Gastric torsion in dogs is a serious condition that many dog owners fear. Without any warning, the dog’s stomach rotates or twists – an incident that can be fatal. Since it is important to react quickly in such a case, every dog owner should know the symptoms. In this article, you will learn what a twisted stomach is, how to recognize it, and what first aid measures to be taken.
What is Stomach Torsion and What causes It?
The dog’s stomach is located in the abdomen by two points. The dog’s stomach is not tubular or spherical but a large, muscular, sac-like organ located between the esophagus and small intestine.
If a stomach torsion (also known as volvulus or gastric dilatation) occurs, your dog’s stomach twists on its own, thereby blocking the entry and exit of the stomach and cutting off the blood supply. The constricted blood vessels strain the circulation and gases accumulate in the dog’s stomach, which causes the stomach to bloat and be hard. Since blood stops flowing into the stomach, the tissue is damaged and dies. If the dog is not treated in a timely manner, the stomach wall can no longer withstand the pressure and will leak. If an emergency operation is not carried out early, gastric dilatation leads to an excruciating death within a few hours.
Is My Dog at Risk of Developing Gastric Volvulus?
Medium-sized and large dogs with a deep chest are prone to stomach torsion, but owners of smaller dogs should not feel too safe. Dachshunds, beagles and the like can also suffer from this condition, which is often fatal. After all, 30% of gastric bloat are diagnosed in small to medium-sized dog breeds.
However, dog owners should be particularly careful if their canine companion belongs to the following breeds: Great Dane, German Shepherd, Boxer, Doberman, Irish Wolfhound, Hovawart, Setter, King Poodle, Newfoundland, or St. Bernard. These breeds are particularly often susceptible to a stomach twist.
Another risk factor is age: stomach torsion is more common in older dogs, but young dogs and puppies are also at risk of developing this ailment.
Symptoms: This is How you recognize Gastric Twisting In Your Dog
In order to recognize a stomach torsion as early as possible, you should notice the following symptoms:
- Panting, moaning, and profuse drooling
- Restless, your dog cannot find a comfortable position and he wants to go out
- your dog tries to vomit but nothing comes up
- Your dog is shaking or shivering
- The abdomen behind the ribs swells and hardens, causing shortness of breath
- Your dog is restless and appears apathetic
As the condition progresses, these symptoms also appear:
- Faded mucous membranes
- An increased heart rate
- Heart and circulatory problems
That your dog is trying to throw up but in vain is a pretty clear indicator of stomach torsion. The esophagus is constricted by the stomach rotation, which is why your dog can’t throw up anything. If your dog drinks something at this point, he will vomit the water again within a very short time. Dogs affected by a stomach twist usually lie down and get up again immediately. He is unable to find a comfortable position.
The distended stomach in your dog can put pressure on blood vessels， which lowers his blood pressure and can cause the dog to go to shock. The distension can also place pressure on the diaphragm, preventing the dog from being able to breathe easily.
You can easily see and feel the distension of the stomach from the outside. The front as well as the rear part of the abdomen increase in volume considerably. If you tap lightly on the back ribs or the bulging stomach, you can hear a hollow noise, similar to a drum. Due to the deteriorating circulatory system, your dog appears restless and ultimately apathetic. Your dog’s pulse increases very quickly and sometimes can hardly be felt.
Gastric torsion threatening your dog’s life can develop manifests itself within half an hour to an hour, among other things. Finally, your dog can no longer stand or walk.
What to Do In Case of Stomach Bloat In Your Dog
If your canine companion shows signs that his stomach is upset, take him to a veterinarian immediately. Your dog can only be saved through prompt emergency surgery. If the torsion in the stomach is not treated in time, your dog will die within a few hours.
Despite the possible consequence of the condition, it is important to stay calm: You have to get your dog into a car as quickly as possible because as the condition worsens, it is difficult for the dog to walk on its own. That can become a problem, especially with large and heavy dogs.
If you have a dog at a high risk of gastric dilatation, you should always have at least three phone numbers of veterinarians at hand. In this case, you can have your dog operated on at night within a very short time. It is best to inquire in advance whether the operation can be performed quickly late at night in order to be prepared for an emergency.
This is How the Stomach Torsion is Treated
As a rule, the dog’s circulation is first stabilized by an infusion. The vet will also cure a bloated stomach by pricking through the abdominal wall with a special syringe. With an X-ray, the vet can be certain that the stomach is twisted.
The stabilization is followed by an operation as soon as possible. The dog’s belly is opened and the stomach is untwisted and repositioned. The vet will also empty and rinse the stomach. What’s coming next depends entirely on whether other parts of the stomach or the spleen have been damaged by poor circulation. If the organs are intact, your dog’s belly will be sewn up. Part of the stomach wall is attached to the abdominal wall to prevent the stomach from twisting again. This procedure is called a gastropexy. Although most veterinarians will perform gastropexy after a gastric twist, you should express a desire to have one.
If the spleen or parts of the stomach wall have already died, the vet will have to remove them, which increases the time in operation and significantly reduces the dog’s chances of survival.
Even after the operation, your dog can die within a few days from the consequences of the torsion in the stomach. Intensive observation, care, and follow-up checks are important in the first few days, which is why it makes sense that your dog stays at the vet. A full recovery is likely a few days later.
The death rate from a stomach twist is between 15 and 45 percent. Time plays an important role here: the earlier the dog is treated, the better its chances of survival.
How Can I Prevent A Stomach Torsion In My Dog?
The causes of a gastric torsion have not yet been clear and there are hardly any preventive measures. To reduce the risk of this ailment, you shouldn’t feed your dog one large meal once a day, but several times a day, each time in a smaller portion.
Avoid any physical activities within an hour after feeding your dog. Running around on a full stomach can increase the risk of gastric dilation. Stress is also suspected as a trigger – this should be avoided, especially when eating. Whether these causes will cause a stomach twist has not been proven, so it is only a matter of theories.
For owners with dog breeds susceptible to stomach torsion, there is the option of having a prophylactic gastropexy performed: The dog’s stomach is sewn to its abdominal wall, even though it has not previously suffered from gastric torsion. Since genetic factors can also play a role, this procedure may be worthwhile if your dog’s parents have had a stomach dilatation. You should discuss with your veterinarian whether prophylactic gastropexy is necessary for your dog.
A twisting of the stomach is a serious emergency condition that requires immediate action, which is why it is important to be aware of symptoms and to always know when to contact a veterinarian, even at night. Time is the top priority in curing gastric volvulus in dogs.