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Bloat or Torsion in the Irish Wolfhound
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Bloat or Torsion in the Irish Wolfhound Print
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Irish Wolfhound - Health Issues
Written by Hugh McManus   

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Friday, 05 September 2008 08:00

Torsion, also called bloat, in the Irish Wolfhound is extremely serious and can be fatal if not treatment immediately.  The ailment is variously referred to as Gastric Torsion and Gastric Dilatation Volvulus or GDV.

About Gastric Torsion

Gastric torsion is a condition founded in all deep-chested breeds of dogs.   The condition arises when excessive gas build up in the stomach of the hound leads to overstretching of the organ.  The stomach can become twisted in the worst case; in this condition, bloat is more correctly referred to as Gastric Dilatation Volvulus, gas cannot escape but may continue to accumulate leading to a fatality.  In fact, the prognosis for the condition, even if treatment is received is not good.  The mortality rate varies from 10 to 50 percent.  The incidence of death can be reduced sharply with surgery.

Symptoms of Gastric Torsion

Unfortunately, symptoms of gastric torsion aren't that dissimilar form other ailments.  Given the lethality of the condition, however, it's important that immediate action be taken.  An owner of a Wolfhound can greatly reduce missing signals from your hound by getting to know the moods and mannerisms of the dog.  The symptoms include some (or all) of the following:

  • The inability to settle down, a general restlessness; the inability to lie down, please read the important note below;
  • Excessive drooling;
  • Standing with the back arched or tense;
  • Retching without production of any stomach contents, but there could be the appearance of white frothy material;
  • A swollen abdomen; don't push on the dogs abdominal cavity, but the presence of excessive gas build-up should be noticeable; the abdomen may feel more like a football than the normal "hard cushion" feeling (note bloat can occur without the appearance of this symptom);
  • Lack of normal gurgling or digestive sounds in the stomach;
  • Difficulty in breathing;
  • Cyanosis of the gums; a slight discoloration.  If the gums are turning bluish, the dog needs to be rushed to the emergency room immediately;
  • Finally, an accelerated heart rate not associated with exercise and perhaps poor quality of the pulse.  Rapid could mean greater than 150 beats per minute.

Your dog probably won't have all of these symptoms, but the appearance of some is serious.

It may be the case that, after tens of minutes of restlessness, your dog finally does settle and lies down on the ground.  You're most probably not witnessing your hound recovering from bloat; you are probably witnessing your dog going into shock.  Death is imminent.

Bloat is a very serious condition which can become fatal in tens of minutes. If the dog has the condition delaying treatment by more than an hour can prove fatal.  It's vital that a dog suffering from bloat be taken to a veterinarian for immediate medical treatment.

If you suspect bloat, get your dog to a veterinarian.  You could be wrong, but it's better than you face embarrassment rather than the dog face death.

Treatment for Gastric Torsion

The only serious treatment for gastric torsion involves seeing a veterinarian immediately.  If you suspect bloat, call ahead and alert the veterinarian.  If the hospital you use is not your regular vet, make sure you have a list of any and all medications or treatments that your hound is receiving.  You should have this list prepared anyway!

Attempts can be made to decompress the stomach; however, in many cases, emergency surgery is the only option.  Dogs treated without surgery often have a recurrence of the condition.

Preventing Gastric Torsion

Deep chested breeds have a predisposition to the condition which, therefore, cannot be avoided.  There is no evidence to suggest that the condition is genetic, though some breeders have reported a hereditary connection.  Stress is often seen as a contributing factor.

Most people agree that stress eating–devouring large quantities of kibble in a short period of time–is a contributing factor.  Wolfhounds are particularly prone to rapid eating.  Over feeding the animal could also trigger the condition.  Some people prefer many small meals to one larger feeding.   Suggestions have been made to elevate the food bowl, though there are some reports that indicate such elevation could increase the incidence of the problem.  At best, elevation of the bowl has probably no preventative effect.

Some people have reported using kibble with a diameter small than 2 cm or 1 inch leads to easier digestion of the food.

Excessive drinking after eating is believed by some to be a contributing factor; reduction of the water intake for an hour after the meal could be a solution;

It is generally recommended that exercised be avoided for about one hour before and one hour, preferably two, after eating and that the hound be left to rest and digest the meal.

There are breeders that claim commercial dog foods are a major contributing factor to bloat.  The argument is basically that fermented foods or legumes lead to the production of gas which triggers bloat.  The incidence of bloat among dogs that eat raw meat is believed to be lower.   However, no definitive study has been carried out on this claim.  Most breeders recommend a high protein diet (greater than 30% protein) for the hound, which reduces the quantity of filler that could contribute to bloat.