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Stomach Flipping In Dogs

Stomach flipping or Gastric Torsion is most prevalent among large breed dogs who have deep chests and more common in males than females but beware, this can also occur in small breeds, though not as common. It is the number two killer in dogs after cancer.  At the most serious stage, the stomach rotates partially or a full 360° on the ligaments that support it.   At this point the esophagus becomes closed off, as well as is the duodenum and the upper intestine, creating enormous pressure on the organs with no relief.  The major vein that passes through the stomach gets pinched, cutting off the blood supply to the stomach and other organs, leading to tissue damage and destruction.  Even worse, there is a drastic reduction of blood to the heart  and a heart attack is imminent if immediate corrective surgery is not performed.

During surgery, a veterinarian can untwist and reposition the stomach so that food can move through it. Stomach tissue can be examined to ensure it wasn’t injured or deprived of blood during swelling. The spleen, which is attached to the stomach, can be damaged when the stomach twists can also be checked. Often veterinarians will also perform a gastropexy during surgery, which involves attaching the stomach to the abdominal wall so it won’t twist again in the future. A dog that has had gastric torsion is at greater risk of future reocurrence  if agastropey isn’t done.   Even at this point, however, surgery may not save your dog. Some studies have shown that only half of all dogs experiencing gastric torsion survive. Quick reaction to seek medical attention is the key to survival.


No one knows for sure what causes stomach flipping and how to prevent it but there are many opinions all based on anecdotal evidence, but no hard facts to go on. The following are suggestions to reduce the chances of torsion:

1. Do not allow your dog to play, run, jump or roll within 2-3 hours after he or she eats. A leisurely walk around the neighborhood is fine and may aid digestion, but more active exercise should be restricted. Running with a full stomach, the stomach will swing like a pendulum and has a greater chance of flipping over and twisting itself.  If necessary, crate your dog after meal time .

2. Prevent  your dog from drinking large amounts of water directly after or one hour before exercise or eating kibble.  If you add water most dry foods expand, some more so than others. It is thought that dogs who drink a large amount of water after eating a large meal may cause the ingested dry food to expand in the stomach to a mass that the stomach was not intended to hold. In addition, air is also swallowed and the stomach can swell to a dangerous size. Water can also dilute the stomach’s digestive juices to a point where they cannot do their job, causing gas to build up.

3. Premium dog food with a higher nutrient content will allow you to feed smaller portions while still meeting all of your dog’s nutritional needs. Do a ‘kibble test’ with your dog’s food. Place a cup of dry food in a bowl, add water and let it sit overnight. Over time the food will expand, some more than others, and what you see in the morning is representative of what is in your dog’s stomach. If the food expands excessively, you may want to switch foods. Another option is to add  water to the food prior to feeding, allowing it to expand before it is eaten, or to mix dry and canned food together.

4. Feed your dog regularly spaced, smaller meals  two or three times per day.   This is less likely to stretch his stomach.

5. Dogs under stress are thought to be more at risk than those that are calm and relaxed. Change in their routine, boarding or a new dog in the home are situations that can increase stress in a dog. Temperament can also be a factor. Dogs that are more anxious, nervous, or fearful appear to have an increased risk of developing gastric torsion.


1. The most obvious sign of is a distended, swollen-looking belly, particularly one that appears quickly.

2. Whining and/or panting;

3. Atempting to vomit but isnt able to;

4. Shortness of breath;

5. Depression or show signs of pain;

6. Sudden weakness

7. In severe cases, the dog will collapse.

Educate yourself about the symptoms and risk factors, and if your dog fits the profile for higher risk, make the changes that will reduce the risk.   Know where the nearest emergency clinic is located, and how to get there in case an your veterinary office is closed.


Disclaimer: All content provided on, is meant only for educational purposes on health care and medical issues that may affect animals or pets and should never be used to replace professional veterinary care from a licensed veterinarian. This site and its services do not constitute the practice of any veterinarian or other medical health care practitioner’s advice, diagnosis or treatment.


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8 Responses to Stomach Flipping In Dogs

  1. Jennifer September 11, 2012 at 3:29 pm #

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE…spread the word about this horrible condition to everyone you know who has a dog! And leave the size of the dog OUT of the conversation! We just had this happen to our miniature Dachshund. Fortunately, as his symptoms appeared (VERY quickly, I might add!) I looked them up on our computer as we had heard of this but had never seen it. I read all the symptoms, scooped him up, and off to the emergency vet we went. (this happened at 8:30 on a sunday night) They were waiting for us when we got there, took him to x-ray, then to surgery 20 minutes later. By the grace of God, our beloved Rusty made it thru surgery and is going to be ok but it was a horrible thing for him to go through! This is NOT just a large breed dog problem and I wish articles about it would stop saying so! What if I would have thought “oh, that only happens to large dogs so he must just have a stomach ache”? I also wish vets would make pet owners more aware of this condition and how crutial it is to act FAST! If you’re not sure if this is what is going on with your dog, TAKE HIM TO THE VET NOW!! If this happens to your dog you have ZERO time to think about it, have a plan ahead of time! And it doesn’t matter if you have a Teacup or a Dane!

    • Avatar of Dogful
      Dogful September 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

      Thank you for sharing your story and reminding people that stomach flipping in dogs is a deadly condition that can also happen to small breeds. As you have said, acting FAST is crucial. So glad to hear that your miniature dachshund is recovering.

  2. Loni January 28, 2013 at 1:31 am #

    We just lost our Bernese mountain dog to a stomach flip. Unfortunately we did not find her in time for the vet to be able to save her. Being educated about this condition and being able to recognize the signs is key-if we would have acted faster we may have been able to save her, but it totally depends on how much time you have to react.

    • Avatar of Dogful
      Dogful January 28, 2013 at 2:28 am #

      So very sorry to hear about your loss. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lack of information being shared. Your story will help others know about stomach flipping and how devastating the outcome can be.

  3. Barb February 13, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

    I have a boxer/pitbul mix that I am feeding twice a day. (Approx. 4 cups of dry dog food with bacon grease/water/chicken broth/and or beef stew each feeding). He was losing weight due to the colder weather and not eating just dry food. My concern is…is it alright to allow him some run time before I feed him? He has been gaining the weight back and seems fine. Without the run time he tends to pace and not eat.

    • Avatar of Dogful
      Dogful February 13, 2013 at 5:21 pm #

      Unfortunately, stomach flipping in dogs can happen to any breed. Exercising your dog before they eat is the best time, however, you should wait until they are back to normal breathing before they are fed. You may consider feeding your dog three smaller meals instead of just two. The benefit is less food in their stomach at any one time. It is common for a dog’s weight to fluctuate with the season as most dogs are more active during the summer and, therefore, will require more food. If your dog is more active in the winter then the opposite may be true. Keep in mind that when you are increasing or decreasing their food it should be done gradually over several days to not upset their system. Loss or increase in appetite can also be caused from parasites and you should discuss this with your veterinarian about a routine de-worming schedule.

  4. Catherine August 16, 2013 at 12:31 am #

    I’m going through this right now with my 10 month old German shepard puppy lola, she’s in the hospital for stomach flipping as I’m writing this and I wish I would have been aware. All we can do is hope and prey our baby will be ok

    • Avatar of Dogful
      Dogful August 16, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

      Sorry to hear that you are going through this. We are hoping for a positive outcome for you and Lola.

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