Gastric torsion, also known as bloat, twisted stomach, or gastric dilatation-volvulus, is a deadly condition that strikes quickly from rapid food consumption and requires immediate medical attention. While any dog can suffer from gastric torsion, it is especially prevalent in giant breed or deep-chested dogs, or dogs that are older or significantly overweight or underweight.
Causes of Gastric Torsion
Dogs that develop gastric torsion generally eat their food very fast and cause the stomach to twist on itself, cutting off the blood supply and causing a buildup of digestive enzymes that quickly bloat the stomach. If the stomach isn’t quickly repositioned, it can lead to depleted blood flow to other vital organs, which can be fatal.
Breeds Susceptible to Gastric Torsion
Deep-chested dogs like Irish setters, Doberman pinschers, standard poodles bloodhounds and German shepherds are susceptible to gastric torsion. Giant breeds like Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Newfoundlands, Akitas and rottweilers are also prone to this condition. Dogs that experience the condition once may be more likely to experience it again in the future. You can reduce the potential for gastric torsion by feeding more frequent, smaller meals, using a large flat dish or a bowl with a raised center to slow consumption, limiting exercise after eating and keeping your dog at a healthy weight.
Warning Signs of Gastric Torsion
Gastric torsion can take place as a soon as a dog finishes his meal. He may heave as if trying to vomit, but with nothing coming up, or may make choking or burping noises. You may see evidence of the bloat, especially in deep-chested breeds, as the stomach’s distortion can be visible. Your pup may show signs of abdominal discomfort and may shake, shiver or even go into shock, collapse and lose consciousness. Get him to a vet immediately.
In the early stages of bloat, if the stomach has not yet started to twist, your vet may be able to remove excess gas and stomach enzymes through a throat tube. If constriction is already present, immediate surgical treatment is typically required to untwist the stomach and restore your dog’s blood flow to other vital organs. Depending on the severity of the condition and your dog’s previous history of bloat, your vet may recommend a gastropexy procedure to prevent the condition from occurring again.
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.