I have a five-month-old Great Dane, our vet is pushing us to have his stomach tacked. This is a very costly procedure, is it absolutely necessary?
Routine stomach tacking (technically known as gastropexy) is recommended by some vets for young members of certain breeds of dogs. The purpose of this surgery is to prevent a syndrome called bloat.
Bloat is one of the most terrible things that can happen to a dog. The stomach becomes twisted inside the abdomen, and then hyper-extends with gas. Blood flow through the body is compromised. The dog suffers intense agony. Without emergency surgery almost all bloated dogs die within 12 hours. Large numbers of affected animals die even with surgery. The surgery (and several days of ICU care that must occur during recovery) is phenomenally expensive. The recovery from surgery is long and painful.
Any dog, regardless of breed, age, or gender can suffer from bloat at any time. However, the syndrome is most common in deep chested breeds of dogs such as Great Danes, Standard Poodles and Labrador Retrievers. Bloat is most common in older dogs. Females suffer from the syndrome more often than males. Dogs suffer bloat most often at night, and the syndrome tends to occur with increased frequency in dogs who have visited groomers, boarding facilities, or, egad, veterinarians earlier in the day.
Make no mistake: bloat is just about the worst thing that can happen to a dog. Stomach tacking does reduce (but not completely eliminate) the possibility of bloat.
This brings up a question that has caused a great deal of debate among veterinarians: should young healthy members of high risk breeds such as Great Danes and Standard Poodles undergo stomach tacking in order to prevent the syndrome?
No consensus has been reached on the matter. However, most vets I know (myself included) would vote no. Putting a dog through a major surgery in order to prevent a problem that may never happen is probably not in the dog’s best interest. Bloat is horrible, but thankfully it is not very common.
However, I should point out that there is plenty of room for argument on this matter. Plenty of reasonable, thoughtful vets may disagree with my position.
Ideally I would perform stomach tacking only on dogs who were certain to bloat in the future and not perform the procedure on those who wouldn’t. Of course, if I could predict the future in that way I wouldn’t waste my time performing surgeries. I’d pick a few stocks and lotto numbers and retire in luxury.
Leonita, I would not recommend tacking your dog’s stomach. But I think you should visit a few more vets and get third, fourth, and fifth opinions on the matter. Neither my word, nor the word of your original vet should be taken as absolute.
Photo: This X-ray is very bad news. It shows bloat. By Joel Mills.