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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

2 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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