With spring soon upon us, many people will start to enjoy a variety of outdoor activities with their canine friends.
Physical activity is usually very healthy for dogs, which leads me to the topic for my article today, a condition called stomach bloat.
The cause of this condition is not known, but it has been suggested that exercising after eating is a significant contributing factor.
Stomach bloat, also known as stomach torsion or twisted stomach, is a serious life threatening condition in which the dog’s stomach dilates due to ingestion of food, water and swallowing air.
This enlargement of the stomach makes it impossible for the dog to empty the stomach.
The enlarged stomach compresses against the diaphragm, leading to breathing difficulties, and also puts pressure on blood vessels and impairs blood flow.
The stomach bloat can lead to an even more serious complication caused by a rotation of the stomach. Once this rotation occurs and the blood supply is completely cut off, the stomach tissue begins to die.
That disrupts the entire blood supply as the animal’s condition will then begin to deteriorate very rapidly.
Stomach dilatation and torsion is an emergency condition, so recognizing the symptoms and getting medical help quickly can save your dog’s life.
The most obvious signs of this condition is swelling of the abdomen and restlessness. The dog will also attempt to vomit without success.
The dog will be very anxious and pant heavily. In later stages, combined with the impaired blood supply, the dog will fall into shock, will be very weak, have pale colour of his gums and tongue, and eventually collapse.
It is extremely important to contact the veterinarian as early as possible. The longer the process exists, the worse the condition gets and the likelihood of saving the dog’s life decreases.
The treatment for the condition depends on the duration and severity of the process.
The veterinarian will initially establish intravenous catheter and will administer fluids supplementation in a rapid manner to try to compensate for the impaired blood flow.
The vet will also try to relieve the pressure that the enlarged stomach is causing, poking the stomach with a needle and releasing the gas. The vet will also attempt to pass a stomach tube in order to pump the stomach.
Stomach torsion is confirmed by inability to pass the stomach tube and an abdominal x-ray.
Stomach torsion requires a corrective surgery in which the stomach is rotated back to its normal position.
There are few surgical options for attaching the stomach to the body wall or the dog’s rib in order to secure it in an attempt to reduce the likelihood of recurrence of the condition.
Occasionally, part of the stomach and/or the spleen lose viability due to the impaired blood supply. In that case, the spleen or part of the stomach should be removed.
Beside the complexity of the surgery, there are many possible post-operative complications as the dog should be kept hospitalized and closely monitored after the surgery.
Large, deep-chested dogs are more prone to develop stomach bloat and torsion such as Great Danes, Weimaraners, Saint Bernards, German shepherds, Irish and Gordon setters and doberman pinschers.
Here are a few tips on what you can do to avoid this condition.
Feed your dog several smaller meals a day rather than one large meal. Also try to avoid fast eating.
If you have more than one dog, feed them separately from each other. When dogs are fed together, they tend to eat faster so the other dog will not eat their food.
Restrict exercise before and after meals.
Do not feed your dog from an elevated food bowl as eating from an elevated dish encourages air swallowing.
Moshe Oz operates the Rose Valley Veterinary Hospital in West Kelowna, 2476 Westlake Rd.