Gastric Dilation-Volvulus (GDV) in dogs
GDV is more commonly known as gastric bloat or gastric torsion. It is a serious and potentially life threatening condition in dogs. After eating a large meal, the gas and food in the stomach cause the stomach to dilate (expand). As the stomach dilates, pressure builds up and it expands in size. The pressure can cause the stomach to turn on an axis, blocking off the exit route for the gas which then continues to build up. This is known as Volvulus and this is the dangerous part. It is a very serious condition that is treated as an emergency.
The exact cause is uncertain but gdv most commonly presents in dogs who have exercised after a big meal or after drinking large amounts of water.
It is most common in
- Pedigree dogs.
- Deep chested dogs
- Dogs that are fed a single large meal once daily
- Older dogs
- Breed most at risks: Doberman, Weimaraner, Great Dane, St Bernard, German Shepherd, Irish setter and Gordon Setter
What to look out for:
- Retching – trying to vomit
- Frothing at mouth
- Abdomen enlarged
Advice for pet owners
This condition often runs in families of dogs, be more vigilant if your dogs parent or litter mates have had bloat in the past.
Although some breeds are more likely to get gdv, it can affect any breed.
Be aware of your feeding routine:
Don’t use raised bowls – keep them on the ground.
Don’t feed large amounts all at once.
No vigorous exercise after eating. Allow 1-2 hours either side of eating for exercise.
Use bowls that have a raised middle if your dog is inclined to gulp food as this will make the dog eat slower and prevent gulping air.
Check the fat content of food, higher fat in foods increases risk.
Feed a mixture of dry and wet food mixed together.
Two cases in two weeks!
In June we treated two dogs that presented with gdv.
An 11 year old Munsterlander; this is a large breed dog with a deep chest.
The owners became worried when they noticed he was retching, restless and looked bloated. They called us and we advised them to come in straight away.
In the exam room, Chris noticed an increased heart rate, panting and salivation, his abdomen was distended on both sides. We took him in straight away as he had all of the symptoms of gastric dilation. We put him on fluids, performed decompression therapy to release the gas that had built up and took an x-ray. After assessing the results of the x-ray, Chris spoke to the owners as it was clear from the x-ray image that gas was continuing to build up.
Chris explained that the only option was emergency surgery to correct the position of stomach. He also explained that the surgery is high risk and not guaranteed to succeed. The owners indicated that they wanted to have the surgery performed. The surgery is long and very stressful as the patient is compromised as their organs are under pressure before the surgery even starts. The goal of surgery is to correct the position of the stomach – so basically to untwist it and then stitch it to the wall of the abdomen so that it will not twist again. This stitching is called gastropexy. Careful monitoring under anesthetic is very important.
The surgery took two hours to complete fully as he had a full twist of the stomach.The entire abdomen had to be flushed with sterile fluids before stitching the abdomen closed again. He was placed back into the hospital to recover on fluids. His temperature, heart and respiratory rate were monitored for the hours that followed. We informed the owners that he had come through surgery but that the next 24 hours were very important to make sure he was out of danger.
the following morning we noticed his form was brighter, he was able to walk a little and his temperature had come up to normal levels. We kept him hospitalised on fluids for two days before he was well enough to go home.
A 4 year old German Shepherd.
His owners rang early in the morning as he had vomited 6 times during the night and seemed in very poor form. Sarah was the vet on call and she asked them to come in straight away. Upon examination, she noticed that he was lethargic and that his abdomen was bloated on the left hand side. He was taken in to be put on fluids straight away to stabilize him, however the x-ray showed that his stomach was full of gas and he was continuing to retch. Chris spoke to the owners about the condition and explained that Jake would need emergency surgery. We performed surgery as soon as possible and it was a success. He spent two days with us recovering in hospital. He has been in for two check ups since and we are delighted with his progress.