A Word from Dr. Plasse
Last week, I unfortunately had to confirm the death of a Great Dane. While on vacation in St-Michel-des-Saints, his owner did not recognize the signs quickly enough and it was already too late when he finally decided to return to Montreal to consult his veterinarian. A diagnosis of gastric torsion was issued. Émile, our patient for many years, could not be saved.
Gastric (dilatation) torsion is a rare condition which mainly affects Great Danes and Dobermans (and some German shepherds). It can occur in all deep-chested breeds.
The stomach is held in position by several ligaments and suspended like a hammock. When the animal is given a large quantity of food in one meal, that food goes to the bottom of the stomach.
When the meal is followed by vigorous exercise, the stomach swings like a pendulum in the abdomen, may flip over and become blocked at both ends. A large quantity of gas then accumulates in the stomach and the ensuing compression on vital organs leads to a loss of adequate blood flow, tissue death and the release of toxins in the system. Breathing becomes difficult and in no time, the patient is in distress and in mortal danger.
When we own a dog from a breed prone to gastric torsion, it is extremely important to feed him more frequently and limit his activity after he has eaten and be able to quickly recognize the signs of gastric torsion should it occur despite these precautions:
- Repeated unproductive gagging
- Excessive salivation
- Hard and distended abdomen
- Abdominal pain
- Agitation and discomfort
The sooner your dog is treated, the greater his chance of survival.
When in doubt, consider the worst-case scenario and take him to the veterinarian without delay. Your companion's life may depend on it.