Siefried Zahn D.V.M
Adapted from "Bloat in Large Dogs"
Published by Univelt, Inc. 1983
"The following first aid procedures have worked for
me. However, I cannot be responsible for anyone misunderstanding or
misusing these procedures. I highly recommend everyone discuss bloat first
aid procedures with their personal veterinarians and follow their advice
BLOAT FIRST AID
A. The procedures in this document should be
used to provide first aid only to dogs in a bloat condition. They are not
intended to replace prompt, professional treatment by a qualified
veterinarian. Please read and understand these instructions completely
before attempting the first aid procedures described herein
B. A bloat kit, which includes these instructions, was prepared for
use on my Danes by people entrusted with their care and well-being.
Additionally, I provide a copy of these instructions to everyone getting a
Great Dane from me. NEVER ASSUME THAT ANYONE ALREADY OWNING OR
PURCHASING A DANE KNOWS ABOUT BLOAT. Please share these instructions
with others that are concerned with bloat and what aid they can give to
dogs in a bloat condition. I strongly believe properly administered first
aid will help to ensure a dog in a bloat condition has a good chance of
survival once it gets to a veterinarian.
PROMPT, PROFESSIONAL HELP IS
ALWAYS REQUIRED IN BLOAT CASES!
C. Recommended Bloat Kit Contents:
- Instructions for use
- Rolls of tape (3 rolls, 1 in. x 10 yd)
- Stomach tube (2) (different diameters). 5 ft.
length bevelled at one end, with two holes drilled in tube 2 & 3 inches
up from the bevelled end. Pre-measured and marked for each Great Dane in
household (see page 4, NOTE 1)
- 14 gauge or larger needles (2) (1 1/2" to 3"
- K. Y. jelly
- Gas absorbent (Digel, GasEase, etc)
D. A bloat kit should be available wherever
Great Danes are located (home, van, RV, etc).
2. Bloat phases,
symptoms and recommended actions:
A. Canine Bloat (GASTRIC DILATION-VOLVULUS) is an acute
disease or digestive problem believed to be caused by excessive swallowing
of air while eating, gastrointestinal secretions, and gas for food
fermenting in the stomach.
BLOAT IS A LIFE-THREATENING
B. Some symptoms may be anxiety, evidence of
abdominal fullness after meals, heavy salivating, whining, pacing, getting
up and lying down, stretching, looking at abdomen, unproductive attempts
to vomit, labored breathing, disinterest in food, and stilted gait. Severe
symptoms, such as dark red, blue, grey or white gums, a rapid heartbeat
and a weak pulse are normally followed by prostration and death.
3. Determining Bloat
A. Observing the dog's behavior and symptoms
and comparing to those listed in TABLE 1 is the initial step in this
- Look at color of gums (subpara 3B. (1)).
- Determine dog's heartbeat/pulse rate (subparas
3B. (2) and 3B. (3)).
- Note the rate of abdomen distention.
B. Helpful hints in deciding the bloat phase
of a dog (Practice the following three actions on a well dog beforehand):
(1) Look at the dog's gums. If the gums are pink to red shade and
you press the gum firmly with your finger and then let go, the color
returns immediately, then the dog may be normal or may only be in phase 1.
If the gums are deep red, grey, blue, or white and, you press with your
finger, the color returns slowly or not at all, you have an extreme
situation (phase 3). You should start first aid immediately!
Recommend a copy of this table be made readily available as a quick
reference wherever Great Danes are located (home, kennel, RV, van, etc).
BLOAT PHASES, SYMPTOMS AND RECOMMENDED ACTIONS
1. Very restless, whining, panting
continuously, heavy salivating.
2. Unproductive attempts to vomit (every 2-3 minutes).
3. Dark red gums.
4. High heart rate (80 to 100 BPM).
5. Abdomen is enlarged and tight, emits hollow sound when thumped.
Apply first aid if Veterinarian care is more
than 10 minutes away.
Then, transport dog to Veterinarian immediately.
Death is imminent! Apply first aid
immediately. Transport dog to
Veterinarian as soon as possible (even while applying first aid if
Recommend a copy of this table be available as a quick, ready reference
Great Danes are located (home, kennel, RV, van, etc).
(2) Listen to the dog's heartbeat using a
stethoscope if possible. If a stethoscope is not available, use your
ears and eyes. The heartbeat can be best heard on the left side of the
dog's chest just behind the elbow and is strong enough to be visible on
the chest wall (figure 1). A normal heartbeat is irregular when the dog
is resting and often consists of a double beat
(thump...thump...thump-thump...thump...thump, etc). Using a timepiece
with a second hand, count the number of heartbeats for 10 seconds.
Multiply the number of heartbeats x 6 to find the Beats Per Minute (BPM)
(12 beats x 6 = 72 BPM, etc.). The normal heart rate/pulse rate of a
large breed dog is 60-80 BPM.
(3) Take the pulse rate of the dog by pressing your fingers
inside the dog's rear leg just below where it joins the body. At this
location, you can feel a cord-like structure called the Femoral Artery
(figure 2). Count the pulses for a ten second period and multiply by six
to determine the rate of the dog's pulse (same procedure as discussed
above). You can also observe the strength of the pulse at this location.
4. Recommended actions:
A. When your dog is showing any of the
bloat symptoms you should:
- Attempt to determine the bloat phase he may be
- Call your veterinarian, discuss symptoms and
ask for guidance.
- If you
conclude your dog is in phase 1 bloat and you can reach your
veterinarian within 30 minutes, do not apply first aid procedures. Go
directly to the veterinarian.
- If you
conclude your dog is in phase 2 bloat and you cannot reach your
veterinarian within 10 minutes you should attempt to insert a stomach
tube before going to the veterinarian.
For phase 3
bloat, if you cannot reach your veterinarian within 10 minutes apply
first aid immediately. Attempt to insert a stomach tube.
If this is not acomplished quickly, you should use Trocharization
procedures to relieve the gas pressure!
DOGS MAY GO TO PHASE 3 BLOAT WITHOUT SEEMINGLY GOING THROUGH PHASES 1 OR
2. PHASE 3 CAN BE FATAL IN MINUTES. BE ALERT!
5. First aid:
A. In bloat Phases 2 and 3, attempt to pass
a tube through the dog's mouth into the stomach. Two persons are
normally required for this procedure.
NOTE 1: Pre-measure and mark each stomach tube for each Great
Dane in the household. To do this, place the dog in a sit position.
Measure the stomach tube on the outside of the dog from the front of the
mouth to the last rib and mark the tube at the front of the mouth with a
piece of tape.
- Remove an eighteen inch strip of tape from the
tape roll. Insert the roll of tape in the dog's mouth behind the front
teeth. Ensure the tape roll hole is pointed toward the dog's front and
rear. Using the strip of removed tape, tightly bind the do g's muzzle
with the roll of tape in position (figure3).
- Lubricate the bevelled end of the stomach tube
with K. Y. jelly (be careful not to plug up the tube holes with the
- Carefully insert the tube into the dog's mouth
through the hole in the tape roll (figure 4). Some resistance will be
felt when the tube reaches the dog's throat. However, the dog will
start to swallow as you push the tube deeper into the throat and the
tube should enter the esophagus with little resistance. It the dog
does not swallow the tube or the tube seems stuck, gently move the
tube back and forth until it enters the esophagus.
Once the tube is in the esophagus,
gently blow through the tube as you advance it toward the stomach.
This will expand the esophagus and allow the tube to pass more easily.
- The tube may encounter a resistance when it
reaches the stomach because of muscle spasms in the stomach valve or
twisting of the stomach (torsion). If this happens, blow more strongly
through the tube while turning the tube in a clockwise direction. If
the tube does not enter the stomach, continue blowing and carefully
turn the tube back and forth.
- You will feel a quick, forward movement of the
tube when it enters the stomach. Caution! Do not insert the tube
too far into the stomach and pierce the stomach wall.
- Immediately remove the tube from your mouth.
Gas will be expelled through the tube as it enters the stomach (figure
5). Fluids will follow the gas.
- After the gas and fluids stop, you should
squeeze the dog's abdomen to remove as much of the remaining stomach
contents as possible. To do this, stand over the dog facing the same
direction as the dog. Grasp the dog with locked wrists around the abdo
men and squeeze firmly (figure 6). Continue to remove the stomach
contents for five/ten minutes.
- Cover the end of the tube with your thumb and
carefully remove the tube from the dog. Then, transport the dog to the
Note 2: If you are unsuccessful in
inserting the tube into the stomach after five minutes, it is probably
not possible to pass a stomach tube.
B. If you are unable to pass a stomach tube and the dog displays
phase 3 bloat symptoms, you have a very short time to act to save the
dog's life. By this time, the dog will normally be gasping for air and
unable to stand. The abdomen will be very distended and sound like a
drum when thumped. The heart rate will be over 100 BPM and the gums will
be white, blue or grey.
C. Trocharization must take place immediately. This action can
save your dog's life. The veterinarian will appreciate the fact that you
took the Trocharization action and brought in a dog that has a chance of
- Locate the last rib on the dog's left side. The
stomach is located on the left side of the dog's abdomen under the
last few ribs (you will not have any problem finding the stomach
because it will be very distended).
- Remove the cap from the 14 gauge needle.
- Firmly grasp the blunt end of the needle and
with a sharp motion, stab the needle into the dog's stomach on the
left side behind the last rib (figure 7). Gas will be expelled
immediately through the needle. Do not be concerned about hurting the
dog because he is already in such intense pain from the bloat and
torsion he will not notice the pain from the needle.
- Squeeze the abdomen (subpara 5.A.(8) above),
then remove the needle. Immediately transport to a veterinarian.
6. Recommendations to help avoid Canine Bloat:
A. Veterinarians continue to study the
bloat problem and still have many unanswered questions. Researchers
prepared the following recommendations to help prevent canine bloat. You
should discuss these recommendations with your veterinarian and other
Great Dane owners:
- Feed the dogs two or three times daily, rather
than once a day, and at times when someone can observe them after they
- Avoid vigorous exercise, excitement and stress
one hour before and two hours after feeding. Walking is okay because
it helps stimulate normal gastrointestinal function.
- Feed dogs individually and in a quiet location.
- Make diet changes gradually over a 3-5 day
- Ensure water is always available but limit the
amount immediately after feeding.
- Watch for any actions or behavior that may
signal abdominal discomfort (abdominal fullness, pacing, salivating,
whining, getting up and lying down, stretching, looking at abdomen,
anxiety and unsuccessful attempts to vomit, etc.
- Establish a good relationship with a
veterinarian. Discuss emergency procedures, preventative surgery (Gastropexy
(circumcostal, tube, incisional)) and overall medical management of
The booklet from which these instructions are
excerpted can be viewed in its entirety by
If you are interested in purchasing a complete
Bloat Kit, this can be done by contacting:
J & J Enterprises
24710 Reynolds Highway
or by e-mailing Dr. F.S. Jacobs DVM at
Complete bloat kits are available for $60 and hard copies of the Bloat
Book are $5