Fast feeding can put dogs’ lives at risk

Watch your dog's eating habits.
Watch your dog's eating habits.

The problems with fast food — where to start? I don’t mean pizza or burgers, I’m talking about how quickly your dog eats their breakfast and tea.

We have recently had cases at the hospital of dogs with a condition known as a gastric dilatation and volvulus, a GDV, which in simple terms means a very bloated stomach that has then twisted. This is a veterinary emergency and can be life threatening if not dealt with rapidly.

If your dog develops a gastric torsion then you must call your vet immediately.

There are numerous underlying factors that can predispose your pet to this condition, one of which is genetic. Certain breeds are higher risk, particularly giant and deep-chested breeds such as Great Danes, German Shepherds and Bassett hounds. Older dogs to tend to be more prone, but sex doesn’t seem to be linked.

If your dog develops a gastric torsion then you must call your vet immediately. Because the stomach can rotate up to 360 degrees this restricts the blood flow to the stomach and often the spleen. This can lead to ischaemic necrosis where parts of the stomach and the spleen become so damaged they are unable to be saved. If this is the case we will have to remove the spleen and potentially parts of the stomach as well.

This means the chances of survival are reduced even further so quick, accurate and appropriate diagnosis and treatment is necessary.

The surgery is quite a complicated procedure, which involves untwisting the stomach, removing the spleen if necessary, and then fixing it to the body wall to prevent it recurring, known as a gastropexy. There are different approaches to this procedure, but the aim is the same — to attach the stomach in a fixed position so it cannot re-twist.

If the surgery is performed quickly and effectively then your pet will stand a good chance of making a full recovery.

The factor which owners can control easily is feeding. Dogs that eat quickly large volumes of food are at greater risk. Feeding small amounts throughout the day, using go-slow bowls and avoiding exercise are all good ways to reduce the risk.

Go-slow bowls are quite entertaining tools, particularly if your dog eats voraciously, as they make it difficult for them to get to the food too quickly. Also, don’t exercise your pet too soon after eating.

If you do see your dog getting very bloated after eating then call your vet.

By Richard Flook, Vet