Monday, February 15, 2010

Gastric Torsion and how to deal with it…

I had never heard of Gastric Torsion until this week when a prospective customer asked us whether our food would be OK for a Great Dane who had had his spleen removed due to ‘bloat’ – which is another name for the same thing.

The first thing we did was ask our Chief Veterinary Surgeon, Tom Farrington, what he thought and he began his answer by referring us to a fantastic article on the subject by an American vet called Ron Hines. If you want to read the full article click here. Anyway, here is how Ron describes the actual problem:

“Gastric dilatation is a life-threatening condition that occurs in mature large dogs. I do not see many of these cases but when I do I have work diligently if I am to save the animal. Another term for the condition is gastric dilatation/volvulus or GDV. Volvulus is a twisting of an organ along its long axis. In this disease, the stomach flips over on itself and expands with trapped swallowed air and fermentation gases. Circulation to the stomach and spleen are cut off to the point where the dog may go into shock and die. A startling finding is that the incidence of bloat has increased by more than 1500% over the past 30 years.”

He goes on to say that the cause is abnormal muscular contractions in the stomach and that: “Lack of normal motility and circulation in the stomach cause the body to become too acidic (metabolic acidosis).” He goes on to point out that dogs who eat from elevated dishes are more likely to become bloated and to explain that there does seem to be a genetic link.

There is then quite a bit of interesting information about a study carried out by Purdue University which, basically, points out that dogs who eat dried food seem to be up to four times more likely to suffer bloat. So, not feeding your dog dried food and not raising the bowl would both seem to help.

So, what did our vet, Tom, say?

Well he started by emphasising that dried food was dangerous and that:

“It is important to ensure the dog puts on weight as this is one of the factors that reduces the risk, but too much fat increases the risk of recurrence so it means feeding often till the dog gains weight. A raw food diet is clinically proven to improve the chances of preventing a recurrence. In my experience this can be any of the Darling’s formulations, but many Great Dane breeders prefer a tripe diet. This is basically where a portion of the diet is replaced with raw tripe (tripe is normally treated before sale) and owners can do this themselves or it can be supplied with the food from Darling’s. The weight of the dog should be monitored carefully.”

Note, we are always happy to help anyone with diet and health issues whether or not they end up becoming a customer. Anyway, I digress. Tom continued with an extremely interesting piece of advice:

“A more important factor in my opinion is to address why the dog is upset. Most dogs who get bloat do not do so around feeding time but rather late at night - ask almost any vet when he has had to do the surgery and it is usually 9pm to 2am ish., it is rarely ever a day time procedure.

I find many of these dogs are upset in some way.

Just to give one example was a Rottweiler on it's 3rd Gastric Torsion and it happened to end up with me. In a quick conversation with the owner I asked if any thing had triggered and they said no he had tried to chase the cat before it had started, but they had stopped him as usual. A little further questioning revealed that this had happened before each episode of bloat. Treatment with a (homeopathic) remedy for anger promptly caused the dog to belch for a very prolonged period nearly suffocating us all.

The owner reported that each time the symptoms occurred giving the remedy brought it to a prompt conclusion. At this point I suggested that they let the dog chase the cat next time it teased the dog (I had checked about the possibility of the dog over doing it with the cat and was assured the cat was far the fleeter). After one chase the cat stopped teasing the dog and there was never another episode of bloat, so the condition is not as simple as many indicated it is. Dogs who are happy do not seem to get it - unhappy is a very wide term including things from grief to vexation and anger.”

All of which is very interesting.

If your dogs have any serious medical issues I really can’t recommend Tom enough. He has been my personal vet for over a decade and has treated our pigs, horses, chickens and dogs with great success. Here are his contact details:

e-mail - anytime
Mobile 087 2494059 International ++353 87 2494059
Phone 023 8848811 International ++353 23 8848811
Fax 023 8848805 International ++353 23 8848805

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