Two wise dog owners may save their dogs’ lives

Two dog owners recently asked me to do a preventive surgery on their dogs.

Their dogs, both German shepherds, are at risk for a deadly condition called “bloat.” This is a situation where the stomach becomes hugely distended with gas, and can in some cases twist onto itself.

The procedure is called a prophylactic gastropexy. The smartest time to do it is at the time of spaying or neutering, since the dog is already under anesthesia.

“Prophylactic” means that it’s a preventive surgery performed before this “bloat” condition actually occurs.

“Gastropexy” means that the stomach is tacked or stitched to the inside of the belly. This procedure prevents the twisting of the stomach.

It is a potentially life-saving procedure that should be considered in Great Danes (the #1 breed for this disease), German shepherds, Labs and several other large dog breeds.

And so Bella, a 6 month old German shepherd, had her gastropexy at the time of her spay.

And Zeke, a 1 year old German shepherd, had his gastropexy at the time of his neuter. Here is a picture of the completed surgery.

A gastropexy

Now, it’s very important to understand that the gastropexy only prevents twisting of the stomach. It does NOT prevent actual bloat, where the stomach gets hugely distended with gas. This could still happen in the future. In that case, a vet would have to pass a tube down the throat to remove the gas out of the stomach. The dog would then need to be “stabilized” with IV fluids etc. But there should be no emergency surgery to untwist the stomach. Here is an X-ray of a twisted stomach to show you what I mean by “the stomach becomes hugely distended with gas.”

A bloated stomach

If your dog is at risk for “bloat”, please consider having him or her “gastropexied.” It can save their life.

Dr. Phil Zeltzman

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling veterinary surgeon in Pennsylvania & New Jersey. An award-winning author, he loves to share his adventures in practice along with information about vet medicine and surgery that can really help your pets. Dr. Zeltzman specializes in orthopedic, neurologic, cancer, and soft tissue surgeries for dogs, cats, and small exotics. By working with local family vets, he offers the best surgical care, safest anesthesia, and utmost pain management to all his patients. Sign up to get an email when he updates his blog, and follow him on Facebook, too!