“Bloat” is the Weimaraner breed’s number one health issue.  However, misinformation that exists about bloat is staggering!  Even large professional associations and science writers have often not kept up with the most respected research available on the subject and do not use legitimate sources for information.   There are two new significant studies being funded right now by the AKC Canine Health Foundation for which we should have results next year.  But, until such time as we get that information, Dr. Larry Glickman (retired), Director of Purdue University’s Bloat Research Laboratory has done the most significant body of work on the risk factors for “Bloat" from 1997 until 2004 (when he retired).  Because a belief system had built up around anecdotal information before he embarked on his research, there is a tremendous amount of misinformation on the web which leads many to cite things that are not supported by science.

First, some basic information:

What is bloat?

Bloat is the common term used for a condition where the stomach of a dog twists upside-down on its axis.  When this happens, the esophagus is twisted shut and the intestines are twisted shut approximately at the place where they connect to the stomach.  As the condition progresses, the tissue at the twist points dies due to lack of blood flow.  Gas in the stomach will continue to expand (as gas in the stomach plays some role in the flipping of the stomach, to what extent is yet unknown) and the stomach will become very large and distended (hence the common name “Bloat.”)  The spleen will eventually rupture and the dog will go into shock and die within 24 hours.  However, the dog is effectively dead within 3 hours or so since at that point they are beyond saving due to too much tissue death in the esophagus and other factors.  

Time is of the Utmost Importance!

Time is your enemy when your dog experiences Bloat!  It is important to know the early signs so that you can get your dog to the emergency room.  If you get your dog to the emergency room quickly, the veterinary staff will take a radiograph to confirm bloat, and then perform surgery on your dog to un-flip the stomach and tack it surgically to the inside of the body cavity so it cannot re-flip. 

The First Three Symptoms Your Dog Will Exhibit If Experiencing Bloat:

Here are the first three signs your dog will exhibit if your dog experiences Bloat.  If your dog has these three symptoms, get him/her to the emergency room, do not wait!:

  1. Behavior:  Your dog will exhibit some out of the ordinary behavior that will make you think, “Something is wrong with my dog!”  For each individual dog, it is different.  Here are examples of behavior I have witnessed in dogs experiencing Bloat:  a dog that suddenly peed all over the couch, a dog that started barking at nothing and would not stop, a dog that just stood still with their back arched up due to the pain, and a dog that just paced around and would not lie down.  
  2. Nothing In & Nothing Out:   Since the esophagus is twisted shut, nothing can come in or out of the stomach.  So, your dog will not be actively vomiting but may be retching and your dog will not be willing to take anything in, not water or food.  So, they will not be drinking and they will not eat.  If your dog exhibits a strange behavior and you want to test this second symptom, offer them a piece of food that you know they would never turn down, like a piece of beef or chicken from the refrigerator.  If they do not take it, they are not drinking, and they are not actually vomiting anything up, you have verification that your dog is exhibiting the second symptom.
  3. Firm Abdomen:   If your dog has the first two symptoms, reach down and feel the soft part of your dog’s abdomen.  If it feels firm relative to the usual way it feels (you should make a habit of feeling your dog’s abdomen so you know how it normally feels), get your dog to the emergency room immediately! Don’t wait!  

Risk Factors, How to Avoid Your Dog Experiencing Bloat:

Things we used to believe were true but did not present to be true in the scientific research:

Not True: That exercise at mealtime increases the likelihood of bloat;
Not True: That drinking lots of water around exercise increases the likelihood of bloat;
Not True: That raising food bowls decreases the likelihood of bloat (in fact, it is the opposite, see below.)

Genetic Risk Factors (of which you have little control):

  • A first degree relative that bloated (mother, brother, sister, father)
  • A very thin rib cage in relation to the depth of the rib cage (a mathematical ratio)
  • The breed of dog (there is a breed specific risk ranking)
  • Age of the dog (the older the dog, the more likely to bloat)
  • Gender of the dog (there may be no difference since the outcomes of a couple of studies showed different results but males may have a slightly higher increase than females)
  • A high anxiety temperament

Factors in which you have the most control (do these!):

  • A Raised Food Bowl:  Never use one! A raised food bowl increases the risk by 110%
  • Number of Meals per day:  Always feed at least two, never just one
  • Speed of Eating:  The faster the dog eats, the more likely the dog will Bloat. (Feeding each dog in the crate is the most effective way to slow down eating, a Brake-Fast type bowl is also effective)
  • Happiness Factor:  Higher anxiety equals increased risk (To reduce anxiety, always use positive training methods and keep your dog someplace when you travel that focuses on reducing anxiety)
  • Wet-Dry Food Combination:  Always feed a wet-dry combination, never dry food only! 

Weimaraner Breed Information

Weimaraner Rescue of SC

Our mission is to guard the welfare of all Weimaraners in South Carolina by providing science-based information to owners; assisting families rehoming their dog; obtaining custody of all Weimaraners held in shelters; and rehoming those dogs by applying modern assessment techniques to match dogs to families to optimize success and the well-being of all.​

Health and Safety