Stomach Torsion – Symptoms, First Aid and Prevention

A few minutes ago everything was fine. But suddenly the dog becomes restless, cannot lie, sit or stand properly, tries unsuccessfully to vomit, pants, and arches its back, and the abdominal circumference increases directly behind the ribs. Eating, drinking, playing – everything is uninteresting until the dog finally lies apathetic. For every dog owner who sees his darling suffering like this, all the alarm bells should be ringing: stomach torsion!

Hurry to the Vet!

In 2018, gastric torsion was the second most frequently treated disease in German veterinary practices. When torsion is suspected, every minute counts because, in 15-45% of cases, dogs do not survive the torsion. The sooner it is recognized and treated, the better the chances of recovery.

Stomach Torsion – What is That Exactly?

Torsion means that the ligaments that hold the stomach in place in the abdomen twist vertically and/or horizontally. This not only constricts the entrance and exit of the stomach but also stops blood flow and pinches nerves. In the worst case, the twisted stomach presses on the lungs and causes additional shortness of breath. In addition, gases are produced in the stomach that cannot escape – the longer this condition lasts, the greater the risk of a rupture of the stomach wall.

How Does a Gastric Torsion Occur?

When it comes to “stomach” the first thing to think about is “eating”. The exact cause has not been determined, but dogs that are given special care with feeding appear to be affected less frequently. It is more dangerous for dogs that are only fed once a day, but with very large amounts, than with the regular intake of smaller portions. The quality of the feed can also play a role: advice on preventive feeding is possible in order to avoid torsion of the stomach in the dog.

Regardless of diet, large breeds are more commonly affected than small dogs – in Great Danes, for example, gastric torsion is the leading cause of death.

Animals that are often allowed to jump around and play after being fed have a mechanically increased risk – this should be avoided at all costs.

There is also a connection between the dog’s age and the risk – the older the dog, the less elastic the ligaments holding the stomach.

First Aid – What to Do Before Reaching the Vet?

Whenever torsion is suspected, a veterinarian must be consulted or requested. If the dog can still walk, you should definitely let it walk on its own, as the situation can become worse with every movement. If the dog has to be carried into the car, it is advisable for at least two people to carry it – preferably if the dog is lying on a blanket or plate. When you are on the go, you should call the veterinary practice so that everything is prepared there.

What is the Doctor Doing?

After the check, the vet will attempt to release the gases by puncturing the abdomen. Sometimes the stomach turns back into the right position. If this is not the case, an operation is required.

In addition to choosing the right food, it is necessary to always let the dog rest for one to two hours after eating – this is the best prevention.

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