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Bloat First Aid

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Just the basics on this page.

  1. Emergency First Aid for Bloat
  2. The Emergency Kit
  3. More Information About Bloat


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Emergency First Aid for Bloat

There is no substitute for prompt, competent veterinary attention! If you can realistically expect to receive veterinary treatment within 5 to 10 minutes, call the veterinarian and go--don't bother with first aid! On the other hand, if you think it'll take at least 20 minutes to get there, then the few minutes you spend administering first aid could make the difference between life or death. The ideal situation is to have someone else drive you to the clinic while you administer first aid. If you are having any problems with the technique, don't waste time trying to figure it out--get the dog to the hospital ! !


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Emergency First Aid

  1. Stay Calm.
  2. Call hospital and tell them you're coming with a bloat case. Give approximate arrival time.
  3. Take 1/2 inch tube and measure and mark the approximate length of tube you'll need to pass.
    • Run the tube along the outside of your dog's body, tracing the contours of where the tube would go if you were passing it.
    • Run the tube to just behind the last rib--that's where the stomach should be--mark the spot.
    This will give you an idea as to whether the tube has successfully been passed into the stomach when you're actually doing it.
    Measuring and Marking Tube
  4. Pry open dog's mouth and position wood block behind the canines and between the upper and lower jaws, so that the 3/4 inch hole is facing you when you're standing in front of the dog's face. The dog will struggle, but you must keep the block in position. Positioning Block
  5. Use the nylon cord to tie the block to the dog's lower jaw. Be sure the block is tied firmly in place. Securing Block
  6. Lightly lubricate about 3 inches of the outside of the vinyl tube (the end that you'll be passing).
  7. Turn the tube so any natural curl in the hose is downward. Slide the lubricated tube through the wood block towards the dog's throat, in a slightly downward direction.
  8. Once the tube gets to the throat, push gently but firmly, about an inch at a time. Let the dog swallow what you've passed before pushing more in. The first resistance point you'll feel is the esophagus. If the dog coughs persistently, it means that you've gone into the lungs instead of the stomach. Pull the tube out, and try again, angling slightly downwards towards the back of the throat--the air way is above of the food canal. Tube's First Point of Resistance
  9. Once the tube passes the esophagus, passage should be somewhat easier until you approach the stomach. You will encounter the second resistance point at the entrance into the stomach. Continue to push gently but firmly--NEVER FORCE the tube down! Tube to Stomach
  10. Once you think you've entered the stomach (which you can guess by looking at the marking on your tube, and by having passed through 2 resistance points), you should be able to feel air come out by putting your cheek close to the outside end of the tube.
  11. Be sure to keep the tube in place and not allow it to slide back out. Lower the outside end of the tube (preferably to a lower level than the dog's stomach) to allow gravity to suction the air and stomach contents out through the tube.
  12. If air and other stomach contents do not appear to be coming out at this point, then something is blocking the flow. You will need to clear the tube by blowing a small puff of air into the stomach through the tube, and then quickly lowering the outside end of the tube. Air and other contents should flow then, and the stomach should begin to decompress.
  13. Food particles occasionally get in the way and block the flow. In that case, you'll have to repeat the above step.
  14. In the event that you're unable to pass the 1/2 inch tube down to the stomach, try using the 1/4 inch tube. If the stomach has partially torsioned (i.e. 90° or less), the entrance to the stomach may be too constricted to allow the 1/2 inch tube to pass, but the smaller tube may squeeze by.
  15. If tube passage is unsuccessful, then the stomach must have torsioned, and hopefully, your driver is pulling into your veterinarian's hospital.

We hope that you will never encounter bloat or torsion. However, we strongly urge you to be prepared just in case. We recommend that you practice passing the tube on your dog at your leisure--it will not harm the dog if you do it gently!

If you have any questions regarding this procedure - please discuss them with your veterinarian. Remember this is First Aid and not a treatment for bloat !

Animated Demostration of First Aid Procedure

animated first aid procdure


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The Emergency Kit

The following items will help you administer first aid in a bloat emergency. You can find the first 3 items in a hardware store, such as Home Depot, or at a pet store that carries aquariums :
  1. 1/2 inch ( inside diameter ) x 6 feet, clear, non-toxic, vinyl tube
    ( outside diameter = 5/8 inch ).
    1.25 cm x 182 cm ( outside diameter = 1.6 cm )
  2. 1/4 inch (inside diameter) x 6 feet, clear, non-toxic, vinyl tube
    (outside diameter = 3/8 inch).
    .60 cm x 182 cm ( outside diameter = .95 cm )
  3. 2x2 wood block, 8 inches long with 3/4 inch diameter hole in center.
    5 cm x 5 cm x 20 cm ( 1.90 cm diameter hole)
  4. Water soluble lubricating jelly, such as K-Y jelly.
  5. 2 feet of soft nylon cord, or an old soft nylon leash.
    61 cm of cord
  6. Electrical tape to mark tubing
Bloat kit

Prepare the items as follows:

  1. Smooth the ends of the vinyl tubing by holding it briefly over a weak flame (e.g. cigarette lighter). The heat should lightly melt the vinyl around the outer rim of the end of the tube, thus smoothing the edge. Be sure to rotate the tube so the entire outer rim is slightly melted, and not just one side. Do the same thing to the other end of the tube. The reason for smoothing the end is to minimize potential damage to the dog's internal organs when you pass the tube.
  2. Drill a 3/4 inch hole through the center of the wood block and sand off any splinters. Make certain that you can pass the larger ( 1/2 inch ) vinyl tube through this hole easily.
  3. Put all the above 5 items into a large freezer bag and seal the bag--you now have an emergency bloat kit. Always leave a kit in every car you travel with your dogs in, and another kit in a handy location at home.
  4. As an additional preparation step, if you only have 1 or 2 dogs, you may want to mark your vinyl tubings with tape before storage: ( Run the tube along the outside of your dog's body, tracing the contours of where the tube would go if you were passing it. Run the tube to just behind the last rib--that's where the stomach should be--mark the spot. This will give you an idea as to whether the tube has successfully been passed into the stomach when you're actually doing it. It will also save you from having to rough measure when the time comes
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