Gastric torsion - horror for all dog owners

Twisted stomach, a nightmare for all dog owners. According to statistics, gastric torsion occurs at night in three out of five cases. It is a very serious disease with a mortality rate of 30-40 percent. To prevent torsion, it is very important to understand what causes it and to prevent these situations. 

"Unfortunately, dog anatomy supports the occurrence of torsion. Compared to other animal species, the dog stomach-oesophagus-duodenum axis lies horizontal to the long axis of the body. Therefore the filled stomach can easily turn around its axis," Martin Kváš, an expert on animal nutrition, explains that it's a so called mechanical disease. Due to the construction of a dog's body, the stomach can twist without any major external cause. Nevertheless, usually, we come across torsion in larger, long-necked dog breeds. However, it doesn't mean that the owners of mini dogs shouldn't be aware of torsion.

Torsion usually occurs in the evening or at night. It can be caused by dogs wolfing down their food and together with the food they are swallowing air as well. "After food, a dog should have a 30-minute rest. Big breeds should follow this routine also before food. The dog then eats with a calm body. This is a very good way to prevent gastric torsion," Martin points out. So it's not just due to the speed of getting the food down but it also depends on the condition of the dog. 

There are also many myths about torsion. Until quite recently, elevated bowls for large and giant breeds were very popular. The main idea was that the dog won't have to put his head down to eat, which will prevent the risk of stomach twisting. Unfortunately, the latest expert and veterinary findings have warned that it's the other way round - food consumed from higher up can promote torsion. Another myth is the need to soak dry food to prevent it from expanding inside the dog's stomach. "Good-quality, extruded dry food doesn't expand in water, it doesn't change its volume, therefore soaking it is pointless," says Martin.

If your dog drinks too much water or eats too much food, he can end up with a twisted stomach even when resting, without much activity. It is, therefore, better to keep an eye on dogs that are prone to it and stop them from drinking a whole bowl of water at once. An overfilled stomach can start releasing gasses, which can result in twisting. Alternatively, bloating will occur once the stomach gets twisted. "Torsion obstructs both ends of the stomach, stops the blood flow through the tissues, prevents the food from moving into the duodenum. The food starts to ferment inside the stomach very quickly, the stomach expands and the dog is in a life-threatening condition," the expert describes what happens during torsion.

Martin also explains that the typical symptoms are a bloated abdomen, excessive salivation or trying to vomit. The only solution is an intervention of a vet. "A suspicion of torsion must always be a signal of the highest alarm, a reason to immediately visit a veterinary clinic," he concludes. 

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