Friday, July 8, 2022

Dog of a breakfast

It was a Christmas that was memorable for all the wrong reasons. Feeding a pipe down a german shepherd’s throat to try to release the stinking gas generated by a mass of fermenting pork fat is hardly a recipe for Christmas cheer.

This poor, unfortunate dog had a gastric dilation and torsion, a condition that can affect deep-chested dogs such as huntaways, german shepherds, great danes and hounds.

It can occur after the dog has eaten a large meal, then exercised. Food and gas from swallowed air cause the stomach to dilate which puts pressure on the diaphragm, making breathing difficult.

The stomach then tends to rotate on itself which interferes with the blood supply, causing necrosis of the stomach wall.

This all happens quickly (within hours) and the dog becomes “flat”, salivates profusely, and unsuccessfully attempts to vomit. The dog’s stomach will appear swollen and the dog is obviously in severe pain.

This is an emergency, a life-threatening condition, and most certainly warrants a call to the vet – whatever the hour.

The vet will initially try to decompress the stomach (hence the stomach tube) to improve breathing, and give the dog intravenous fluids to counter shock.

If the dog is in severe respiratory distress, and a vet isn’t immediately available, a hypodermic needle inserted through the stomach wall into the most prominent part of the gas cap can provide some short-term relief.

Once the dog is stabilised the veterinary surgeon will operate to correct the stomach. As this condition can recur, the surgeon will often use a surgical procedure to anchor the stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent the stomach twisting.

The german shepherd sadly did not survive and while most otherwise healthy dogs do survive the surgery, much depends on how quickly the dog is treated along with other variables such as the dog’s age and general health.

To prevent this painful condition occurring, care should be taken not to exercise huntaways or other at-risk breeds soon after feeding.

Feeding small amounts more frequently, eg morning and evening, is far better than feeding one large meal a day.

Feeding these dogs on a raised platform (an upturned box for example) is thought to stop dogs swallowing too much air while they are eating.

As always, if in doubt seek veterinary advice. 

  • Before becoming a journalist, deputy editor Sandra Taylor worked as a veterinary nurse for 15 years.
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