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Food Bloat (Overeating) in Dogs

With the holiday season right around the corner, the thought of eating oversized, high-calorie meals is probably on a lot of people’s minds (for better or worse). But for most dogs, eating a large meal is probably on their mind all the time, holiday season or not. Yes, dogs love to get into food, beyond what’s given to them in their doggie dishes, and recently Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital has seen an above-average number of dogs that have done just that. From getting into the cat’s free feeder, to eating human party food left on a counter, to breaking into a cabinet where 8 pounds of dog food was stored, to entering a neighbor’s doggie door and gobbling up another pup’s food, we have seen quite a variety of overeaters lately. And while for people, apart from a bit of indigestion, eating a big feast might not seem that much of a problem, going on a food binge can become very serious very quickly for our canine counterparts.

When a dog has overeaten, many owners will notice their dogs acting restless and unable to lie down in a comfortable position. They may also start panting, drooling or even acting like they want to vomit (including frequent retching, with little to no food being brought up). The most telltale sign, however, is a distended abdomen that is hard to the touch. If you observe any of these symptoms, act quickly and bring your dog to your regular veterinarian during the day or Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital after hours. These symptoms can also be signs of an even more serious problem called GDV, in which the stomach can twist in your pet’s abdomen.

Overeating causes the pain receptors in a dog’s stomach to stretch, which in turn causes the discomfort they experience. The majority of ingested food is usually very dry in the stomach, so fluids from other parts of the body are often absorbed into the stomach, potentially causing your pet to become dehydrated quickly. The GI tract is also considered a shock organ, so any compromise to blood flow or fluid volumes is a serious concern.

In an overeating situation, when your pet arrives at our Charlottesville vet hospital, baseline radiographs are taken to see the size of the stomach, and additional radiographs are usually taken at 12 hours and 24 hours after presentation. An IV catheter is placed, and your dog is started on IV fluids and pain medications. We also tape-measure your dog’s abdomen to monitor changes in size and walk them every hour to help increase blood flow to the GI tract. Your dog’s heart rate and pulse are also monitored every hour. Inducing your dog to vomit when their abdomen is distended is usually contraindicated, as it could potentially rupture the stomach. In addition, with the stomach so distended, it can be difficult for them to vomit.

In more severe cases, depending on how your pet is doing, he/she may be sedated to have the stomach lavaged (which is sort of like stomach pumping) to help remove food. If foreign material is suspected or the food cannot be removed with tubing, surgery may be warranted. Thankfully, with aggressive fluid therapy and support care, most dogs do well after 24 hours.

In any case, be sure to take appropriate measures to keep your dog from getting into unintended food sources, and take caution the next time your pet overeats — as a “food bloat” can be far more serious than it looks.

© 2011 Greenbrier Emergency Animal Hospital. All rights reserved.

56 Comments
  1. Reply
    Kimberly

    Hi I was Curious if you can tell me or give me a website of a list of healthy human food that I can give my dog please so I can cook her a homemade dog food recently I been looking into my dog’s food and treats and seeing how horrible some of the ingredients are and I been browsing all over the web for what’s healthy for her but still unsure cause some people add garlic powder and other ingredients to their dog’s meals and I read that onions and garlic are not healthy for animals down to it I would rather hear a professionals opinion about it or is there one safe dog food you know of cause it is driving me crazy trying to figure out what I can do to make my baby girl be healthy

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Good questions, but I actually do not know any. You can try http://www.acvn.org/ which is the American Society for Veterinary Nutrition and start there. Good luck! I never have the time to cook for my pets and so I use high quality commercial food. Your local vet can help you too.

    • Reply
      Rb

      It’s pretty easy: spinach, rice. Carrots, peas green beans boiled chicken, lean ground beef/turkey or chicken. Salmon…. sweet potatoes….

  2. Reply
    deju singh

    sir,i have a pug dog.only40 days old.today, i was feeding my dog..suddenly dog fell down and crying.immediately,dogs legs shrinks,tongue out of mouth,stomach stiff and eyes becomes steady… what was the problem..i take my dog in my hand..do some streching to legs… massage on the stomach… i 2-3 min …dog becomes normal… but now little weak…

    my dog is suffered from.ovrereating..and not went to leturn.
    please tell me..what to do

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      That sounds like something else??? See a local vet. If the dog is 40 days old then it might be something serious. It could be that the dog was choking, but I can not tell. Sorry I can not be more help. I do not know.

    • Reply
      Tiffany

      That sounds more like a seizure to me. I have epilepsy myself and had a Yorkies who suffered from seizures for a couple years before he passed away (not seizure related death though) but I’m hoping that since its been a few months since you posted this comment, you’ve found your answer and I hope for your and you die baby’s sake that it wasn’t something a serious as a seizure.

      • Reply
        Tiffany

        My comment had some typos (autocorrect doesn’t like me lol) so I wanted to fix those for you. I was saying that sounds like a seizure to me, I suffer from epilepsy and had a Yorkie who suffered from seizures before he passed away (not seizures related death though) but I’m hoping that since i’ts been a few months since you posted your comment, that you’ve found your answer and for you and your fur babie’s sake, it’s not something as serious as a seizure disorder. Seeing your fur baby have seizures is such a scary thing and can make you feel so incredibly helpless. Good luck to you both!

  3. Reply
    Alba

    Hi Dr. Stewart,
    Over the new year celebrations my do over ate from what seemed to be a week long festivities since Christmas. On New Year’s Day he began whimpering and was lethargic, he also passed a bloody stool therefore, I took him into the vet hospital where he came out with a clean bill of health. He did have inflammation therefore they kept him overnight giving him fluids, anti inflammatory medicine and pain medication. I took him home the next day and have been continuing to give him pain and anti inflammatory medicine, he is eating soft foods that I bought at the vet hospital and has been passin regular stool but does not want to drink water and is still complaining from time to time. Is it normal for him to be in pain even after 3 days being in the hospital?

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      I’m not really sure what is going on here, but it sounds like your dog ate too many treats over the holidays, had an GI inflammatory problem and is slowly getting better. I would ask he vet that saw him (phone call questions are usually free and expected after a hospitalization) but I would assume if all else is normal a little gas pain might be ok. If your dog is acting really in pain then I would certainly bring him back and have him re-examined. A little late gas pain can be very normal though after this, and it sounds like he is passing normal stool and eating ok.

  4. Reply
    Laverne

    I have a Yorkie female 11 months old. At first, it was easy to house break her. She had it in only 4 months. But lately she intentionally goes to the bathroom in the house. She sneaks around if I’m not looking and goes in the corner then she hides. She knows it’s wrong. I take her out often. I’m lost!!! I don’t know what to do

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Call a behaviour specialist like a local trainer or puppy day care. Maybe ask your vet for a urinalysis to make sure its not a uti. Every dog is different. I would seek behaviour help locally. Dog trainers can come to your house and teach you what to do. Its you that needs to change behavior first.

  5. Reply
    Kristina Lee

    My dog got into his dog food last night around 8 and he was noticeably bloated so we took him to our local emergency vet and they gave him pain meds and fluids and we took him home…..He has pooped several times and his stomach is no longer bloated and he seems to be fine. It has been over 24 hours now do I still need to worry? What should I be looking for? He hasn’t attempted to vomit and he is drinking water normally.

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      You should be almost fine with a food bloat after 24 hours and looking better. Still restrict his food for another 12-24 hours with multiple small meals and no large meals and make sure he does not vomit or re-bloat. After that he should be fixed.

      • Reply
        Kristina Lee

        Okay thank you so much!

  6. Reply
    Tiffany

    I just want to say thank you so very much for writing this article! I have a 5 week old chihuahua/dachshund mix and have started her on puppy mush (she still drinks her mothers milk too though) and I made her food about 45 minutes ago and sat her down to eat it while I rinsed one pan to get it out of my sink and into the dishwasher so I could bathe her in the sink because her mom used the bathroom in the playpen they stay in. By the time I was done with putting it in the dishwasher (maybe a minute total), her stomach was big and hard to the touch. She isn’t whining but is just kinda laying around (not sure if it’s from eating too much or because she had her first bath and it possibly made her tired). What all should I watch for with a puppy this young? Any help/advice is greatly appreciated! Thank you again! Have a wonderful day!

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Interesting. It sounds like it might be too much food or liquid and walking her on a leash slowly for a while might help work it out or at least let her burp or pass gas. If it gets worse or does not get better in the next few hours I would see a vet ASAP for bloat torsion. It is very very rare for a puppy that age to have either of those but you never know. No more food or water for a little and slow leash walks should be the start.

  7. Reply
    Rae

    Hi someone please help! My dog got into a whole bag of his food and now his stomach is swelled, but he isn’t in pain or vomiting or drooling. But he is tired and less active. Do I need to take him to the vet?

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      This is a food bloat and the vet will make sure he is fine. Some dogs can got over this without IV fluids and vet care, but it is much better and safer and faster to have IV fluids overnight and be monitored. Good luck!

  8. Reply
    Elisha

    Hi. I have a question!! Similar to the information you talked about above. My puppy is 5 weeks old and is eating so much food daily!! Her stomach is very big but she still plays around & is very active. What can this be?? Should I take her to the vet asap?

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Impossible to say. If it concerns you then bring her to a vet. She is due for 6 weeks shots anyway and a deworming.

  9. Reply
    wanda

    CAN A DOG BE BLOATED DUE TO OBSTRUCTION IN THE STOMACH BY SOME FIBERS? MY PUPPY’S ABDOMEN IS BLOATED, SO I IMMEDIATELY GAVE HER SIMETHICONE THEN RIGHT AFTER, SHE VOMITED A BALL OF FIBERS AND BURPED. SHE IS NOT PALE AND SHE STILL EATS, ALTHOUGH ONLY A LITTLE, THE ONLY PROBLEM IS THE BLOAT. WHAT MUST I DO? INDUCE VOMIT? THANKS.

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      The puppy needs an xray. What if the fibers went past the stomach and into the intestines? There could be an obstruction farther along and vomiting will only help the stomach. Your puppy might need surgery to relieve the obstruction. I would have her checked out by a vet asap. Otherwise there is not too much you can do. After vomiting one session, more vomiting will not help.

  10. Reply
    Taylor

    Hello there, tonight my 3 month old puppy got into his bag of food, and his stomach is quite hard and I can’t tell if he is in pain. What should I do?

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      This can be very serious if he ate too much and is constipated or bloated. See the blog on food bloat and follow the instructions. Usually these dog do well with water and maybe IV fluids if they need it. Time is usually the fix but if the bloat is very bad then IV fluids. If you can bring him to a vet that would be ideal, but if not then you need to stop feeding him for a day and offer a lot of water. Make sure he drinks and can pass the food. A vet visit is needed if he will not eat, or starts acting lethargic or funny. Good luck.

  11. Reply
    Melissa

    My brother in law has a 2 month old chihuahua and gave him rice, it was a big portion. And now the pups abdomen is very hard and cant walk. He seems to be having seizures. What can we do at home ? We are too far away from a vet.

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      not much, except walk him and try to get him to a vet. Seizures are most likely pain, so walking and trying to move the rice through would be the best. I would normally say have him drink water but not with rice. Sorry I cant help more.

  12. Reply
    Joseph

    my dog got in to a bag of dog food he is just over a year old. i came to you blog and read over it i don’t know how much he had but he is drinking lots of water and i have been walking him since i read that’s what y’all do. out side he is more like him self wanting to move around a lot inside he just wants to lay down. he through up once shortly after he ate.

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      That is the right thing to do but if you are concerned or he starts acting more lethargic or dry heaving then bring him to a vet immediately.

  13. Reply
    Elizabeth

    My puppy’s about 5 -6 weeks old she was found in a dumpster and i told them i would keep her. Ai have had her for about a week and i noticed that today her tummy is hard and looks big. She is playful still and bites when we walk us that something to b concerned with? The bitting part also

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      yes, have you brought her to a vet? She probably has worms and she is now due for her vaccines. The biting you need to train her to stop.

  14. Reply
    Daniel

    Hi, my puppy maltese eats 1/3 of his dog food 3 times a day. Today we decided to give him homemade food, mashed meat and potatoes. He surprisingly ate a whole 3/3 of that. Now he is shaking a little. What should I do?

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Bring him to a vet. He might have pancreatitis, or a food bloat or just a GI issue. If he gets worse be very concerned. You gave him 3x the normal amount he eats and increased the calories and richness. His body can not take a jump that fast.

  15. Reply
    Ren

    Dr. Stewart, I’ve read your blog and comments. My dog accidentally ate more food. She belly is distended. She dry heaved vomited twice pooped 4x over several hrs. She was taken to the vet, no obstruction was given SQ fluids, IM antiemetic and antacid. Overall she looks good .She has been extremely thirsty. Based on previously post it seems this is ok for her to keep drinking. My concern is obviously adding more volume in her GI tract would stress her stomach more? Giving her small aliquots. Is my reasoning good? Or what is your general oral fluid recommendations?

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Moderate but ample water. Let her drink more water in smaller amounts. Like a very regulated constant amount of water. She really needs the water but I would also not want to stress out her stomach. It is probably fine now, as it has been many hours but just so you know the water is good. Hope she feels better. It would be unlikely to push the food bloat worse with drinking water if she looks comfortable.

  16. Reply
    Ann

    Hello Dr. Stewart, my dogs belly seems to be getting bigger however it’s been like this for a couple of weeks. She eats and drinks fine also uses the bathroom ok. When I touch her stomach she does not cry or move away. However I am still worries about her stomach. Could this still be bloat?

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Unlikley to be a week long bloat. Might be worms, or cancer or something else. Maybe cushings disease (drinking a lot of water, bad hair coat…?) I would have her checked by your local vet. I doubt it is an emergency or boat, but you should have it checked.

  17. Reply
    Shelby Ray

    Hi Dr. Stewart. I have a 13 year old Corgi. She has a metal hip from being hit by a car before we adopted her. She was limping yesterday so I gave her one of her pain pills , carprofin 75mg, with PB. She threw up a small amount of white, mucus last night, after dinner tonight and two more times. They are a small amount but each time is white mucus. Tonight she ate all of her food and pushed our other dog out of the way and finished off his food before I found it.
    Could this be because of the pain pill and it’s been awhile since I’ve given one to her?
    Her behavior is normal, she is not forceably vomiting, it’s just coming out.
    Thanks for your help.

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      This does not sound like something the carprofen would cause. The vomiting from carprofen is usually limited and after one pill would stop after a few hours.(unless there is an ulcer or something more serious) She sounds pretty normal except for these small changes. I would have her checked up by your vet for a senior exam and maybe some simple bloodwork. The pain pill should not do this. Good luck.

  18. Reply
    Schira

    My dog (9 yr old, 7 lb pug/chihuahua mix) and I are staying with my grandma for a few days and she got into a bag of car food and now her stomach is quite firm and round. She able to drink water and apparently hasn’t lost her appetite as she tried to get to the other dog when he was being fed. No drooling or dry heaving and she’s drinking a decent amount of water. However her breathing seems rather fast and sort of shallow. It’s 1am and the vet isn’t open until 9am. What can I do?

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Not too much, withhold more food, give her plenty of water and very frequent small walks to help move the food through her system (like every hour or 2). I would seriously monitor for pancreatitis and see your local vet at 9am for further advice. You should not induce vomiting at home.

  19. Reply
    Michele Somers

    What can you do for pancreatis? We were at the vet today and they gave her some fluids but not from a drip. My dogs phosphates are wxtremely high as well as her kidney enzymes. She hasnt eaten all day. And is it okay to give her meds on an empty stomach. Internist put her on 3 meds the same day so I suspect that is the issue, but she did overeat and does overdrink due to cushings and the appetite enhancer. I do remember helping her get off tge couch last night and the bottom half of her body got twisted a bit. She judt looked at me. She has been lethargic, vomiting 2-3 times a day for the past two days. She is laying down most of tge time feeling miserable. I gave her pain meds and had to force feed her anti-seizure and phosphate blockers. Trying to give her the minimum. Just worried I should take her to emergency tomoght or see if she feels better tomorrow. Also while at the Vet today, she made a noise when the vet was feeling her stomach on the sides when feeling around. Her stomach is usually rounded and hard from the Cushings. She is not drooling, just laying still. Sometimes wants me to give her a belly rub by coming upnto me with her sad eyes. Otherwise, she is just laying around. Frustrated. Inknow her end of life is in the future as she is 12 and has a brain tumor (diagnosed a month ago). The vet wants her on renal diet but gives her meds that make her sick so she wont eat it. She will eat chicken and rice, ground turjry and rice and spaghetti. She’s got some issues, but plan is to take her off the three meds ghe internist put her on and get her to feel better. Just worried tonight that I should have her in for an iv. Thoughts? suggestions? Waiting for prescription dirt fron Balanceit.com via internist. Most likely chicken and rice with supplements and Welactin. Help

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Wow. If I follow you have a 12 year old dog with cushings, renal failure, brain tumor, seizures, abdominal pain and weakness that will not eat and is seeing a vet and an internist? I am sorry but there is very little I can recommend from a blog point of view. I would have a conversation with your internist as soon as possible and if you are concerned about her tonight, then go to the ER for sure. Good luck, sounds like you have your hands full, but do not hesitate to go to the ER if needed.

  20. Reply
    Michele Somers

    Sorry for typos. Fyi plan is to do STS radiation on the tumor, but the Oncologist wants her BUN level loser than 65. Currently over 132. She also has proteinuria. The med they all want her on for that tends to ekevate her kidney enzymes and it diesnt reduce the protein in the urine. So I took her off it again for the 2nd time this month. She is patheticlly ill on that med.

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      BUN of 132, is very high. She likely has renal failure as well, and the proteinurea is not a good sign. I would be very cautious about going off too many meds. I have no idea what the meds are but she is very sick. Fixing one problem at another problems expense is not a good idea.

  21. Reply
    Corinne

    Hi, my dog killed and ate a groundhog while he was in the yard today. The whole thing except the fur and intestines and head. (I think it was too bony for him to chew through) His belly is very full and he looked uncomfortable for about 30 minutes, but currently (about 2 hours later) he is laying down peacefully. He drank a lot of water when he came in and soon after threw up just a tiny bit of foam, then maybe 10 minutes later tried to retch but nothing came out. He seems to be ok, resting. I read your blog and will take him out on leash and walk him around the yard every hour or so and he has a full bowl of water available. Should I be extremely worried? It is 5 pm Saturday afternoon here and no vets until Monday unless I take him to the e-vet, which I cannot afford. Thank you for this blog!

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Sounds like he should be fine. I dont see why it would be a big problem, assuming he is vaccinated and there are no wounds on him. Just keep watching him for the next day or so.

  22. Reply
    Corinne

    That is helpful in easing my worried pet parent mind. Thank you! He has been drinking a fair amount of water but otherwise is resting comfortably. I’ve walked him once and he tried to roll in the grass (which he loves to do when it is hot out) but I did not allow it for fear of torsion while he is so full.

  23. Reply
    Susan

    I wish I had known about this. My dog died a few hours ago, as the result of getting into the closet where her favorite dog biscuits were kept.

  24. Reply
    Ryan Roch

    Our dog was diagnosed with food bloat. He got into a bunch of food and after treatment at the vet, x-rays show its slowly starting to pass. He has no problem urinating and is taking smaller poops. One this morning was a lot more loose with Mucus in it. He still seems to have no relief. Should we give the medication and nature more time or bring him back in. He is a 3 year old Black Lab.

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      It takes time, but usually we recommend keeping them on IV fluids because it speeds the process and the stomach can take a lot of fluids before it begins to empty. Try a little longer with multiple walks (slow walks on a leash) and encourage water drinking. If he is not better soon take him back in.

  25. Reply
    Taylor

    I have a 10 year old beagle mix, and a 3 year old german shepherd. The beagle’s stomach was slightly distended and harder than usual this morning; I assume he got into his brother’s dinner last night. If that is the case, he wouldn’t have over eaten a massive amount, however, their serving sizes do differ so it would definitely be more than he is used to. He acts normal, no labored breathing, no signs of discomfort, nothing out of the usual. He hasn’t “vomited” but he has spit up a few times, and the spit up contained some food. Some of the tightness has decreased. What further advice besides easy walks, water, and monitoring can you offer? Thank you.

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      You are doing what I would advise. Walks water and close monitoring. If he continues to vomit or gets painful then he needs to see a vet. Do not let him roll over or play at all for fear of a torsion, but gentle walks and small multiple drinks of water are ideal. Good luck hopefully it passes without incident. You are doing the right thing.

  26. Reply
    Divyarth dheeryan

    Sir my puppy stomach is swollen I touch her abdominal no pain is she overeat tell me what to how to cure her swollen stomach

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      You need to see a local vet, this could be anything.

  27. Reply
    Haz

    My four-month old puppy ate too much and too quick earlier (we didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to play right after), few minutes after, she pooped, then began acting anxious then vomited her dog food that was still undigested. She has also pooped 3x since then and her stomach is less distended and she is more comfortable now. She seems to want to drink a lot of water, should we give it to her? Do we still need to be concerned?

    • Reply
      Dr. Stewart

      Sounds like it is resolving but hard to assess without an exam. If you are concerned bring her to a vet. Food bloat can be very serious. Seems like she is on the road to getting better though.

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