Gastric torsion can cause complete blockage of both openings of the stomach depending on its extent. The condition is a clinical emergency and may be fatal if left untreated.
The dominant feature of gastric torsion is an extended abdomen. Food trapped inside the stomach leads to a build-up of gas that cannot exit. Affected dogs are weak and restless while constantly changing their position. Retching and unsuccessful attempts to vomit are commonly seen. If the torsion does not resolve, the abdomen extends further, resulting in the stomach enlarging to the point where it taking the shape of a drum. In later stages, dogs become lethargic and show symptoms of shock, i.e. pale mucous membranes, cold paws and a weak pulse. An uncomplicated gas buildup in the stomach may produce similar, non-life-threatening symptoms. However, in order to determine if your animal is suffering from gastric torsion or not, examination by a veterinarian is crucial.
The exact causes of the condition are mostly unknown. If the animal consumes large quantities of food quickly, or exercises after meals, take caution, as both of these habits are predisposing factors. Fermenting foods in the stomach produce large amounts of gas and can contribute to the development of gastric torsion. Larger breeds are more commonly affected. The torsion can be deadly if left untreated and if no surgical repositioning of the stomach is performed. Gastric torsion poses a severe health risk. As the volume of gas trapped in the stomach increases, it cuts off blood supply to the organs, and leads to circulatory failure and death.
Gas buildup and torsion of the stomach may be diagnosed through an x-ray. In most cases surgery is required. The dislocated stomach has to be repositioned and sutured to the abdominal wall to prevent further or renewed torsion. A prognosis for a full recovery depends on upon how soon the condition is diagnosed and treatment is started.
Gastric torsion is a clinical emergency. If your dog is showing symptoms of gastric torsion, consult a veterinary clinic immediately.