Gastric torsion is common in large dog breeds. It is a serious problem and can endanger the dog's life. We help you to prevent it

Gastric torsion, or a twisted stomach, is common in large-breed dogs. It’s a serious problem which can be life-threatening in dogs. That’s why it’s important to know how to prevent it. Read on to find out how

What exactly is gastric torsion in dogs? Gastric torsion, or a twisted stomach, can affect deep chested dogs. It is caused by an accumulation of excess:

  • Gas
  • Liquid
  • Solid food

An accumulation of these three elements can cause the stomach to dilate and then twist, or sometimes to twist and then dilate. Vets don’t really know which happens first when dogs experience gastric torsion. The problem occurs when the twisted position of the stomach which has turned, obstructs the pylorus and the cardia, causing fermentation to take place. At the same time, the obstruction leads to further gastric distension.

The twisted stomach acts as a knot, making it increasingly difficult for the dog to pass the gas and food that is in its stomach. The twisted stomach also compresses several important blood vessels and presses on the surrounding organs. Gastric torsion is an extremely dangerous condition if the dog is not seen urgently by a vet, it could die in a matter of hours.

Large-breed dogs are more at risk: The anatomy of large- and giant-breed dogs makes them more prone to gastric torsion. These dogs are deep-chested, making them more likely to suffer from gastric torsion. The breeds most likely to develop the condition include Great Danes, Weimaraners, St Bernards and German Shepherds. Some experts also include other large-breed dogs in that list, such as Rottweilers and Mastiffs.

Symptoms of gastric torsion in dogs: The first thing you need to know is that gastric torsion in dogs is extremely painful. That’s why some of the symptoms are linked to behavioural changes in the dog, as a way of expressing that pain. The main physical symptom is a stomach that is very inflamed and bloated, like a balloon. The dog’s abdomen swells up and you can easily see this increase in size just by looking. If you carefully touch the dog’s stomach and pat it gently, you’ll be able to tell that it is full of gas.

The main symptoms of gastric torsion in dogs are:

  • Increase in the size of the stomach
  • Nausea or retching
  • Whimpering as though in pain
  • Restlessness and pacing: the dog will appear anxious and pace up and down.
  • Excessive drooling
  • Respiratory problems

Advice for preventing gastric torsion in large-breed dogs

As we have seen, gastric torsion or bloat is caused by an accumulation of gas, liquid and solid food in the dog’s stomach. That's why all the preventive measures are aimed at avoiding this excess accumulation, especially in large breeds of dog:

  • Several small meals: it is recommended that you split your dog’s daily food ration into at least two meals, to avoid your dog eating too much food at once.
  • Avoid playing and exercise for 30 minutes before and after eating: Sudden movements by a dog with a full stomach could lead to gastric torsion.
  • Make sure your dog doesn’t drink too much water in one go: this could lead to an excess accumulation of liquid in the stomach.
  • Don’t disturb your dog while he is eating: you should try to let your dog eat calmly and slowly and chew properly, which will help him digest his food.

Gastric torsion in large-breed dogs (and dogs of other sizes too) is a common problem which can be prevented by following some simple steps. We hope this practical guide has been useful.

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