Skip to main content

Detecting Gastric Torsion in Retrievers

A hidden killer of retrievers, this is a medical situation that can be easily prevented.

Detecting Gastric Torsion in Retrievers

The topic of gastric torsion — or twisted stomach — kept coming up in my interviews with trainers, breeders and veterinarians. The stories were almost always carbon copies of one another, with a retriever acting perfectly normal in training or hunting, to suddenly acting very different and very sick.

The common belief surrounding gastric torsion is that it occurs when a dog has eaten a meal large enough (or slurped up a lot of water) to weigh the stomach down to the point where post-meal exercise can cause it to flip. This pinches off the ends of the stomach and won’t allow the food to pass through to the digestive tract, or be vomited up.

But there is a reason this ailment goes by different names, including Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (GDV) and bloat — because it isn’t necessarily the result of just a twisted stomach. Bloat, which can occur after a stomach has twisted, can also occur before twisting occurs and be the leading contributor to it.

When a dog’s stomach fills with gas or fluid, bloat occurs. And this might start out as innocently as a dog that is just nervous and breathing heavily, which can lead to aerophagia. This act of excessive air intake is most commonly seen in stressed dogs and it can very quickly lead the stomach to fill up and bloat, effectively altering the layout of the organs. A bloated stomach is a prime candidate for flipping, which means that your dog might not have consumed a calorie in the last 12 hours but could still be in danger of gastric torsion after being subjected to a stressful situation — like kenneling.


Pay Attention

No one knows your dog better than you. If you have noticed your dog breathing heavy and almost gulping air, understand that the dog is not only stressed but also filling his stomach up. Any anxiety is always a sign for concern, but anxiety coupled with unsuccessful attempts to vomit should really get your attention.


Something as simple as excessive drooling can signal big problems as well. If you’re not eating a plate of ribs in front of your Lab and he’s got drool dribbling down from his jowls, it might be because he can’t swallow it down due to a twisted stomach. Or, you might notice his guts look a little full and there is just a general discomfort to his body language. All of these can be a sign that something has gone wrong with the plumbing leading into and out of his stomach.

Early Detection

GDV kills dogs, but it doesn’t have to. Early detection is the key to saving your dog’s life. If you suspect a twisted stomach, it’s time to get to a vet clinic. This condition can kill your retriever in multiple ways, which might involve a lack of blood flow to the stomach lining which can effectively kill this crucial organ (it can also cause tears in the stomach lining).

Typically, your veterinarian will assess the situation and decide if it’s possible to slip a tube down the dog’s throat to relieve the pressure that has built up, but this isn’t always possible. If not, they can release the pressure via a needle in the dog’s stomach, but these options are only the start. Invasive surgery is next, which comes with it, its own set of risks depending on a dog’s overall health and how much the condition has progressed.

The Best Medicine

Prevention, obviously, is the best medicine. In addition to just paying attention to your dog’s body language and overall health conditions, there are plenty of things you can do to avoid gastric torsion. Don’t use a raised food/water bowl unless you’ve been advised to do so by your vet.




Gastric-Torsion-Feeding.jpg

Make sure your dog eats and drinks a manageable amount of food, and in either case, don’t allow or encourage vigorous exercise after either. A general rule is that GDV is most likely to occur within two hours of feeding, so plan accordingly whether you plan to take your retriever into the duck blind or simply to the neighborhood soccer fields for some dummy work. A little time between feeding and working is all it usually takes to avoid this potentially deadly condition.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Browning A5 Shotgun -

Browning A5 Shotgun - 'Gun Stories'

Gun Stories host Joe Mantegna talks about the origin and history of the Browning A5 shotgun.

Swedish Duck Hunt

Swedish Duck Hunt

Kevin Steele takes part in a family driven duck hunt in Sweden.

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during 2019, company CEO Charlie Holder shows off the limited edition Yentzen Classic aimed at commemorating the life and times of company founder Jim 'Cowboy' Fernandez. With a special autographed box and a laser engraved call body, the Cowboy Classic is a perfect way to honor the legacy of the 1959 world duck calling champ and inventor of the double-reed duck call.

Franchi 12-Gauge Affinity Semiauto Shotgun

Franchi 12-Gauge Affinity Semiauto Shotgun

Craig Boddington and Eric Poole take a look at the new modern Franchi Affinity shotgun.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

Times have changed, and so has the size of our retrievers. Size Versus Drive in Hunting Dogs Retriever

Size Versus Drive in Hunting Dogs

Tom Dokken

Times have changed, and so has the size of our retrievers. 

Mallards are masters of avoiding hunting pressure.Are Mallard Ducks Becoming Nocturnal? Conservation

Are Mallard Ducks Becoming Nocturnal?

David Hart

Mallards are masters of avoiding hunting pressure.

Jim Orth needed'a simple blind for hunting Lake St. Clair. A staffing recruiter and outfitter fromBuilding a Duck Boat Blind on a Budget How-To

Building a Duck Boat Blind on a Budget

Mike Marsh - May 10, 2016

Jim Orth needed'a simple blind for hunting Lake St. Clair. A staffing recruiter and outfitter...

The Prairie Potholes Region is alive with waterfowl and a perfect place to test a new shotgun.Testing the Savage Renegauge on North Dakota Waterfowl Stories

Testing the Savage Renegauge on North Dakota Waterfowl

Skip Knowles - May 19, 2020

The Prairie Potholes Region is alive with waterfowl and a perfect place to test a new shotgun.

See More Trending Articles

More Retriever

Healthy weight is a moving target that you should aim for all season with your duck dog.Achieving a Healthy Weight for Your Duck Dog Retriever

Achieving a Healthy Weight for Your Duck Dog

Tony J. Peterson

Healthy weight is a moving target that you should aim for all season with your duck dog.

Some duck dogs are predisposed to potentially fatal EIC.Genetic Time Bomb: Exercised Induced Collapse Retriever

Genetic Time Bomb: Exercised Induced Collapse

Tony J. Peterson

Some duck dogs are predisposed to potentially fatal EIC.

We might not see anxiety or worry in our dogs, but it is there and can affect hunting ability. How Stress Affects a Dog's Hunting Ability Retriever

How Stress Affects a Dog's Hunting Ability

Tony J. Peterson

We might not see anxiety or worry in our dogs, but it is there and can affect hunting ability.

Don't let personal bias get in the way of making improvements during the season and beyond. Keep Your Duck Dog Sharp Throughout the Year Retriever

Keep Your Duck Dog Sharp Throughout the Year

Tom Dokken

Don't let personal bias get in the way of making improvements during the season and beyond.

See More Retriever

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Wildfowl App

Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Wildfowl subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now