A gastric torsion in a dog is an absolute emergency. The dog becomes restless, salivates a lot, chokes, tries to vomit without actually getting anything out, moans, and breathes heavily. The dog’s stomach is bloated and rocks hard, the abdominal girth is constantly increasing, and when the abdominal wall is tapped, it sounds like a drum. If help is not forthcoming, circulatory collapse follows. The pulse first becomes rapid and then weaker and weaker, and the mucous membranes pale. At worst, the dog staggers collapse and dies. The majority of dogs do not survive such a stomach torsion. Even if the dog is operated on in time, the disease is not over for every dog.
What happens when your dog has a torsion in your stomach
In gastric torsion, the stomach, overloaded with gases and/or food, rotates clockwise on its axis. The result is a complete closure of the esophagus. The dog’s stomach is clamped off, so to speak. Digestive gases can no longer escape and the stomach inflates like a balloon. The spleen, which is connected to the stomach by a thin band of tissue, can rotate with it. A life-threatening condition arises.
Which dog breeds are affected
Large and very large dog breeds are affected particularly frequently, from a body weight of around 20 kg. These include Great Danes, German Shepherds, Leonbergers, Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, Rottweilers, Giant Schnauzers, Bernese Mountain Dogs, Doberman Pinschers, Irish Setters, and Boxers. However, torsion can also occur in medium-sized dogs. Deep-chested dogs are more likely to be affected. Older dogs are more at risk than young ones. Also, the full stomach tends to turn. But dogs that have not just eaten and are given small portions can also be affected by torsion in the stomach. In any case, gastric torsion only occurs when the stomach is expanded due to gas formation.
Trigger for stomach torsion
Triggers for an upset stomach can be stress, too much food, but also unsuitable food, or the ingestion of things that are not intended for the dog’s stomach at all, such as cat litter. Fresh bread, for example, also ferments especially. Dogs that eat very quickly and swallow air are also at greater risk of gas build-up in their stomachs. Stomach torsion is more common in summer.
Prevention of gastric torsion
Rather, feed your dog two to three times a day, not too large meals, and make sure that the food is of good quality. Give your dog a rest of about 1 to 1.5 hours after feeding. Avoid situations that cause increased stress for the dog. Always make sure the feeding bowl is clean. Especially in summer, the feed can start to ferment quickly and thus promote the formation of gases. Also, make sure that the food bowl is on the ground. A higher position in the food bowl can lead to the dog swallowing more air when eating.
In dog breeds that are particularly at risk, prophylactic gastropexy, in which the stomach wall is sewn to the abdominal wall, can also be carried out.
Act quickly if you suspect anything!
If you have the slightest suspicion of a torsion, you should contact an emergency vet immediately – even in the middle of the night, because this is an absolute emergency. A few hours can be crucial for the dog’s survival. A phone call ahead of time allows the vets to make the appropriate preparations and perform a speedy operation. Well-stabilized dogs that are operated on within the first six hours have the best chance of recovery.
Surgery is always necessary to bring the twisted stomach back into its correct position. First of all, the dog must be stabilized. The dog receives infusion therapy to stabilize the circulatory system. The gas must then be removed from the inflated stomach. To do this, the gas is drained through the abdominal wall with a cannula, and the stomach is flushed with a tube. In the surgical procedure that follows, the stomach is returned to its correct anatomical position and sutured to the abdominal wall to prevent it from rotating again.
Prognosis of gastric torsion
The prognosis for the dog depends crucially on the damage to the stomach wall. Possible complications can be wound healing disorders, postoperative avulsions, coagulation disorders, peritonitis, cardiac arrhythmias, or gastric emptying disorders. The heart rhythm of the animal is therefore monitored using an ECG for about three days after the operation. About 24 hours after the procedure, the dog is slowly fed very small portions.
Once the first few days are over, you can breathe a sigh of relief. However, the dog will still need to be kept still for about six weeks until the gastric attachment has completely healed.
After the operation, there is still a risk for about three days that the dog will develop cardiac arrhythmia, which can also be fatal. If the first few days have passed without any damage, you can breathe a sigh of relief for now.