HEALTH & CARE

Twisted Stomach in Dogs: Symptoms And Treatment

Bloated dog
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

Twisted stomach in dogs is a serious health condition that can threaten the life of your pet. Though the level of risk is incredibly high there are only few dog owners who are aware of the symptoms and know how to act when they spot them. Studies show that big breeds are more prone to suffer from bloat because they are deep-chested dogs.

As this health issue can lead to death, it is important to be aware of the signs, methods of prevention and treatment in order to keep your four-legged friend away from potential risks. In this article, you will find useful data that can aid you approach this issue in a responsible manner.

Definition of twisted stomach

Twisted stomach is the disease called gastric dilatation-volvulus. It is incredibly serious and it must be approached accordingly. Unfortunately, this is something that must be treated by specialists, thus pet owners can do nothing else for their dog but to take them to the nearest hospital. As it is life threatening, the situation can get from bad to worse if the pet does not receive the right treatment. Bloat can be triggered by various things, and some reasons are still unknown. To read up more on this condition, check out our article on bloat in dogs.

Sad puppy with twisted stomach

When this occurs, the stomach is filled with air and starts to put pressure on the diaphragm. As a result, the dog tends to choke. Furthermore, the stomach becomes lightweight and can easily twist, cutting off the blood supply and slowly die. At this stage, the dog’s condition gets worse by the minute. In order to be able to treat it at the initial phase, pet owners must be aware of the symptoms.

Symptoms

There are various symptoms that can indicate a distended stomach in dogs. You do not need to wait until you spot all of them, but to act immediately and call your veterinary to receive further assistance. Its physical condition can deteriorate within minutes, thus you must not panic. In order to be able to save your pet you need to be able to identify certain signs:

  • it tries to vomit but does not succeed and this occurs at regular intervals – every 5 minutes to half an hour;
  • acts in a strange manner, and does something that it never did before, like asking to be taken out in the middle of the night;
  • it is anxious and cannot stay in one place;
  • it sits in a hunched position;
  • you cannot hear the normal digestive sounds made by the stomach;
  • the abdomen is visibly bloated;
  • the gums turn white or blue;
  • it coughs and seems to be breathless;
  • it drools heavily and can even eliminate mucus;
  • it whines and tries to find a hiding place;
  • it does not obey the commands and refuses to sit;
  • it adopts a crouched position;
  • it drinks water almost continuously;
  • it loses its control and is unable to stand on its paws;
  • its heart beats really fast;
  • the pulse starts to feel weak until it collapses.

Factors

There are various factors that can lead to bloating. The major ones are the breed, genetics, age, gender, temperament and eating habits. In order to be able to look after your pet you need to consider all of them in order to identify eventual symptoms. It is also important to try to find out as much information as you can about the puppy you intend to purchase.

If you are aware of a potential illness, it can be prevented or cured before it becomes life threatening. As it was mentioned above, big dogs are more prone to twisted stomach than smaller ones. The list presented in this table reveals the breeds that are most likely to deal with this problem.

 BREEDCHANCES OF DEALING WITH BLOAT (%)
1Great Dane40%
2Saint Bernard22%
3Weimaraner19%
4Irish Setter14%
5Gordon Setter12%
6Standard Poodle9%
7Basset Hound6%
8Doberman Pinscher6%
9Old English Sheepdog5%
10German Shorthaired Pointer5%

Genetics also plays a major role in the likelihood of dealing with this tremendous disease. To be more exact, the genes can determine the width and depth of the chest, which is directly linked to it. If the chest conformation is too narrow, it can lead to this problem, regardless if the parents had it or not. Dogs that are older (over 7 years) are predisposed to this illness twice as much as younger ones.

The age of your dog should lead to periodical checks in order to avoid it. Males are also more likely to develop bloat and neutering has absolutely no impact on it. Furthermore, the eating habits can increase the risk. This means that it is better to feed your dog twice a day rather than once. At the same time, a temperamental dog can develop bloat easier.

Causes

Though veterinarians cannot tell for sure what are the precise causes that lead to twisted stomach, as this sometimes occurs without prior notice, there are certain things that can contribute to it. First of all, stress, just like in the case of humans, can be destructive for the dog’s organism. There were cases when bringing a new pet in the house let to bloat because the older one felt that the pack order was disturbed. If you feel that your dog tends to become agitated easily, it is best to treat it with care and to make it feel confident and trust you.

The way a dog eats is crucial for its health. To be more precise, pets that tend to eat fast are prone to face bloat. However, you are responsible for your dog’s life, and this means that you should alternate dry food with a homemade one (we have a great article containing great recipes for homemade dog food that you should definitely check out). The quality is crucial. Dry food contains preservatives and citric acid, thus you must never moisture it because you just increase the risk.

At the same time, you need to avoid brands that list fat in the first six ingredients. You also need to make sure that your pet does not drink too much water before, and after it finishes eating because this leads to the dilution of the gastric juices. It is also necessary to avoid food like alfalfa and soybean because they lead to gas production.

Bloat at dog

Another common cause that can lead to this health problem is the physical effort after or before the dog eats. If your pet gains extra pounds, it is more than clear that it needs running and long walks, but make sure that you schedule them several hours after the meal.

Though heredity is not something that can be changed, and if you know that the first-degree relatives suffered from this illness, you can talk to the veterinarian and take precautions. This is also valid for pets with Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency. An aggressive temperament is a disposition that can trigger this disease, thus you need to do your best to train your dog calmly and teach it to be submissive. There are some great methods you can use in this article on learning how to calm your dog that would help to minimize bloat from occurring.

Treating bloat

If you feel that your dog displays symptoms that are similar to bloat you need to take it to the first veterinary hospital as soon as possible. You can confirm them by calling the veterinarian, but this should not stop you from getting your pet ready for a car ride. The only way this condition can be improved is by passing a plastic tube into the stomach through the mouth.

As it can be seen, this is not something that you can do at home. This procedure clears the air from the stomach, and it is followed by a wash. You also need o know that the pet must remain in the hospital for the next 36 hours as it is not allowed to drink or eat, thus it will be supported with intravenous liquids.

Bloat at dogs

If the diagnostic is not confirmed by the symptoms, the veterinarian will make an abdominal X-ray. The volume of gas will be clearly exposed, and also the twisted tissues. If the situation is life threatening, an emergency surgery is needed.

However, if the symptoms are really bad, it is necessary to stabilize the dog first, and only after to use anesthesia. At this stage, the stomach is repositioned and parts of it or other adjacent organs like the spleen can be removed. Though it sounds scary, it is important to be aware of all the risks in order to treat this aspect in a responsible manner. You can prevent surgery if you manage to spot the first signs of bloat.

Prevention

Though responsible pet owners would do anything to protect their four-legged friend from this terrible disease, sometimes genetics plays a major role, and this can lead to unfavorable results. However, this should not be turned into an obsession, but to be handled with care. To be more exact, when you adopt or purchase a puppy, you need to pay attention to its medical history.

The more you know about the parents, the better you can look after the little one. If this is not possible, or there is no such information available, you must understand the symptoms, causes and risks in order to be able to identify this illness and save your pet.

A great way to prevent complications is to check if your dog is on the list of the susceptible breeds. Talk to the veterinarian and find out where to go and what to do in case you spot any symptoms that can be indicators of a twisted stomach. It is also a wise idea to ask for a phone number to call in case of an emergency because in the crisis situation, you may panic and talking to a specialist can calm you and also guide you through the whole process. Furthermore, your pet will feel safer in the hands of a familiar person, rather than in an unknown hospital.

Healthy life and dog

As eating too fast is a cause of bloating, it is a wise idea to feed your dog twice a day. This will make the pet feel less hungry, and it will always have something in the stomach to digest. You must allow permanent access to water, but make sure it does not drink too much after it finishes eating. In order to prevent this from happening, make sure that you leave the bowl more than half empty.

Exercises and eating should never be combined. Before and after the dog eats it needs to rest, for at least an hour. This is why it is a good idea to follow a strict training and feeding schedule. Furthermore, if you want to make a change in the everyday diet, make sure you do it gradually. Remove or add an ingredient through a period of five to seven days.

If you have more than a dog in the house and one of them is susceptible to stress, make sure you feed it in a quiet location, away from the others. If it feels a constant fear that someone will steal its food it will eat too fast, and this can cause bloating. A dog that has relatives that suffered from this illness needs to follow a strict diet.

To be more exact, it is important to avoid food with rich fat content, or citric acid. You can also opt for bigger particle sizes rather than for the small ones to prevent excessive swallowing without chewing. Bloating is an illness that can happen again and again, thus you need to handle it with extra care.

Extra care of your dog

Though twisted stomach is a very serious disease, it is good to know that it can be treated as long as you are aware of the symptoms and act promptly. All that you need to do in order to be able to save your dog is to be well informed. If you know the causes, you can avoid dangerous situations. At the same time, you can rely on the prevention methods listed in the article.

No matter how serious the situation may be, you need to remain calm and to call the veterinarian as soon as possible. With the appropriate care, your dog will be safe and happy.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Margo Walter

    When my brother warned me not to exercise the dogs two hours from eating, I was dubious, but it seemed his caution is not unfounded. He was trying to delay our pooch’s bloat, or at least trying to prevent it as much as possible. Alas, out pooch was genetically predisposed to it so all we could do was look for pale, bluing gums, a hollow stomach, etc. all the hallmarks of bloat that we may respond to it with haste. Take care to be wary, fellow dog owners. Bloat is no joke.

    • Bloat is preventable, but it doesn’t give you complete protection because it can still happen to any fur baby in the neighborhood. However, being a treatable condition doesn’t mean it should be taken lightly. Act fast as soon as the symptoms show up.

  • Dana Weather

    To elaborate on the symptoms, if you put your ear to your pooch’s belly and you can’t hear any digestive sound (called borborygmi), it’s time to call the vet, ASAP! While you can, try to respond to bloat before it affects your dog beyond treatment. Bloat is fatal and if your pooch has had an attack, he’s prone to recurrence as well. Also, if your pooch has bloody stool that may also be a symptom of bloat, it was for us for an instance. Be wary and vigilant, is all I suggest.

    • Most of the bloat-related fatalities are caused by late assessment of the affected dog. It is true that pet parents should be extra vigilant when their dogs are showing unusual symptoms and bring them to the vet. Not only it saves time and money, it can also save your dogs life.

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