Bloat, gastric torsion - the nightmare of all dog owners

Gastric torsion is the nightmare of all dog owners. According to statistics, in three out of five cases gastric torsion happens at night. This is a very serious illness with a mortality rate of 30-40 percent. In order to prevent gastric torsion, it's important to understand how it happens and avoid these situations.

"Unfortunately, a dog's anatomy facilitates the occurrence of gastric torsion. Unlike other animal species, the stomach oesophagus-duodenum axis in dogs is transverse, perpendicular to the longitudinal axis of the body. This makes it easy for a full stomach to turn around its axis with movement," says animal nutritionist Martin Kváš, explaining that it is a mechanical disease. Because of how a dog's body is built, the stomach can turn without a major external cause. Nevertheless, we most often see gastric torsion in large, long-necked dog breeds. However, this does not mean that owners of small dogs should not watch out for gastric torsion.

It most often occurs in the evening and at night. It may also happen when dogs eat too fast, swallowing air along with their food. "Dogs should lie down and sleep for at least half an hour after eating. Large dog breeds should also rest before meals. This way the dog will eat with a relaxed body. This is a very good tool in preventing gastric torsion," says Martin. So it's not just about how fast the dog eats, it also depends on the state the dog is in. 

There are also many myths surrounding gastric torsion. Until relatively recently, elevated bowls were a big hit for large and giant breeds. The main idea was that the dog won't have to bend down as much, and this will in turn prevent the risk of gastric torsion. Unfortunately, the latest findings of experts and veterinarians have pointed out that the opposite is true - food consumed from a taller bowl can contribute to gastric torsion. Another myth is the need to soak the kibble so that it doesn't swell in the dog's stomach after consumption. "Quality, extruded granules do not swell in water, their volume doesn't change, so it's unnecessary to soak them," says Martin.

If your dog drinks a lot of water, just as when he eats too much, it can cause his stomach to twist even at rest without much movement. It's recommended to keep an eye on dogs that are prone to gastric torsion and not let them eat the whole bowl at once. If their stomach is very full, this may release gas that causes it to twist. Gas may also be released after the stomach becomes twisted. "The torsion constricts both ends of the stomach, stopping the blood flow through the tissues, and stopping the food from moving into the duodenum. The food starts to ferment very quickly in the stomach and the stomach swells, which may result in death," says expert Martin, explaining what happens during gastric torsion.

Martin further adds that a typical symptom is a bloated abdomen, salivation and vomiting. He also says the only solution to gastric torsion is treatment by a veterinarian. "If you suspect gastric torsion, you should immediately visit a veterinary clinic without delay," he concludes.

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