If you suspect (or know for sure that your dog has bloat), you may be wondering whether they will sleep. If they are even capable, that is. Well, I’d like to address this topic here today, and due to the dangers of bloat, I am not going to be keeping you waiting.
So, will a dog with bloat sleep? Some dogs with bloat might sleep, though it can be fatal: bloat is a life-threatening condition and requires immediate veterinary attention with emergency surgery. You should, therefore, not allow your dog to sleep should bloat be suspected.
Before you panic, let us look at how you may be able to confirm your dog has bloat (and the suggested response).
But before we do, let’s see why sleeping is unlikely.
Why Dogs Are Unlikely To Sleep With Bloat
Dogs are unlikely to sleep with bloat because their swollen stomach causes intense pain levels. Your dog won’t be able to find a comfortable position to lie down in. He will still drink water, although in small amounts.
When a dog has bloat, gas builds up inside your dog’s abdomen, which causes it to swell up.
Your dog’s abdomen can swell to the point where it presses against other organs like his lungs (causing difficulty breathing) or his intestines.
The pressure causes quite a lot of pain, so your dog is unlikely to be able to sleep.
Medical experts say that bloating is one of the most painful experiences a dog can go through. Any and all daily activities can be more challenging, including sleep.
Inability To Get Comfortable Lying Down
Your dog won’t be able to be comfortable lying down, as he will be in severe pain (see below).
Just like us, dogs in severe pain are unlikely to be able to sleep at all.
Drinking To Try And Alleviate The Pain
Your dog may want to drink water in small amounts because water will be the only thing he can take in.
So, your dog will stay up to drink, or prioritize drinking over sleeping.
He will only drink small quantities though because he’ll be feeling the pressure and will try to alleviate the pain (though the water will have no effect).
How Do Dogs Act When They Have Bloat?
Your dog will show signs of severe pain if he has bloat. He will also not want to eat or play because of the pressure on his stomach. He’ll be unable to poop, and you might see him eating grass to try and help his stomach (the grass won’t help).
Signs of Excruciating Pain
Because your dog will be in severe pain, you will most likely see him:
- Trying to find a comfortable position to lie down
- Breathing heavily
- Pawing at his stomach
- Pale mucus membranes around his teeth
- Unable to sit calmly
- Standing with elbows extended and feet wide apart
- Crying or whining
- Increased heart rate
- In pain when peeing (peeing is extra painful for a dog with bloat because your dog has to push to pee. As he pushes, he’s putting extra pressure on his already painful stomach)
Not Wanting To Eat
Your dog will avoid eating if he has bloat because his stomach is painfully full of gas.
When the stomach has filled up with gas, it will flip upside down, thereby compromising blood flow and the movement of food through the intestinal tract.
Not Wanting To Play
Your dog will not want to play and will probably be feeling depressed because of the levels of pain he’s experiencing.
The last thing he’ll want to do is run around or chase a ball.
Unable To Poop
Your dog won’t be able to poop because nothing has been digested.
The food is fermenting in his stomach along with the building levels of gas and, therefore, pressure.
Sometimes a dog will eat grass in an attempt to help settle his stomach.
Many dogs do this to help with nausea or to induce vomiting, but in this case, the grass won’t help because nothing is being digested.
Other Signs Of Bloat
The easiest sign of bloat to spot is your dog’s swollen abdomen. There are other indications, though, such as:
- Retching (trying to vomit, but no food is coming out)
- His swollen stomach is firm to the touch
- He looks distressed
- He’s drooling excessively
- He usually farts if he has gas, but he suddenly can’t (the gas can’t escape)
Bloat can happen in one of two ways:
- Very suddenly (you can almost see your dog’s stomach start to swell within 2 to 3 hours after a meal). You can watch this video to see how quickly bloat can develop
- Gradually (over a long period of time)
Note: Contrary to popular opinion, eating too much does not cause bloat. Bloat is caused by your dog not digesting his food properly due to excitement (during exercise, for example) or stress (see more below).
Causes Of Bloat
It’s worth knowing what causes bloat so that you can either do what you can to avoid it or recognize it more easily if it does happen to your dog. Some other conditions look like bloat: several are also life-threatening.
Eating Too Quickly
Dogs who hoover up their food quickly are more likely to get bloat than dogs who eat more leisurely. As your dog is gulping down his food, he’s also taking in extra air, which can then lead to bloat.
Drinking Too Much After Meals
Dogs who drink large amounts of water after their meals are more likely to develop bloat than dogs who drink smaller amounts.
If your dog gets overexcited or highly stressed, he may not digest his food properly, which can lead to bloat.
Other Problems That May Look Like Bloat
Not all swollen stomachs are caused by bloat. There are other conditions that may look like bloat, such as:
- Uterine infection
- Heart failure
- Internal bleeding
- Liver dysfunction
Needless to say, several of these are life-threatening. If your dog looks bloated, get him to the vet asap, no matter what you think the cause may be.
What To Do If Your Dog Has Bloat
If your dog has bloat, get him to the vet immediately. Your dog can die from bloat within just a few hours due to the pressure on the lungs and other vital organs. You’ll have to look after your dog carefully afterward. Some people choose gastropexy as a preventative measure.
Get Him To The Vet Immediately
Bloat is life-threatening, so the sooner you get your dog to the vet, the better his chances of survival. Bear in mind the following:
- Quick treatment is essential. If your usual vet isn’t available, get emergency attention at another service. Your dog may go into shock within an hour or two. As his heart rate rises, his pulse will weaken. He will die without immediate treatment if he does have bloat.
- Never try to treat your dog at home. Human medications aren’t suitable for dogs, and some of them are even poisonous.
- Call your vet as you leave to say you’re on your way. Your vet will want to prepare for your dog’s arrival or perhaps redirect you to the best emergency service if required.
- Prepare yourself for tough decisions. Treating bloat can cost from $3,500 to $5,000, with complications bringing costs up to as much as $9,000. Be ready to do what’s best for your dog.
Prepare For Weeks Of After Care
If your dog has had bloat, be prepared to spend a good few weeks looking after him carefully.
Your vet will give you instructions, but here are a few things to know in advance:
- Prepare a confined and comfortable space for your dog to recover from surgery. Your dog will need to heal, and he can’t do this if he’s moving around too much.
- Be mindful of any post-surgery complications (pain, vomiting, lack of appetite, infection, inflammation). Only provide pain medication with your vet’s guidance.
- Your dog won’t want to eat much, so feed him small, bland meals that are easy on the digestive tract. Boiled chicken breast (without salt, bones, or skin) with plain, boiled white rice is perfect to begin with. Bone broth is another good option (without seasonings or salt). You can then gradually increase the kinds of things he’s eating once he’s regularly consumed some bland food for a few days.
Breeds Who Are Predisposed To Bloat
Some dog breeds are more likely to get bloat than others, particularly large breeds with deep chests. These breeds include:
- German Shepherds
- Great Danes
- Irish Wolfhounds
- American Cocker Spaniels
- St Bernards
- English Springer Spaniels
- Irish Setters
Because the above breeds are more likely to get bloat, some people want to take preventative measures through surgical procedures (see below).
An Optional Preventative Measure
While there’s no way to be absolutely sure your dog will never get bloat again, some people opt for gastropexy as a preventative measure if their dog is predisposed to it.
Gastropexy is when a vet surgically ‘attaches’ the stomach to the right side of the body wall: this holds the stomach in place, thus preventing it from flipping or twisting.
Some people opt for gastropexy for their young dogs at the same time as they are spayed or neutered.
Great Danes are particularly prone to bloat (40% of Great Danes will develop bloat at some point).
If your dog has already had bloat, gastropexy is usually performed as part of the emergency surgery.
Vets do this for a good reason: performing a gastropexy can reduce the risk of a recurrence from 55% to only 4%.
Regardless of whether you know for sure that your dog has bloat or not, you should contact a vet. And promptly.
Bloat can be fatal, unless addressed quickly. And your dog will be in immense pain, too.
So you should absolutely not allow your dog to sleep if you do suspect they have this condition.
Chances are, they wouldn’t be able to anyway….
Related Guides you may be interested in:
- Dog Throwing Up Only In Middle Of Night [Why & What To Do]
- Can Dogs Have Night Terrors? [Everything You Need To Know]
- My Dog Sleeps On The Floor Instead Of Her Bed
- Where Should My Dog Sleep At Night Time? [What Is Optimal?]
- Why Do Dogs Fall Asleep So Fast? [Are All Dogs The Same?
- Why Do Dogs Wag Their Tails In Their Sleep? [Is It Normal?]
- Dog Lying Flat On Belly [Why They Do It & Should You Let Them]
I am a practiced pet owner with decades of experience owning a number of different pets. I am also the main writer and chief editor here at Pet Educate; a site I created to share everything I’ve learned about pet ownership over the years and my extensive research along the way.