Mastiffs and Bloat
Causes and Symptoms

Mastiffs can weigh more than a grown man. Despite their loving, patient, and loyal natures, they can be physically intimidating. And yet mastiffs can be vulnerable, too--these sweet-natured giants can develop a serious condition called “bloat.”

Bloat is a life-threatening problem where a dog’s stomach swells and sometimes twists. Knowing the signs of bloat is crucial because it can develop very rapidly. This is a condition that requires immediate veterinary care and will likely result in surgery.

Keep reading to find out what symptoms and signs you should watch for, what causes bloat in mastiffs, whether this condition affects mastiff puppies, and how bloat is treated. Finally, read about the wisdom of obtaining medical insurance for your mastiff. Read More Below...

Disclaimer: The writers of this page are not veterinarians. The information we provide should not be a substitute for veterinary medical advice. Pet owners should always consult with their vet if they have any pet-related questions or concerns.


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Mastiffs and bloat


Mastiff Bloat Symptoms and Signs

Because bloat comes on and develops quickly, it’s critical to know the symptoms and signs:

Early Stages

  • Swollen belly
  • Head held very low, indicating pain
  • Foamy drool
  • Unusual thirst
  • Pacing or other anxious behavior
  • Retching without vomiting

Late Stages

  • Pale or dark red gums
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • Weakness and collapse

If you notice these symptoms in your mastiff, go to the vet immediately. Don’t try over-the-counter medicines or home remedies, as these can make the situation worse. 

If you can safely do so without slowing yourself down, call ahead so that the vet’s staff can prepare to treat your dog as soon as you get there. And since some practices aren’t able to handle an emergency like bloat or may simply be too busy with other patients, calling first will save time if they need to send you to a different hospital.

Still unsure of what to look for? Here’s a helpful YouTube video:



Pro-tip: Does your Mastiff have issues with anxiety, destructive chewing, aggressiveness, jumping up, barking or fearfulness?

Brain Training For Dogs is an excellent online training course that
addresses these behavioral issues as well as dog training basics.


Causes of Mastiff Bloat

Bloat happens when your dog’s stomach fills with gas and begins to swell. This puts pressure on your dog’s internal organs and can cause a stomach tear or other complications.

The swelling can also cause the stomach to twist, which cuts off the stomach from the esophagus and small intestine. When this happens, it’s called Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV). Trapped stomach contents create more gas and bloating and can cut off blood flow. This can lead to shock and then death.

Unfortunately, the cause of bloat isn’t precisely known, except that it seems to be related to swallowed air. However, experts have recommendations that might help prevent bloat, such as:

  • Feed your mastiff small meals 2-3 times a day.
  • Use a slow-feeder placed on the floor.
  • Don’t exercise your dog right before or right after a meal.
  • Don’t allow your mastiff to drink a lot of water during meals.
  • Avoid foods that contain soybean meal.

If you don’t already have a slow-feeder for your mastiff, consider one of these:


To see a side-by-side test of a regular bowl and a slow-feeder,
check out this YouTube video: 


Mastiff Puppy Bloat

Bloat is indeed more common as dogs get older--but mastiff puppies can and do develop bloat. They should be watched just as carefully as older dogs for signs of this serious condition.

It’s a good idea to train your mastiff puppy not to gobble down their food. Feed 3 to 4 small meals throughout the day and use a slow feeder for your pup just as you would for an older dog. Puppies should be exposed to new foods slowly to minimize gas buildup.

When you are considering buying a mastiff puppy, a reputable breeder should be able to give you information about whether any of a puppy’s relatives are known to have suffered from bloat. You’ll want to know this because there is some evidence that this will make your puppy more likely to have the same issue.

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Mastiff Bloat Surgery

When you and your mastiff arrive at the veterinary hospital, an x-ray will be taken to decide if other methods can be tried or if emergency surgery is needed. Unfortunately, by the time a dog with bloat can be taken to a vet, it will likely need surgery. The good news is that surgery gives your dog an excellent chance of surviving.

Before surgery, your mastiff will be stabilized with IV fluids and given painkillers and antibiotics. Your vet’s staff will take blood to check for organ damage and run any other tests the vet thinks are necessary. It’s likely at this stage that your vet will use a needle to try to release some of the gas from your dog’s stomach.

During surgery, your vet will return the dog’s stomach to its proper position and then stitch it to the abdominal wall to try to stop bloat from happening again. Finally, the vet will look to see if the bloat has caused any damage elsewhere and will take care of any issues that are immediately life-threatening. The whole procedure should last for about an hour and a half.

After surgery, your mastiff will stay at the vet for two or three days. They will be given IV fluids and painkillers, and the staff will watch closely for any complications from the surgery. If the practice that performed the surgery doesn’t have staff available to monitor your mastiff overnight, you should ask about a transfer to one that does.

Should I Consider Health Insurance for My Mastiff?

The cost of treating bloat is considerable. Diagnosis requires examination, x-rays, and bloodwork. In the best-case scenario, treatment involves IV fluids, painkillers, antibiotics, and the release of gas by needle--but usually, treating bloat also means surgery and a few days’ worth of monitoring afterward.

The average cost of diagnosis and surgery for bloat is between $2,500 and $5,000. If there are any complications following surgery, the cost can easily exceed $8,000.

Mastiffs are also susceptible to allergies, Hip Dysplasia, Epilepsy, eye problems, Von Willebrand disease, heart conditions, and Degenerative Myelopathy. And like any dog, they can also develop cancer.

Because of the conditions that mastiffs can develop, the AKC recommends that in addition to the usual immunizations and health check-ups that any dog should get, mastiffs also have preventative screening for hip, eye, elbow, and heart problems.

When you consider the cost of preventative veterinary care and the cost of treating any of the various conditions your mastiff can develop, you can see why health insurance is a smart choice.

Because the large Mastiff breed is prone to having health issues, see our review of the top 3 pet insurances.

Conclusion

Despite their size, Mastiffs can develop a range of serious conditions. Among the most serious is bloat. A mastiff suffering from bloat will pace, drool, drink more than usual, and retch without actually throwing up. Be especially alert to any sign of abdominal swelling. 

Suspected bloat calls for immediate veterinary care. Your vet may be able to relieve the problem with a needle puncture, but it’s more likely that your dog will need surgery.

Remember that puppies can develop bloat, too, and should be exposed gradually to new foods and encouraged to eat small, frequent meals as slowly as you can get them to eat. Before investing in a mastiff puppy, ask the breeder about relatives that have suffered from bloat.

Because diagnosis and treatment of bloat are costly, and mastiffs can suffer from a range of other health complications, mastiff owners should seriously consider health insurance for their dogs.

Here's Even More Helpful Mastiff Pages...


  1. Mastiff Guide Home
  2. Mastiff Care Information Guides
  3. Mastiffs And Bloat Causes And Symptoms