Leo is an 82kg Great Dane and he was recently rushed into our out of hours clinic with a swollen stomach. “˜Bloatâ’ or gastric dilatation is a real emergency situation and is most commonly seen in large or giant breed dogs. We can see it in all sorts of dogs but the breeds most commonly affected are Great Danes, Weimeraners, St Bernards, Irish Setters, Gordon Setters, GSDs and Flat Coat Retrievers.
This problem is commonly linked with large meals. The stomach starts to dilate due to the food and the gas being produced and this results in pressure in the stomach being increased. This puts a huge amount of pressure on the heart and the lungs and this then results in severe shock due to the effects on their entire body. This is worsened often by the stomach dilating so much that it starts to rotate and twist in the abdomen.
The great news is that our duty vet Tamsin Martin, on call for the Kernow Veterinary Group out of hours emergency care covering the surgeries of St Austell, Bodmin and Lostwithiel, was able to stabilise Leo to counter the shock, decompress his stomach to relieve the gas and then operate to correct the twisted stomach and return the stomach permanently to its normal position. This is never easy surgery and when dealing with such a large dog it makes it much harder. And it is a real team effort including Cara Kent, one of our Student Veterinary Nurses, who was able to take an important role in the nursing team, through Leo’s surgery and intensive post operative support. Cara is training with us under the care of the Duchy College here in Cornwall. If you are interested in nurse training find out more with the Duchy College website – Duchy College VN training Or check out the information with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons – RCVS Nursing The great news is that Leo has recovered well from this life-threatening experience and the photograph shows Leo, after his surgery, with his “˜dadâ’ and our vet Tamsin, who saved his life by her prompt veterinary treatment.
So, what causes this to happen? The syndrome is not completely understood but it is known that there appears to be some link to dogs that have deep chests, dogs who tend to have large meals (especially if fed just once a day), and it has been noted that it is more likely if the dog is related to other dogs that have also had this condition. A study in 2006 also determined that dogs fed dry food that list oils (e.g. sunflower oil, animal fat) among the first four label ingredients appear to be at greater risk.
The important thing to remember is the success of treatment is always improved by prompt action so, if you see your dog looking uncomfortable and looking back at their tummy, drooling, tummy looking bloated or retching without producing anything, then ring the surgery and explain what is happening rather than waiting to see if it gets better on its own – especially if your dog is of a large or giant breed.
And preventing? Well there is plenty of different ways you can help decrease this risk and here are some of the main ones:-
- Try and get your dog to eat more slowly and chew their food – larger kibbles, using puzzle toys or a slow-eating bowl.
- Feed smaller portions regularly – ideally deep chested dogs should be fed in 3-4 small meals a day and never just once a day.
- Try and avoid any stress around feed time – like competing to eat alongside other dogs, being kept waiting when they think their food is on its way etc. And avoid exercise after a meal. Better to take your dog out for a good long walk before their meal.
- Do not breed from dogs that have a history of this problem.
- And if you do own a female giant breed dog and plan to get her neutered then talk to the vet about considering have her stomach tacked in place at the same time to prevent this happening in the future.
Keep an eye open for Leo who is back having fun with life – after all he is not hard to miss!!!!