Stomach twist is a dangerous condition impacting a dog's digestive system. It's known by many names, including twisted stomach, gastric torsion, and gastric dilatation volvulus. Whatever you call it, the truth is the same: stomach twist is an incredibly dangerous condition that can quickly damage your dog's health and even end his life. Here's what you need to know about stomach twist.
What is Stomach Twist?
Stomach twist begins when a dog's stomach becomes overly filled with gas and fluid. This condition, referred to as bloat, causes the stomach to put pressure on other organs. Bloat alone can cause many serious symptoms, including a lack of blood flow to your dog's heart and stomach lining, a tear in his stomach wall, and difficulty breathing.
In some cases, bloat can cause the stomach to rotate on itself, twisting on its axis and cutting off both ends. This prevents blood flow to the stomach, causing parts of the organ to die. Stomach twist is an extremely dangerous condition, and can cascade into a number of complications that can lead to death within hours.
What Are the Risk Factors for Stomach Twist?
While there is no way to tell for certain if your dog will experience stomach twist in her lifetime, there are risk factors that can indicate a higher chance of issues. Be aware of these factors if they apply to your dog:
- Male dogs are more likely to experience bloat and stomach twist than females.
- Lean dogs are at a higher risk than overweight dogs. One reason for this may be that fat takes up space in the dog's abdomen, so there is less space for the stomach to rotate. However, being overweight carries a number of other health risks for dogs, so keeping your dog at a healthy weight is the best course of action.
- Older dogs have a higher risk of stomach twist than younger dogs. This may be because the ligaments that hold a dog's stomach in place tend to stretch with age, making it easier for the stomach to rotate.
- Dogs with a family history of stomach twist are at a 60% higher risk of twist themselves.
- Nervous, fearful, and aggressive dogs seem to have a higher risk of bloat than dogs with other personality types.
- Dogs that eat quickly and those that eat out of elevated bowls are more likely to experience stomach bloat and twist.
- Stressful situations can lead to an increased risk of bloat. For example, dogs that are kenneled often or spend much of their time traveling to shows are more likely to have stomach twist.
Breeds Most at Risk for Stomach Twist
The following breeds have the highest risk of stomach bloat and twist:
- Great Dane
- Saint Bernard
- Irish Setter
- Gordon Setter
- Standard Poodle
- Basset Hound
- Doberman Pinscher
- Old English Sheepdog
- German Shorthaired Pointer
- German Shepherd
Bloat tends to be most common in breeds that have deep, narrow chests. Mixed breeds that share this characteristic are also at risk. Great Danes have a particularly high risk for bloat. Studies show that up to 40% of this breed experience bloat in their lifetimes.
Just because your dog's breed isn't on this list doesn't mean she can't experience bloat and stomach twist. Any dog can suffer from these conditions.
Do Ice Cubes Cause Bloat?
Social media has become a hotbed of rumors about pet health and safety. You may have seen someone post that giving your dog ice water or ice cubes on a hot day can cause bloat and stomach twist.
Fortunately for your parched pooch, this rumor is entirely false. There is nothing inherent about ice water or ice cubes that can cause bloat. However, it is important to be cautious about giving your dog too much water at once. After a romp in hot weather, give your dog controlled amounts of water to make sure he stays hydrated without overtaxing his stomach.
What Are the Symptoms of Stomach Twist?
Bloat and stomach twist can occur very quickly. Keep an eye out for these symptoms and respond as quickly as possible to address the condition before it gets worse:
In the first stages of stomach twist, your dog may:
- Seem anxious and restless
- Have a distended abdomen - some pet owners describe this symptom as "he looks like he ate a basketball"
- Have a painful abdomen
- Belch often
- Attempt to vomit unsuccessfully
As his condition worsens, the following symptoms will occur:
- Excessive drooling
- Rapid heartbeat
In its final stages, stomach twist will cause these symptoms:
- Pale gums
- Shortness of breath
What to Do If You Suspect Your Dog Has Stomach Twist
Stomach twist is a surgical emergency. It is not something you can treat at home. Instead, be prepared to take your dog to the nearest veterinary hospital as soon as possible. This is not a condition that can wait until the morning.
If you start noticing your dog displaying the symptoms of stomach twist, give your nearest veterinary hospital a call. Confirm the symptoms over the phone, and get your dog ready for a car ride.
After you arrive at the hospital, the vet will quickly determine your dog's condition. If necessary, the vet will stabilize your dog first, then conduct an appropriate treatment.
Your dog's chances of surviving stomach twist are much higher if the condition is caught and treated early. Never hesitate to contact your veterinarian if you suspect your dog is showing any of the signs of stomach twist. It's much better to have him checked out and found healthy than to delay and allow his condition to worsen.
Although stomach twist is a life threatening condition, there are treatments that can save your dog's life. Check back for our next blog to learn more about how stomach twist is diagnosed, treated, and prevented.