Gastric torsion is also known as bloat, a twisted stomach, or Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (GDV). There are two parts to this condition. The first part is the bloating where a dog’s stomach fills up with gas, fluid, food, or any combination of the three massively. Torsion or volvulus is the second part where the entire stomach twists around itself inside of the abdomen. As a result, the abdomen closes off at both the entrance and exit. Today we’re going to go over the causes of gastric torsion, the signs/symptoms, and treatment.
What Causes Gastric Torsion?
Veterinarians aren’t sure about the exact cause of bloat or torsion. However, we believe some factors can put dogs at a higher risk. These factors include:
- Your pet eating from a food bowl that’s too high
- A dog eating only one big meal a day
- A dog eating too quickly
- A dog running or playing right after they eat
- If your dog is a part of a bigger breed, esp. if they have deep chests (e.g., Great Danes, German Shepherds, Setters, Wolfhounds, Boxers) ***Note: Any canine can develop gastric torsion
- If your dog is older (especially older than seven years old)
- Male dogs also experience gastric torsion more often than female dogs
- Restlessness or anxiety
- Noticeable discomfort that worsens progressively
- Attempts to vomit, but nothing comes out
- An arched back/not wanting to lie down
- A swollen, hard abdomen
- Accelerated breathing
- Pale gums and tongue
If your canine companion shows all of the classic signs of gastric torsion, this is a life-threatening condition and you need to bring your pet to a veterinarian immediately. One of our experienced veterinarians will evaluate your dog and take an x-ray for confirmation. If your dog is experiencing shock, we will place an IV catheter to administer fluids and medications to stabilize your pet prior to surgery.
Treatments vary depending on the severity of the condition. If your pet is not experiencing torsion, a veterinarian can put a tube down the throat to release any built-up pressure. A twisted stomach (determined via X-ray) can stop the tube from entering the throat. In the case of a twisted stomach, emergency surgery will need to happen. Aside from surgery, your dog will need continued fluids through an IV and medications. We will also continue to monitor your dog’s heart for any signs of abnormalities that can be a side effect of gastric torsion.
The good news is that as with any condition, the earlier you detect the signs, the better. Prevention involves making sure that your fur baby is eating at eye level, not playing right away after mealtime, and making sure that they’re eating well-balanced meals (2-3 small meals a day). For those high-risk breeds, we can also perform a surgery called a gastropexy. This is when one of our veterinarians tacks the stomach to the body wall, greatly reducing the likelihood that it can twist. If you have more questions about gastric torsion or gastropexy, call to talk to one of our amazing veterinarians!