Gastric Distension

pet bloating explained

Gastric Distension and Twisting

The stomach of any deep-chested dog can roll over on itself because it is only attached at each end like a hammock. When the twist occurs, the blood supply to the stomach is also twisted and the stomach starts to die. The stomach also gets bigger because the contents cannot escape. If the stomach is not deflated and untwisted within a short time, the dog will die from shock.

The signs to look for inlcude dry heaves, swollen abdomen, depression, weakness, and discomfort. The faster the pet is presented for treatment, the better the chances of survival. Rupture of the stomach usually causes death. Distension alone is painful and can damage the stomach. Radiographs are important to evaluate whether the stomach is twisted or just very large. Dogs with only distended stomachs have a better chance of survival but twisting may occur at anytime. If the stomach is twisted, surgery is necessary to untwist and tack the stomach to the body wall which prevents future twisting. If the stomach is not sutured to the body wall, 80% of dogs will have the same problem again. If the spleen twists with the stomach, the spleen’s blood supply may also twist causing the spleen to die. Sometimes the spleen and part of the stomach are removed at surgery. If part of the stomach is removed, a feeding tube may be surgically placed to allow the dog to eat while the stomach heals.

After surgery, intensive care is necessary to treat stomach ulcers, infection, and shock. Shock can cause abnormal heart function which must be monitored with an ECG. Dogs that live 7 days have a good chance for complete recovery. To avoid stomach distension and possible twisting, prevent your dog from eating or drinking large volumes at one time. Do not allow your pet to exercise immediately after eating.