Yes, dog bloat from eating too much is possible, and it's a condition that warrants great attention because it can lead to complications. The biggest concern is the onset of what's referred to as "Gastric Dilatation Volvulus" which is a life threatening condition where every second counts. Not all dogs are particularly prone to this complication, but large dogs with deep chests are particularly predisposed. If your dog develops bloat from overeating, it is therefore important to keep a watchful eye and see the vet immediately if the dog displays worrisome signs.
Dog Bloat from Eating Too Much
Dogs are opportunistic beings who are prone to embracing any advantageous opportunity that presents. The presence of food, in particular, is a temptation that is difficult to resist.
Given the opportunity, dogs demonstrate a tendency to go on a food binge, feasting as if there is no tomorrow. This is part of their past evolutionary history, descending from wolves, dogs have retained what's known as a tendency for a feast or famine lifestyle.
In other words, in the wild, a dog's ancestors would have days where, after a catch, they would feast on an abundance of food for several days, and then, they would go through periods with no food in sight. Of course, with us humans feeding them nowadays, dogs are more likely to feast rather than starve.
Now, while in humans a food binge may just cause a sense of heaviness or a bout of indigestion, in dogs things can get much more serious than that.
If your dog has unrestricted access to a bag of food, the trash can or human foods, there are chances he might eat a great amount and such large volume of food may cause the dog's stomach to become distended. In cases of such, it's referred to as "gluttony bloat."
Stomach distension is not a big problem per se', but in certain predisposed dogs (large, deep-chested dogs), things can get quite critical fast. A distended stomach becomes more likely to flip and twist on itself.
For sake of comparison imagine the dog's stomach as a hammock. If you place a tiny stone is the middle of it, and then you give the hammock a push, nothing will happen. But try to place a large rock in the middle and then push the hammock: most likely it will flip over on itself and even end up twisting at both ends, explains veterinarian Dr. Bob.
This explains why, in dogs predisposed to bloat, small meals are recommended and exercise should be limited two hours after eating so to prevent the kind of movement that may cause the stomach to flip and twist.
" Bloat in itself is not generally life threatening. Where we get concerned is when the stomach flips over."~Dr. Justin, veterinarian
Signs of Trouble
If you found the trash can on the floor with lots of left overs missing or your dog's bag of food emptied or almost emptied, most likely your dog had a feast, but will be soon paying the consequences if he ingested too much.
It the case of dog bloat from eating too much, as the stomach enlarges, the affected dog will start feeling uncomfortable, and possibly, in pain. This may cause the dog to grunt and act restless.
The increased abdominal volume may put pressure on the dog's diaphragm, causing changes in breathing (dog breathing faster or labored). The heart rate may also increase because the heart may have to pump harder to circulate blood through an overly full abdomen.
Nausea may set in, causing the dog to drool. If the dog manages to vomit, once or twice, then he or she may start feeling better. Diarrhea may also set in later on.
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If the stomach manages to twist, progressing into gastric dilatation-volvulus, more severe signs may be noticed, but not always these signs are readily recognized by dog owners quickly enough. The dog may retch and attempt to vomit (usually unsuccessfully), will act anxious and restless, assume a hunched-up posture, breathing may become labored, and as things progress, the gums may turn from red to pale and the dog may go into shock and collapse.
As mentioned, with gastric dilatation-volvulus time is of the essence. In just a couple of hours, things may take a turn for the worse. Gastric dilatation-volvulus is such a serious condition that it's always worth it erring on the side of caution by seeking vet attention, warns Dr. Justin.
Course of Action
If your dog is small, even though stomach torsion may still occur, the chances for developing it are significantly lower.
Stomach torsion occurs mostly in large, deep-chested dogs because their chests are wide enough to allow enough room for the stomach to twist on its axis 180 to 360 degrees. In large, deep-chested dogs the risks are therefore much higher.
In the case of dog bloat from eating too much, the first 12 hours are usually the most critical. It's important to reduce the dog's activity levels so to lower the chances for the stomach flipping and potentially twisting.
Keep your dog indoors to keep him less active and walk your dog out on a leash when it's time to potty. It's important to prevent your dog from running and engaging in overly rambunctious play as this can cause your dog to swallow air or painful intestinal cramping. Slow, steady walking (no brisk walks!) may help a little. A simple walk outside to go potty is sufficient, explains veterinarian Dr. K
After ward, you may want to keep your dog off food for some time (like 24 hours) so that his stomach is given a chance to recover. Feeding should be resumed once the dog's stomach size is almost back to normal. When it's time to resume feeding, it helps to feed just 1/4 the amount normally fed twice daily, slowly increasing meal size back to normal over the course of a few days, suggests veterinarian Dr. Kara.
Offering small amounts of water frequently may also help move things along faster. On top of this, fluids will help keep the food soft and easier to pass through the gastrointestinal tract versus the food getting too dry and risking leading to an impaction. If your dog won't drink small amounts of water, you can try to offer ice cubes to lick or a little bit of warmed low sodium beef or chicken broth with no onion or garlic among the ingredient list.
Should at any time your dog show worrisome signs, it is best to play it safe and see the vet. See your vet if your dog appears to be in pain and stands stiff with the head lowered in a sawhorse-like stance unable to to lie down. Also, see your vet if there are any signs of potential torsion such as distended abdomen accompanied by retching, unsuccessful vomiting, pacing, inability to get comfortable, staggering, red gums, pale gums and weakness.
"Food bloat (is) different from the bloat where her stomach fills with air and flips. It is uncomfortable but generally with rest, time and closely watching her she should do fine. I get very worried when the mucous membranes are pale or they are trying to vomit unsuccessfully."Dr. Kara.
At the Vet's Office
If your dog ate too much and you are worried, your best bet is to play it safe and see the vet. With the use of some diagnostic tools, your vet can differentiate a case of dog bloat from eating too much from the potentially life threatening stomach twisting seen with gastric dilatation-volvulus.
Once at the vet, your vet may ask you several questions about what your dog ate, how much and how long ago. Upon physical examination your vet may palpate your dog's abdomen and listen to your dog's heart and lungs.
X-rays can help resolve any doubts if the vet suspects gastric torsion. The images will help differentiate dog bloat from eating too much and gastric dilatation-volvulus. If your dog got into the trash, x-rays may also show whether your dog ingested something that he should not have and whether there are risks for it causing a blockage ( troublesome items often involve left over bones, fruit pits, plastic lids etc).
In the case of dog bloat from eating too much, the vet may suggest to induce vomiting if the mishap occurred less than two hours ago or may decide to pump the stomach (gastric lavage). And of course, if there is stomach twisting, the vet will perform surgery at once.
As seen, dog bloat from eating too much can become quite troublesome if things go south in predisposed dogs. The good news though is that this form of bloat can be easily prevented by simply keeping dog food and trash cans in sealed containers and safely out of reach.