Attention! This is a potentially life-threatening condition for your Cow. Time is of the essence, contact your veterinarian immediately.


Bloat is a common gastrointestinal disorder that occurs in cattle and ruminants. It is caused by cattle not being able to belch or release gases that are produced during the normal microbial fermentation process that occurs in the rumen. Without release of the trapped gas, it puts alot of pressure on the diaphragm and lungs due to the resulting expansion of the rumen; without treatment this can lead to suffocation and death due to lack of oxygen.

There are several types of bloat that affect cattle. Frothy bloat is the most common. It is caused by ingestion of too much grain (feedlot bloat) or forages with high levels of soluble protein (pasture or legume bloat), which lead to the development of foam in the rumen. The presence of this foam blocks the esophageal entrance, preventing the cow from being able to expel the excess gas. Most cases of frothy bloat occur in the spring, with the presence of lush grass pastures. During the fall, bloat risk increases again with onset of cooler weather, heavy morning dew and development of frost.

Another, less frequent cause of bloat in cattle is free-gas bloat. Free-gas bloat occurs due to internal damage that causes blockage of the cow's cardia or esophagus. It can also be caused by depression of rumen movement.


Bloated, enlarged appearance of body
Sudden death
Kicking at sides
Frequent stomping of feet
Signs of discomfort


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Laboratory tests


Treatment TypeDetailsReference
PoloxaleneAdministered through a stomach tube, by a veterinarian or experienced handler.
TrocarUsed as a last resort due to risk of severe infection.


  • Strive to provide cattle with free range access to pastures containing low-risk bloat forage species (arrowleaf clover, birdsfoot trefoil, sericea lespedeza, annual lespedeza, crown vetch, cowpea, perennial peanut, kudzo, berseem clover)
  • Do not turn out starving or hungry cattle into lush pastures containing high-protein forage
  • Using forages which contain condensed tannins will aid in preventing bloat
  • Slowly adapt cattle onto a grain diet, over a period of at least three weeks
  • Provide poloxalene in a salt-molasses block or as a top dressing to feed

Article Reference

Risk Factors

  • Consumption of forage containing high levels of soluble protein (such as alfalfa, white clover, winter wheat)
  • Consumption of weeds with high risk for bloat
  • Being fed on a high-grain diet
  • Kept on a feedlot with little to no access to pasture grasses



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