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Mesenteric Torsion

A mesenteric torsion is the twisting of the intestines around the mesenteric axis. The mesentery is the suspension system for the intestines. The many feet of the intestines are suspended by a pretty small mesenteric root that contains the attachment of the mesentery and the major blood vessels providing nutrients to the intestines. Occasionally, this system ca twist on itself causing serious, often fatal consequences.

The mortality rate is almost 100% and was once thought to be a rare condition, but evidence has brought to light the fact that this is occurring with ever increasing incidence and has been seen to occur more commonly in German Shepherds than any other breed. The symptoms of this condition are rapid onset of shock, abdominal pain and vomiting. The twisting stops the blood flowing to the intestines, causing tissues to die immediately. This condition causes a dilemma for veterinarians as the symptoms are often nebulis and diagnosis is difficult. The dog is usually “down” – in shock, making any surgical options a tough decision.

The underlying cause for mesenteric torsion is any condition that that irritates the bowel, such as infections diseases of the gut (parvo, coronovirus, foreign body obstructions, inflammatory bowel disease, intestinal parasites, etc.) It is believed bu some that allowing too much activity following a big meal can be a predisposing factor. In my own experience, this has seemed to play a role in some cases of mesenteric torsion. It happens most commonly in young dogs less than one year of age, and must be considered as a possibility in any puppy presenting vomiting with abdominal pain.

As previously noted, diagnosis can be difficult in the short time that surgical management may still be a viable option to save the patients’s life, which is why many patients die before treatment can be initiated.

Therefore, any puppy experiencing severe vomiting with abdominal pain, should be seen by a veterinarian ASAP.


By: Roger L. Welton, DVM
Founder, Web-DVM
President, Maybeck Animal Hospital
CEO, Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care

Article Updated 5/23/2014

17 thoughts on “Mesenteric Torsion

  1. Tom Marchant says:

    My vet at Pawleys Island, SC diagnosed my dogs death from this malady. He was an 8 year old, 92 pound Lab who was a “class act”. Thank you for this information.

  2. RonVf says:

    Had this happen to my 21 month old German Shepherd today. He was fine at 6:00 PM last evening, by 9:00 he was in pain and at 02:00 started to vomit. To him to the emergency clinic where they took the X-rays and diagnosed his condition. By 12:00 he was gone. Hugo was the best and will be missed greatly. This is my 4th Shephard and had never even heard of this until today.
    Thank you for your web site.

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  7. Jim Marcelletti says:

    This happened to our 8 month old German Shepard. She started to vomit around 6pm. Seemed like she was just fighting a bug and wanted to be left alone. Could never really get comfortable to lay down and rest. Kept on vomitting for a few hours and when we let her outside she wanted to find a place to burrow and hide. The night did not go well. She vomitted more and was not better by morning. We took her into vet. The vet ran a blood test. But by the time the blood test results were back she had passed. Blood test showed that maybe she had gotten into ibuprofen or something poisonous but this was not the case. After she had passed the vet decided to open her up and diagnose. His diagnosis was a mesenteric torsion. He said there was nothing he could have done even if we had brought her in when she first started to vomit. Very rair condition. Something many vets only hear about in their schooling.

  8. Deb S says:

    This happened to my 3 year old Standard Poodle. All was fine in the morning, played ball, etc. In the evening I fed her dinner and approximately 30 minutes later she vomited up her dinner in 5 different areas of the house. I kept an eye on her and notice she could not get comfortable laying, standing, sitting, etc. She just kept getting up and moving from place to place, inside and outside and back in again. I noticed when she was laying down trying to get comfortable she was pulling her back legs up like she was having abdominal pain. I put her in the car and got her to the ER right away. Blood work was run and at the time was normal. Xrays were taken and the xray was abnormal in that they could see some gas but the intestinal area was pretty loopy and double the size and a blockage was suspect. It was now midnight and I had signed off for emergency exploratory abdominal surgery. The oncall surgereon was called to perform the surgery. Unfortunately, by the time they started the surgery, 5am the next morning my furbaby’s small intestines were twisted and blood flow had been cut off. 80% of her intestines would have had to have been removed. I was told she would never be the same dog with only 20% of her intestines left. I was also told that she may not even make it out of surgery or even make a full recovery and it would be very tough on her. There was a huge time lapse between when I brought my furbaby in to the ER and when they actually performed surgery, almost 6-7 hours later. Time is of the essence with Mesenteric Torsion if you suspect your dog may have this, please don’t sit and wait patiently for the vets to act. I will always wonder if the ER Vets would have performed exploratory abdominal surgery on her after I brought her in if she would have made it. Again, when I brought her in her blood work was normal and no diahrea. She got worse while at the ER. I think this condition is more prevelant these days but you just don’t hear about it. It’s fatal. Your dog can be perfectly fine in the morning and gone by the end of the day. By 5am the next morning my baby was gone. Please don’t wait or allow Vets to wait because they aren’t 100% sure of what is going on if your dog shows these symptoms. This is a matter of life or death.

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  12. Brenda Sixkles says:

    My 6 yr old Great Dane was just released from the ER vet hospital Mar 28, 2016 after having a colectomy following colonic torsion / voluvus. He also lost much of his small intestines. We went to one ER vet the night of Mar 22 because he vomited up his breakfast that day and then bike at 5PM. Following that he was just laying around shaking. That vet gave him barium and took X-rays and sent us home. Because he wasn’t any better, we retuned the next morning and took more X-rays and did blood work. When they said they couldn’t figure out what it was (because if it was a foreign object it should have moved) we went to our normal vet.

    Our normal vet sent us to a surgeon and ER. They saw us right away and took more X-rays. He stayed over night. The next day after more X-rays, we decided to open him up! The dr found horrific stuff- he had never seen anything like it Ina a gastropexied Dane! He refused to eat and battled lots of drainage and infection. But eventually the antibiotics broke it and the drainage was gone!

    Once the pain patch was pulled he began eating. He is still on a small dose of pain pills and eating well. Stiched come out next Thurs! Now we just need to pray his stools firm up because his butt is raw!

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  17. Nancy Marotta says:

    We lost our 2 yr old Weimaraner this past weekend. She seemed to suffer from bowel problems chronically. So we were real careful with her food and no table food. The breeder was not helpful from very early on when her stomach/ bowel issue persisted. Well this past weekend she was happy and playful and then vomited 10 times, her stomach became like a huge balloon we rushed her to the animal hospital and they took an X-ray and the vet came in and said she was not going to make it it! She has a mesenteric torsion. All within 2 hours she was gone. We are broken our personal vet said her had never seen this, breeders we speak to say they have never heard of that issue with Weimaraners, some had to even ask what it was… The ER Vet said it was extremely rare. Ugh we miss Molly. She was only 2!! It can happen apparently.

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