Gastric torsion- Emergency on four paws
After poisoning, gastric torsion is the most feared emergency in dogs and is very dangerous, with a death rate of 20-50%. A typical feature of gastric torsion in dogs is that it´s a very sudden, seemingly unprovoked occurrence. What makes it so treacherous, is that it can strike virtually any dog at any time. Rapid and correct action is absolutely essential in order to avoid danger to the dog´s life, late negative effects and further serious impairments.
Classic pain symptoms such as restless pacing and heavy panting, as well as conspicuous salivation, can be the first signs of gastric torsion. If symptoms such as pale gums(whitish instead of pinkish), a humped back, a hard, bloated abdomen and frequent attempts to vomit are also present, the suspicion of gastric distortion may become more pronounced. In this case, the dog must be taken to a veterinarian immediately.
So that every dog owner knows what to do, and how to react in the event of a stomach emergency, here are the most important facts about gastric torsion, also known as „Torsio Ventriculi“.
The dog`s stomach- a gigantic food reservoir
Twisted, twisted shut, twisted off
In gastric torsion/ Torsio Ventriculi, the dog`s full and therefore heavy stomach rotates around ist own axis, constricting all of the accesses and blood vessels of the stomach, as well as the surrounding tissue. This interrupts the blood flow, which can lead to circulatory collapse, tissue death and impairment of the surrounding organs.
In addition to the closely adjacent spleen, the blockage also affects the entrance(oesophagus) and exit(intestine) of the stomach. As a result, nothing can enter or exit the stomach. Gases are able to accumulate quickly, making the animal look bloated, and so causing a very hard abdominal wall.
Without immediate correction of the gastric malposition, gastric torsion can lead to the death of the dog within a very short time. In the case of complete twists, the animal must be operated on and the surgeon can hopefully return the stomach to its correct original position.Here he can also directly examine and access what damage has already occured due to the stomach rotation. Dead tissue may need to be removed in order to prevent blood poisoning. After surgery, the patient remains an absolute intensive care patient. There is a high risk of death from blood poisoning or heart failure. If there is a risk of recurrence, the stomach is sutured to the abdominal wall to prevent a further gastric torsion.
In cases of incomplete gastric distortion, treatment without surgery can be attempted: puncturing the stomach to allow gases to escape. Also, painkilling, antispasmodic medication may suffice to correct the position of the stomach in cases of incomplete gastric distortion.
Incorrect feeding and genetic predisposition: Reasons for gastric torsion
The ligaments and tendons that hold up the complex of the stomach and spleen, as well as the attached organs in the abdomen are not rigid, but can expand. Especially in older dogs, this suspension is no longer so firm, which makes these animals more susceptiple to gastric torsion. In addition to age, various other risk factors can lead to gastric torsion. Aside from incorrect feeding management with portions which are too large, the previously mentioned insufficient quality of the food, gastritis can also be genetic. Large dogs are more at risk than small ones.
Large dogs, such as retrievers, have an increased risk of gastric torsion from around five years of age, while giant breeds, such as Great Danes are at risk from as early as three years of age. As with many genetically inherited diseases, Torsio Ventriculi is promoted by inbreeding and insufficient mixing of genetic material within a breed. As the predisposition to this disease is very likely to be hereditary, breeding has a correspondingly large influence on promoting or preventing it. If parents or siblings have already shown a tendency towards gastric torsion, other dogs of the same line are very often affected as well.
German Shepherds and Great Danes are considered to be at a particulary high risk of gastric torsion. Almost half of all dogs of these breeds suffer from Torsio Ventriculi during the course of their lives.
The food and the proportioning of the meals can have a great influence on the prevention of gastric torsion. Every four-legged friend must be given the opportunity to eat his food in peace. The dog can feel disturbed by other dogs or two-legged friends, which can lead to eating too hastily and a resulting turn of the stomach.
It is important to know that gastric torsion can happen at any time, even if all precautions have been taken. Even if the dog does not belong to the „gastric torsion risk group“. For this reason, it is vital that all dogs go through their daily lives with caution, as well as planing enough time for meals and naps. In case of acute, severe pain with unproductive vomiting, you must react immediately and take the dog to the veterinarian!
- Great Dane
- Irish Wolfhound
- Bernese Mountain Dog
- German Shepherd
- Saint Bernhard