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Introduction: Bloat is one of the common problems encountered with small ruminants. If treated properly and aggressively, most cases have a favorable outcome. Many bloat conditions can be prevented by using proper nutrition and sound management.

Clinical Signs:

  1. A distended abdomen, mostly on the left side, high in the flank area is the most common sign. (If the animal is pregnant and seems to be distended on both sides of the abdomen, special consideration should be given to a possible hydrops animal. If this is a concern, consult a veterinarian.)
  2. The animal may have difficulty breathing, extend its neck, and even make grunting sounds.
  3. Signs of colic may also be present (kicking at abdomen, getting up and down, etc.).

Causative Agents: There are two major categories of bloat:

  1. Free-gas/Frothy bloat - This type of bloat can be brought on by diets that cause excessive gas production in the rumen and decrease the rumen pH. Diets high in grains, lush legumes, or winter wheat are causes of this problem. This type of bloat can also be caused by poorly digestible feed material and problems with indigestion.
  2. Problems that are outside of the rumen - These include choke and position of the animal.

Diagnosis: Most of the time this problem is not difficult to diagnose. Many animals suffering from bloat can be identified just by appearance. The difficulty arises when the exact cause for the bloat must be determined. To help determine the exact cause of the bloat, the following procedures should be performed on each animal:

  1. Pass a stomach tube into the rumen. See page C854 for suggestions on passing a tube. This will relieve any gas and potentially any fluid. If gas and/or fluid feed material come out of the tube, assume the animal has some type of gas or frothy bloat problem. At this point, any fluid from the stomach can be tested for pH level. If the pH level is lower than approximately 5.5, the bloat may be caused by grain overload. For additional information on pH testing, refer to page D630.
    1. If the tube does not pass easily, the animal could be choked and extreme care should be used in passing the tube. If after a few gentle attempts, the tube does not pass easily, consult a veterinarian.
  2. Listen to the rumen in the left flank area. This can identify if the bloat is caused by indigestion. See "Diagnosis" portion of indigestion on page F358 and refer to page C888 for information on listening to the rumen.


  1. For simple gas and frothy bloat problems, passing a tube into the rumen to relieve gas and fluid is essential. (Information on passing a tube can be found on page C854.) Then liquid dishwashing detergent (10-20 mLs), Therabloat (poloxalene) (5.5 mLs per 100 lbs. of body weight), dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate (DSS) (15-30 mLs), or another gas-reducing product should be given by drench or stomach tube. If signs of breathing problems and severe distress are present or routine treatment does not relieve the problem, it may be necessary to insert a large gauge needle or trocar into the rumen in the left flank area. Additional instruction may be required to perform this properly (see the following pictures). If grain overload is suspected, see page F288.
  2. Probios or another source of gut flora should also be given.
  3. For problems causing bloat outside of the rumen, the underlying cause must be determined and proper treatment begun. Diagnosing these problems may require the help of a veterinarian.

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* Before initiating any treatment, CONSULT A VETERINARIAN!

The arrows indicate the left flank region. The top arrow points to the short ribs or transverse processes. The left arrow designates the last rib and the right arrow points to the hip bone.


This area should be clipped, particularly over the spot with the largest bulge associated with the rumen.


Clean the clipped area thoroughly with gauze 4 x 4s soaked in betadine and alcohol. First, use one 4 x 4 soaked in betadine.


Then scrub the area with a gauze 4 x 4 soaked in alcohol. Repeat this process of betadine and alcohol scrubs at least three times using new 4 X 4s each time.


Once the area is sanitized, insert a 14 gauge, 2" needle in the center of the clipped area where the largest bulge of the rumen can be seen.

At this point, air can be let out, relieving much of the rumen pressure. This procedure should be used in only the most severe bloat cases.

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More Goat info, More Sheep info

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