the Dane community is so focused on raised vs. lowered bowls and resting after meals that they miss the key factors contributing to overall bloat statistics. Current studies indicate the following three things may be alarming and notable indicators of risk:

GENETICS – ANXIETY – GUT HEALTH

GENETICS

There seems to be a strong correlation here with genetics. If you purchased from a breeder or are going to, ask them for information about the incidence of bloat in their lines.

Ethical breeders are very aware of this genetic link and actively work to pair healthy parents that are less likely to pass bloat on down the line.

If your dog has had a sibling, half-sibling, cousin, parent, aunt, uncle or Grandparent experience bloat, be especially aware of the signs. Your dog is at a higher, to much higher risk!

Researchers have identified genetic markers, which when present account for a massive increase in bloat risk for the dog that carries those markers.

Learn more about this genetic screening here: https://www.vetgen.com/canine-gdv.html

Bloat statistics contribute to the age of death statistics: if we can actively work to minimize risk factors in genetic lines, the life expectancy of Great Danes could increase dramatically. 

 

ANXIETY

Anxiety seems to be a key component. Dogs that are naturally anxious, or those that have just experienced something extremely stressful are more likely to suffer from a bloat event.

Keep in mind that anxiety also has a genetic and breeder component!

Rescue dogs with poor temperaments, socialization and past history may have more risk. It is NOT uncommon for Danes to bloat on their first night with a rescue or foster!

Not only that, but the problem is made worse for dogs from anxious, poorly tempered parents and bad breeding situations (dirty, stressful, limited pediatric/early weeks socialization, leaving the early litter, etc.). As above, choosing an ethical breeder really matters here.

Backyard breeders are routinely creating Danes with unstable temperaments (anxious, fearful, timid, aggressive) and contributing to the rescue problem too. Look to them when assessing bloat risk, temperament, anxiety and aggression; they are largely to blame!

Avoid training methods that cause or worsen anxiety (‘alpha’ training, harsh punishment), stressful situations with children or adults (chasing, pinching, laying on or yelling at Danes). Socialize and train your Danes well from a young age using positive reinforcement.

Choose breeders that only breed healthy, well-tempered dogs. If you have a rescue Dane or purchased Dane that suffers from anxiety, fear or aggression, work with a trainer to lower stress levels. Some common forms of anxiety include fear during thunderstorms, separation anxiety and timid/fearful or aggressive behaviors towards house guests, children or strangers. 

GUT HEALTH

There is some data out there suggesting that overall gut health can be a contributing factor. In studies done on bloat victims, many had IBS and other problems with their gut. 

There are many aspects to gut health; allergies, dry skin, gas, loose stools and lack of energy are all signs that there is a problem, however some dogs may present healthy and have underlying conditions. 

We believe all Great Danes should receive a probiotic supplement, and this is one of the main reasons why. We recommend Nature’s Farmacy Probiotic Max. 

Excess gas and constant loose stools are NOT normal. Your Dane should not ‘clear a room’ on a regular basis! If you are struggling to find a food that your Dane does well on, consider working with a Giant-breed experienced Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist for help. 

SIGNS OF BLOAT STICKER for Great Danes

This ‘Signs of Bloat’ sticker can be put on your computer, fridge, cabinet, or anywhere else where you can see it in an emergency. 

It is 5.5 x 5.5 

The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only. We do our best to present the most up-to-date research, however it is up to the reader to make decisions regarding the health and well-being of their dog. We make no claims here to prevent or treat bloat or any other condition related to Great Danes. Find a veterinarian with GIANT breed experience, and chat with them. 

Some of the products we list on our website contain affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase, we may receive a small commission for referring you. We only recommend products that we truly believe in. This commission does not affect the price of the product and is used to fund our content and expenses related to operating this website. 

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