The dog stomach tacking procedure to prevent bloat is often recommended by veterinarians for dogs who are at risk for developing bloat. Bloat is a life threatening condition that can potentially turn fatal to dogs within hours. The dog stomach tacking procedure may be performed when a dog undergoes emergency surgery to resolve the stomach twisting or it may be performed as a preventative measure when the dog is in a non-bloat state. In either case, for owners of dogs predisposed to bloat, it's a good idea learning as much as possible about this procedure so to know what to expect.
For the Prevention of Bloat
When a dog's stomach enlarges, in certain predisposed dogs, it becomes prone to flipping on its axis, leading to a complication known as gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV).
A volvulus is simply a medical term used to depict the incidence of the stomach twisting causing obstruction of the flow of material through the stomach. The twisting risks causing the esophagus to be closed off, preventing the dog from getting relief by burping and possibly vomiting.
With the air sealed in, subsequent loss of blood supply to vital organs and potential tissue death takes place leading to rupturing of the stomach, blood poisoning, peritonitis, shock and death.
The rotation of the dog's stomach appears to be caused by a dysfunction of the sphincter that's found between the dog's esophagus and stomach causing accumulation of excessive air.
Dogs mostly affected are large and giant breed dogs with deep and narrow chests (their spacious abdomens allow sufficient space for the stomach to twist on it's own axis). Predisposed breeds include Dobermans, great danes, bloodhounds, German shepherdd, Newfoundlands, Saint Bernards and Leonbergers. Aging is also a predisposing factor and a tendency for bloat may even run in some families of dogs. Dogs with anxious personalities were also found to be predisposed.
Other risk factors include eating habits that cause the ingestion of air such as rapid eating, the consumption of large amounts of food in one setting, excessive drinking after meals, exercising vigorously after eating, and eating from an elevated food bowl.
Dog stomach tacking may be therefore recommended in dogs who are predisposed to bloat. At times, this procedure may be recommended by veterinarians when the dog is undergoing another type of surgery such as when the dog is spayed or neutered.
Dog Stomach Tacking Procedures
The dog stomach tacking procedure is medically known as gastropexy, sometimes shortened as "pexy." As mentioned, this procedure may be performed as a form of prevention (in this case it is called prophylactic gastropexy) or when the dog is undergoing emergency surgery to resolve a case of twisted stomach.
The practice of having gastropexy performed when the dog undergoes surgery to de-rotate the twisted stomach is common. According to research, it was found that dogs who had an episode of gastric dilatation volvulus had more than 70 percent recurrence rates causing mortality rates of 80 percent.
The procedure consists of attaching the dog’s stomach to the abdominal wall for the purpose of preventing the stomach from flipping and twisting. There are several different dog stomach tacking procedures: incorporating gastropexy, tube gastropexy, circumcostal, belt-loop, incisional and laparascopic. The choice of one procedure over another is often based on the vet's preference and the dog's medical history.
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"This procedure "tacks" or attaches the stomach wall to the body wall and prevents it from twisting in the future. Studies have shown that 76 percent of dogs that do not have a gastropexy will bloat again; more than half will bloat again within three months. Only 6 percent of dogs that have had a gastropexy have another bloat episode."~Jerold S. Bell, DVM
Some Facts to Be Aware of
It's important to understand that gastropexy doesn't prevent bloat. The main purpose of gastropexy is to prevent the stomach from twisting should bloat occur, it therefore prevents gastric dilatation volvulus, warns veterinarian Dr. John.
Vets may suggest having stomach tacking done when a dog is spayed or neutered. Usually, this is suggested when the breed of the dog is particularly predisposed such as in the case of great danes and Weimaraners.
In the case of a female dog being spayed and getting the stomach tacked at the same time, the vet would need to extend the incision so to visualize the stomach and tack it to the abdominal wall. While the incision may be longer, the good news is that incisions tend to heal from side- to-side rather than lengthwise, and therefore it heals in the same amount of time regardless if the incision is long or short.
In the case of a male dog being neutered and getting the stomach tacked, the incision will be longer since the vet will need access to the abdomen. Usually dogs recover fairly quickly.
As for the least invasive surgery, laparascopic gastropexy, also known as keyhole surgery, is considered minimally invasive since it requires only small incisions. This results in less tissue trauma, shorter surgery and anesthesia time, less pain after surgery, and a faster recovery.
"The gastropexy, as mentioned, tacks the stomach to the body wall so that it cannot twist and cause a life-threatening bloat. The stomach may distend with gas in an attempt to bloat but since twisting is not possible, this becomes a painful and uncomfortable situation but nothing more serious than that."~Wendy C. Brooks, DVM
Cost of Stomach Tacking Procedure
Dog stomach tacking procedure costs may vary based on location and the type of surgery is performed. If stomach tacking is done as a means for prevention, the cost on its own may be anywhere between $350 and $500.
Costs may be on the higher end if the procedure involves laparoscopy as it requires having it performed by a specialty center with the required equipment.
If dog stomach tacking surgery is combined with surgery to have the dog spayed or neuter, the dog owner will incur in the additional costs of these procedures. The costs for dog stomach tacking may be slightly lower if the surgery is combined with another procedure rather than on its own.
According to a study, assuming that the average cost of a dog gastropexy was $400, the surgery was over all a cost-effective solution when the lifetime risk for developing stomach torsion was at or over 34 percent. Considering the average cost for treating gastric dilatation volvulus is around $1,500 one can easily see why prophylactic gastropexy may be worth it.
- DVM360: Key gastrointestinal surgeries: Incisional gastropexy'
- Rasmusen L. Stomach. In: Slatter D, ed. Textbook of small animal surgery. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: WB Saunders Co, 2003;610-614.
Prev Vet Med. 2003 Sep 12;60(4):319-29.Benefits of prophylactic gastropexy for dogs at risk of gastric dilatation-volvulus. Ward MP1, Patronek GJ, Glickman LT.
Risk Factors for Canine Bloat, Tufts' Canine and Feline Breeding and Genetics Conference, 2003, Jerold S. Bell, DVM, Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine North Grafton, MA, USA
- Veterinary Partner, Bloat - The Mother of All Emergencies