Canine Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus
Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) or Bloat is often a fatal condition most commonly occurring in large, deep-chested dogs. The stomach bloats with gas and fluid because it twisted on itself. This causes blockages at the entrance and exit of the stomach, which cuts off blood flow and creates the emergency. A dog with a bloated, twisted stomach will die in pain within a few hours unless it gets immediate medical attention.
The exact cause of GDV is unknown. However, some dogs are more prone to it. Factors include:
Large breed dogs that eat and drink very quickly (causing air to get trapped in the stomach), and then exercise (causing the stomach to twist)
Large Breed Dogs like Great Danes, Saint Bernards, Setters, Greyhounds, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepards, Labs and Old English Sheepdogs. Many also only eat one meal a day.
The main symptom is retching, but being unable to vomit. Other signs may include:
Shock: the swollen stomach will start to press on blood vessels, blocking blood and oxygen, and the dog will collapse
If you see any of the above signs, rush your dog to the veterinarian immediately. As the stomach swells, it can burst as well.
Gastric dilatation and volvulus is fairly easy to diagnose. Your veterinarian will only need to perform x-rays and ultrasounds to check if the stomach is only bloated, or if it twisted.
GDV is a life-threatening emergency and requires immediate treatment.
Treatment consists of:
Untwisting the stomach and releasing the gas: the veterinarian will use a stomach tube and pump, and this will relieve pressure on the blood vessels
Shock treatment: IV fluids and emergency medications
Gastropexy surgery:after stabilization, your pet will need surgery to tack the stomach into a position in which it can never twist. All bloated dogs need this surgery because GDV usually recurs. If there is dead tissue on the stomach, the veterinarian will remove it during surgery. Sometimes, the veterinarian will also remove the spleen, as it may be damaged when the stomach twists.
In breeds with a high risk of GDV, your veterinarian may recommend gastropexy as a preventative. This will not prevent the dilation (bloat) but does prevent the volvulus (twisting).
It is a good idea to feed large, deep-chested dogs small and frequent meals, and never exercise after eating. (Like when we were kids no swimming for 30 minutes after eating.)
If you catch GDV in time and surgery performed right away, there is a good chance of recovery.
Irregular heart rate, tissue damage, and spleen removal all worsen the prognosis.
It is important to have the surgery done, even once your pet is stable, because without it, 24% of dogs do not survive. If the dog does survive, in 3/4s of cases, it will have a recurrence.