In 2015, Bart, a jovial Great Dane, was enjoying her daily meal when suddenly, she started showing signs of distress.
Little did her owners know, Bart was experiencing Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), a potentially fatal condition that could have been prevented with a procedure known as gastropexy.
This guide aims to shed light and help dog lovers understand the Gastropexy Pros and Cons in Dogs.
The Pros and Cons of Gastropexy are:
- Reduces the risk of gastric torsion or bloat.
- Recovery is typically easier when performed as elective surgery.
- Preventive surgery is more cost-effective in the long run.
- High likelihood of preventing a painful and life-threatening condition.
- Gastropexy is optional and not always covered by pet insurance.
- The surgery requires anesthesia, which carries a risk of complications.
- It’s an additional expense early in a dog’s life.
- Gastropexy doesn’t prevent bloat or dilation, which may still require veterinary treatment.
- Any surgery carries inherent risk.
What is Gastropexy?
Gastropexy is a preventative surgical measure in the field of canine health care. It securely attaches the dog’s stomach to its abdominal wall to stop it from twisting, a severe condition known as Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), or “bloat” in layman’s terms.
The Hazard of Bloat
Bloat is a dual-stage disorder. It commences with gastric dilatation, where the stomach fills up with gas and distends. Without appropriate intervention, this progresses to the second phase, volvulus.
In volvulus, the gas-laden stomach rotates along its axis, disrupting blood supply and leading to tissue death. This event significantly worsens the dog’s health.
Types of Gastropexy
The first scenario is prophylactic gastropexy. It is a preventive measure usually undertaken when a dog is still young, particularly if it belongs to a breed predisposed to GDV. Prophylactic gastropexy often coincides with spaying or neutering, reducing the need for multiple surgeries.
In contrast, emergency gastropexy is performed when a dog suffers a GDV crisis. These situations are time-sensitive, as GDV can turn fatal within a few hours. Emergency gastropexy involves untwisting the stomach and surgically securing it to the abdominal wall to ward off future incidents.
Significance and Considerations
Despite being a lifesaving procedure, gastropexy comes with its own considerations. It is pivotal for dog owners to understand these nuances before opting for the procedure.
Despite the potential challenges, it has been instrumental in saving countless canine lives, demonstrating its critical role in dog healthcare.
Who Needs Gastropexy?
Regarding the health and safety of our furry companions, preventative care plays a significant role.
This is especially true for certain breeds, where the risk of severe health conditions like Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV), or bloat, is higher.
Gastropexy, therefore, emerges as an important consideration for dogs falling under certain categories.
Certain breeds of dogs are known to have a higher susceptibility to developing GDV.
This is primarily attributed to their unique physical structure, often described as being deep-chested. Breeds such as Great Danes, Saint Bernards, German Shepherds, and Weimaraners are classic examples.
These dogs have a larger, deeper chest, providing more room for the stomach to move and twist—a primary factor contributing to GDV.
Age and Bloat Risk
The age of a dog can also influence the risk of developing bloat. Typically, older dogs are more likely to experience this condition.
The muscles and ligaments holding the dog’s stomach in place can weaken over time, allowing it to twist.
For these reasons, owners of older dogs, particularly of predisposed breeds, should consider discussing the option of gastropexy with their veterinarians.
Weight and Health Conditions
Weight is another factor that can influence the risk of GDV in dogs. Overweight dogs have more fat and less muscle tone to keep the stomach in place, thereby increasing the risk of stomach twisting.
Furthermore, certain health conditions, such as digestive disorders, can also increase a dog’s likelihood of experiencing GDV.
It’s essential to regularly monitor your dog’s weight and overall health status, as managing these factors can also help mitigate the risk of GDV.
The Process of Gastropexy
Understanding the intricacies of the gastropexy procedure can help put dog owners at ease and provide a better perspective of what their beloved pet will go through.
The process consists of multiple stages: preparation, surgery, recovery, and post-operative care.
Before the surgery, your veterinarian will conduct a thorough health check and blood tests to ensure your dog is fit for anesthesia. The dog must fast for several hours before the surgery to avoid complications.
The Surgical Procedure
Gastropexy is performed under general anesthesia. Once the dog is anesthetized, an incision is made in the abdomen to expose the stomach.
The veterinarian then attaches a small part of the stomach wall to the dog’s abdominal wall.
This can be done through traditional open surgery, or more commonly now, with minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, which has the advantages of less pain and quicker recovery times.
The primary goal of the procedure is to prevent the stomach from twisting. It does not interfere with the dog’s normal digestive processes.
Once the stomach is secured, the incision is closed, and the dog is carefully monitored as it wakes from anesthesia.
After the surgery, recovery time can vary, but most dogs can return to normal activities within two weeks.
During the first few days post-surgery, activity must be restricted to allow the surgical site to heal.
Post-operative care is crucial to ensure a successful recovery. This includes managing the dog’s pain with medications prescribed by the veterinarian.
The Vet ensures the surgical incision is healing properly and isn’t being irritated or infected. He would also monitor the dog for any behavioral changes indicating discomfort or complications.
Feeding may also need to be adjusted in the initial days, with smaller, more frequent meals being easier for the dog to digest.
Your vet will provide detailed instructions for post-operative care. Following these instructions carefully is key to a successful recovery.
Pros of Gastropexy for Dogs
1. Reduces the risk of gastric torsion or bloat.
The primary advantage of gastropexy is its capacity to significantly decrease the likelihood of Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) in dogs.
By physically securing the dog’s stomach to the abdominal wall, gastropexy minimizes the chance of the stomach twisting, averting a painful and potentially fatal condition.
This preventive measure offers peace of mind for dog owners, particularly those with breeds prone to GDV, and can also decrease the frequency of stressful, emergency visits to the vet.
2. Recovery is typically easier when performed as elective surgery.
Gastropexy, performed as a preventive procedure before the onset of GDV, simplifies the surgery and recovery process.
Dogs undergoing elective gastropexy are generally healthier, leading to a reduced risk during surgery and a better response to anesthesia, which can translate into a quicker and smoother recovery period.
3. Preventive Surgery is Significantly More Cost-Effective
While there are upfront costs associated with gastropexy, these need to be weighed against the potential long-term financial benefits.
A preventive gastropexy procedure is typically much less expensive than treating a GDV episode, which may involve intensive care, emergency surgery, and post-operative treatment. Therefore, investing in gastropexy can lead to lower vet bills in the long run.
4. High Likelihood of Preventing a Painful and Life-Threatening Bloat
Gastropexy effectively guards dogs against the discomfort and severe health risks of bloat.
By preventing this condition, gastropexy contributes significantly to improving the quality of life for your dog, particularly in breeds predisposed to GDV.
With the substantial risk of bloat mitigated, dogs that undergo a gastropexy procedure have the potential to lead longer, healthier lives.
Cons of Gastropexy for Dogs
1. Gastropexy is optional and expensive; therefore, pet insurance may not cover it
Although gastropexy can provide significant benefits, particularly for at-risk breeds, it’s often classified as an optional or elective procedure.
As a result, many pet insurance policies may not cover its costs. It’s essential to consult your insurance provider to clarify coverage details before deciding on gastropexy.
While this procedure can prevent severe complications from GDV in the future, the immediate financial cost can be substantial and may pose a deterrent for some dog owners.
2. The Surgery Requires Anesthesia, and There is a Risk of Complications
As with any surgical procedure, gastropexy involves anesthesia, which carries its risks.
These can include adverse reactions ranging from mild, such as nausea and disorientation, to severe, such as allergic reactions, breathing difficulties, or in rare cases, death.
Moreover, other potential complications such as infection, bleeding, or damage to surrounding organs can occur during the surgery. Discussing these risks with your vet is important to make an informed decision.
3. It Is Another Expense Early in the Life of Your Dog
For many dog owners, the first few years can already be financially demanding, with expenses such as vaccinations, spaying/neutering, and training.
Adding the cost of a gastropexy surgery can put an additional financial burden on dog owners. Although the procedure can be seen as an investment in the dog’s future health, the upfront costs can be daunting.
4. Gastropexy doesn’t prevent bloat or dilation, which may still require veterinary treatment
While gastropexy effectively prevents the twisting of the stomach (volvulus), it does not prevent the stomach from bloating or dilating due to excessive gas or food, which in itself can cause discomfort and potential health issues.
Although less life-threatening than volvulus, gastric dilatation may still require veterinary intervention, including medication or procedures to relieve gas and pressure.
Thus, despite having undergone gastropexy, dog owners must still remain vigilant for signs of bloat.
5. Any Surgery and Anesthesia Carry Risks
Surgery inherently involves risks, even when performed by experienced veterinary surgeons.
Risks are associated with the surgical procedure, including potential for blood loss, infection, or post-operative complications. Anesthesia also carries its own set of risks.
While modern anesthetic protocols and monitoring equipment have made anesthesia safer, there is always a small risk of an adverse reaction. Dog owners must weigh these risks against the benefits gastropexy can provide.
The world of pet ownership is full of both challenges and victories, and the subject of gastropexy is no different. To highlight this, we delve into the real-life story of a dog named Bart, whose journey with gastropexy was anything but smooth sailing, yet ultimately rewarding.
Bart, a young, sprightly Great Dane, in our introduction, was identified as being at high risk for GDV due to his breed.
After much consideration, Bart’s owners proceeded with prophylactic gastropexy, hoping to safeguard their beloved pet against potential health complications.
However, Bart’s condition took a worrying turn shortly after the surgery. He began showing symptoms like vomiting, decreased appetite, lethargy, and an overall behavior change, which left his owners alarmed.
A postoperative infection had set in, a risk associated with any surgical procedure. Bart’s condition was a stark reminder that even routine surgeries could have complications.
Bart was promptly put on a course of antibiotics to treat the infection. It was a tense period for his owners, filled with multiple vet visits, careful monitoring, and lots of TLC.
After a few weeks of treatment, Bart regained his strength and spirit. His appetite improved, and his lively personality shone again, much to his owners’ relief.
While Bart’s recovery period was not without struggles, his story has a happy ending. He eventually recovered fully from the infection and has been bloat-free to date.
His owners expressed that despite the initial post-operative complications, they would still make the same choice for Bart.
The peace of mind from knowing Bart is significantly less likely to suffer from GDV makes the ordeal worthwhile.
Bart’s story underscores the potential challenges associated with gastropexy but also highlights its benefits.
Every dog’s experience with gastropexy will be unique, but Bart’s journey offers valuable insights for owners considering this procedure for their dogs.
It’s a testament to the power of preventive care, the importance of post-operative monitoring, and the enduring bond between pets and their owners.
For more about dog health, check out our guide on giving Kalms to dogs.
In conclusion, the decision to opt for gastropexy surgery is not taken lightly and must be the result of careful consideration and discussion. T
he pros and cons must be weighed with attention to your dog’s specific circumstances.
Breed, age, and overall health are crucial factors in this evaluation, as breeds with deep chests like Great Danes or Saint Bernards, older dogs, and those with certain health conditions might be more susceptible to GDV.
An informed decision is crucial in this process. This involves doing your research, talking to veterinarians, and consulting with specialists.
Look at the science, the statistics, and the experiences of others, but also pay close attention to your dog’s health history and behavior.
The welfare of your dog must always be the top priority.
Yes, there are risks associated with the procedure, as with any surgery. Yes, there are costs, both financial and in terms of the time and commitment required for post-operative care.
However, these must be weighed against the potential cost of emergency surgery, the distress and pain that GDV can cause for your dog, and the peace of mind that can come with knowing that you have taken a step to reduce the risk of this serious condition significantly.
Remember, as a pet owner, your primary role is to ensure your dog’s best quality of life. If gastropexy offers a chance to prevent a life-threatening situation down the road, it’s worth giving it serious thought.
Always consult with your vet or a professional when making such significant decisions.
Your dog trusts you implicitly – it’s up to you to make the best choices for their health and happiness.
1. Canine gastropexy. (2023, May 15). In Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canine_gastropexy
2. Giaconella, V., Grillo, R., Giaconella, R., Properzi, R., & Gialletti, R. (2021). Outcomes and Complications in a Case Series of 39 Total Laparoscopic Prophylactic Gastropexies Using a Modified Technique. Animals: An Open Access Journal from MDPI, 11(2). https://doi.org/10.3390/ani11020255
3. Sutton, J. S., Steffey, M. A., Bonadio, C. M., & Marks, S. L. (2015). Gastric malpositioning and chronic, intermittent vomiting following prophylactic gastropexy in a 20-month-old great Dane dog. The Canadian Veterinary Journal, 56(10), 1053-1056. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4572823/