How to avoid the dreaded disease of large dogs: we asked a veterinarian

Hangai Lilla

2024. July 5 - Photos: Getty Images Hungary

If you notice the symptoms of gastric torsion in your dog, you must take the animal to the hospital immediately – not a minute can be wasted – and before you arrive, you should inform them of the exact symptoms you are observing. Despite intensive treatment, 30% of dogs affected by gastric torsion die from the condition.


To reduce this 30%, as a pet owner, it is very important to know what causes gastric torsion, what the symptoms are, and how it can be prevented or treated in dogs. With the help of veterinarian Dr. Edina Vada, we will analyze the topic.

To avoid gastric torsion, it is important to know what and how to feed your dog

What Exactly is Gastric Torsion?

Gastric torsion is a medical and surgical emergency that requires immediate care. As a result, the stomach fills with air, and as the pressure increases, it prevents blood from the hind legs and abdominal area from returning to the heart. The accumulated blood reduces the amount of circulating blood, leading to a state of shock in the dog. As the stomach twists, it pulls the spleen and pancreas along, disrupting the blood flow. The oxygen-deprived pancreas produces toxic hormones, one of which particularly affects the heart and can cause it to stop. Even in the mildest cases, the animal will die if its gastric torsion is not treated.

Dr. Vada highlighted that larger dogs, deep-chested dogs, and aging dogs are generally more prone to this condition. In the case of older dogs, the ligaments suspending the stomach may become loose due to age, making them particularly vulnerable. However, it can also occur in young dogs.

While gastric torsion is not hereditary, loose suspensory ligaments can be. Therefore, if you want to buy a purebred dog, it is crucial to do so from a responsible breeder who screens for these diseases.

Let the dog rest for 2-3 hours after feeding

The mortality rate of gastric torsion is enormous in dogs

“When the stomach expands and fills with a large amount of fluid and gases, and the dog in this state starts jumping, running, and playing, if the suspensory ligaments cannot hold the enlarged stomach, then torsion of the organ can easily occur. This torsion can be partial or complete. In the case of partial torsion, there is already gas accumulation, but in smaller quantities, and perhaps it can be said to be less dangerous.

A complete torsion is like tying a knot in the sleeve of a garment. In this case, there is no movement forward or backward through the esophagus. The dog cannot burp, so the gases cannot escape either, leading to further accumulation in the stomach. This makes the condition truly dangerous. Because it’s not just the release of various toxins and oxidative stress that cause the animal’s death, but it also suffocates. Essentially, the stomach enlarges so much that it compresses the lungs and compresses the vessels in the abdominal cavity. This puts the dog in a state of shock, and ultimately it suffocates,” explained the veterinarian.

Thus, it has become clear why the mortality rate is so high due to this condition. The veterinarian emphasized that time is the most crucial factor in the disease, as the longer the four-legged animal spends in this condition, the lower the chance they can be saved.

Large-bodied, deep-chested, and elderly dogs are at greater risk

How to prevent gastric torsion in dogs?

Dr. Vada explained that the risk of gastric torsion increases exponentially if a dog consumes foods prone to fermentation, such as fruits, vegetables, or grains. Furthermore, homemade diets, very soupy foods, and non-fresh items, as well as sudden dietary changes, can also increase the likelihood of torsion. (Dietary change can lead to gas formation in dogs.) It’s crucial to remember to always allow a 2-3 hour rest period after feeding, as gastric torsion can occur even if the dog is fed traditional kibble or a BARF diet but engages in intense exercise immediately after eating.

Dr. Vada also advised on feeding frequency to further minimize the risk of gastric torsion. She suggested feeding the dog twice a day instead of once, without increasing the total amount but rather dividing the existing amount into two meals.

These are the symptoms of gastric torsion:

  • Abdominal bloating in the dog’s stomach
  • Attempts to vomit (retching) without anything coming out
  • Drooling excessively
  • Restlessness, agitation
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Pale gums and mucous membranes
  • Increased pain when touching the abdomen

Symptoms usually appear 1-3 hours after eating.

This is how gastric torsion is treated

If an animal is brought to the hospital suspected of gastric torsion, depending on the severity, surgery may be performed or they may attempt to relieve the accumulated gases with a tube. Without treatment, even the mildest cases can result in the death of the animal.

However, there is also a preventative surgery available. It can be combined with spaying or neutering if desired by the owner. During this procedure, the stomach is surgically anchored to the abdominal wall to prevent torsion. However, this does not guarantee 100% prevention: strict attention to the quality of food and feeding practices is crucial in this case as well. According to the veterinarian, this can be a great option for at-risk dogs, but individual circumstances will ultimately decide. It’s advisable to consult with a veterinarian about preventative surgery, as they will understand your pet’s needs and whether it could be beneficial.

Besides gastric torsion, dysplasia also poses a greater threat to large breed dogs. Click here to learn more about it.

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