It could happen to your dog. It happened to mine.

Urgent - If your dog's abdomen becomes swollen and hard with gas, this is an emergency. Death may follow from torsion or twisted stomach. Do not poke or probe. the distended abdomen. There is no effective first aid for this acute condition. Take your dog to the vet at once.

Torsion - Exercise & Feeding

Torsion can kill a dog in less than a quarter of an hour. Graham Pennington, Editor of The Agility Eye, has lost two dogs to this painful disorder. He wrote this article several years ago which appeared in Agility Voice (June 1993) in the hope that he could save another dog's life.

More and more I hear people talking about feeding their dogs in the morning before they set out for agility shows. Obviously these people have no idea what they could do to their prized pets. At the very least, a dog with a full stomach does not run well, as the handler should know if they have tried it themselves.

The danger to a dog exercising on a full stomach is torsion. To the unwary, this is one of the most painful and deadly things that could happen to your dog. Large chested animals, such as GSDs (and Standard Poodles - See below) are more prone to this ailment, but it can happen to any dog.

Torsion is the turning of the stomach, i.e. the gut turns over on itself and knots. Even immediate treatment at the vet's usually means you will lose the dog. I know because it happened to me twice. May I point out that neither of my dogs had been exercised after a meal. The second dog I lost was actually eating a meal when he twisted his stomach.

The worst case I have come across of a handler feeding a dog was at Otley show last year. The organisers (who were not to blame in any way) had set a time for a lunch break. The judge on this occasion decided to continue the class and finish before he himself had his lunch. (Again n fault of the judge, and it has to be said a commendable action towards competitors.) A competitor then complained that he could not run his dog because it had just been fed as he understood the class would stop for lunch. Can you believe that? But I can assure you that it is true!

So please, please do not feed your dog on the morning of a show and certainly not during the show if it is working. I would think a very minimum of four hours is about right. On the other side of the coin, it is not advisable to feed a dog after strenuous exercise either.

Graham has asked the vet Peter van Dongen to write about torsion, so look out for a future issue of The Eye for a more details.

All about Torsion
A Personal View from Joyce Widlake

Also known as bloat, torsion is a condition in which the bowel of the dog twists inside the body, thus cutting off both the entry and exit for gasses, solids and blood supply. The symptoms include attempts to vomit, running around in small circles (trying to get at the pain), whinging, crying and other signs of distress.

If you suspect torsion, you must act without delay. Get your dog to the vets immediately. An operation is necessary and the quicker you are, the better the chances of survival (though they are still not good.)

Many people have to heard of this condition, whilst others seem to believe that it affects only the very large breeds. This is not the case., but it does seem most prevalent in the larger chested breeds (i.e. dachshunds may be as like to suffer as larger breeds.)

From the above, I am sure that you will agree that prevention is far better than any attempt at a cure, so what can you do?

The Importance of Diet
Well, everyone we have spoken to, and from the few articles we have been able to find and read, all seem to agree that diet is important. Unfortunately, not everyone (vets included) seems to agree just what sort of diet is best. Some suggest mean and biscuit, and some recommend dry complete foods. What does seem common to all, and also seems to be good common sense, is to feed smaller means more frequently, so that the dog never gorges at one meal.

High digestibility of food has also been suggested as a desirable thing and again this seems to make sense to us . (I cannot speak for others.) We currently feed a proprietary complete dry food (no, not the well known one!) which is said to have 97% digestibility. It works out reasonably priced compared to many others and which from our own observations, expands no more than the majority of others when wetted despite being denser and hence more nourishing to start with. Since it is complete, this also means no variables in the equation, with different foods mixed together on different occasions. All this presupposes that your dog will eat it! Two of our do and the other will not. We do the best we can.

With our Briard, we also use a bowl stand. This is said to be better for them as they are eating from a position higher off the floor and hence, with a straighter neck. It may do no good at all. I don't know how you tell, but after initial trepidation at the first meal or two, she took to it well and certainly looks more comfortable, with no need to throw the shoulders back to swallow as is the tendency otherwise.

If you've had a problem with torsion, good or bad, and want to share your experience with others in the hope of avoiding more deaths, you can email your story to Ellen Rocco at Agilitynet

Cruel Torsion Strikes Twice

Alejandra Mendoza saw the Agilitynet's Health Section and surfed in from Mexico to tell story of Corzo and Yaquie, two German Shepherds who suffered from torsion.

Corzo, a beautiful GSD (left) belonging to Carolina Jiménez, was a certified Search & Rescue dog who took part in many searches. He loved his work and was an active dog until his last day. When he was about seven years old, we went to a training session and then came back home. As soon as we arrived, he began drinking lots of water and suddenly the pain began. We didn't know what was happening (we didn't want to believe it was a torsion). He started to throw up the water, so we thought it couldn't be that. Finally, we took him to the vet after a few hours and he was immediately taken to surgery.

The surgery was a success. His vets (Hugo Tapia and Gabriel Ramirez) are the best in Mexico or so we think. His stomach didn't make the whole turn. The doctors told us it had been a 90 degrees torsion. That's why he lasted hours and managed to vomit the water. This happened on January 6th, 1997. He recovered quickly and continued his active life.

Unfortunately, on December 23rd 1998, Corzo died. It was a normal pre-Christmas day. He was happy in the morning and he even ate some cake. We took him with us downtown where we bought a computer keyboard. As soon as we got home around 1pm, he started throwing up his breakfast. Then he went to hide in the garden. Later we took him to the vet and the x-ray showed something weird in the intestine. The surgery started but there wasn't much they could do. It was an intestine torsion and most of it was dead or twisted, so they put him to sleep.

Yaquie (right) was Corzo's companion, though she never let him mate her. On January 5th 1998, when we celebrate the Kings' Eve, I took Yaquie (she was seven then) for a walk around the block and later gave her dinner. When her owner arrived, she was as happy as usual and welcomed her. All of a sudden, she made several attempts to throw up but nothing came out! We looked at her terrified, paged the vets because it was 10.00pm and took her immediately to the hospital.

As soon as we arrived, they took an X-ray and prepared her for surgery. They finished the operation at 1.00am and the next day she ate and wanted to play. She recovered amazingly quickly. The docs told us her torsion was more than 180 degrees, but everything turned out fine. We couldn't believe that it had been exactly a year from Corzo's torsion.

On January 19th 1999, Yaquie, who was then suffering from cancer for the second time (the first time had been successfully treated with chemotherapy) passed away because of an Hepathic Comma.

It was hard to lose them like that, but we will always cherish and remember them.

Gooner Dog Dies Suddenly
Agilitynet Family Loses their Dog to Torsion

Kelrarmo Iva Good 'Un (known to some as Jet and to others as Jetty Spaghetti) died on 13 January 1999 of a gastric torsion. Thank you to vets Mary Nicoll and Ivan Walton who were up all night with him. He died on the operating table after three atempts to save him.

Posh Rescue Dog
Jet was a run-on breed dog, sold as a pet because he hated the show ring. He was frightened of trees, red buses and even lamp posts. Worse, he was a bully.

Agility gave him confidence. There was nothing he loved more than a good audience (except possibly liver cake.) He was a member of the Watford Demonstration Team and thrilled many a spectator as he soared over the jumps, with a big grin on his face and ears flying. Though only six, he had been retired from active competition for several months when it was discovered that he was suffering from hip dysplaysia.

People may remember seeing him in Julie Clark's photo montage 'Arsenal Do the Double in May' in the 18th December issue of ES Magazine, dressed in his Arsenal scarf (right). He and his little collie X friend, Benson (Benny and The Jet), were serenaded by jubilant supporters after the Gunners did The Double in May.