Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus is a medical condition that happens most often in large breed dogs greater than 7 years old. Dogs that have deep “barrel chests” are most prone to this condition. This includes German Shepherds, Mastiffs, Great Danes, Dobermans, Saint Bernards, Bloodhounds, Weimeriners, Setters, Standard Poodles and more. GDV is a medical emergency that occurs when the stomach becomes filled with gas and twists around on itself, trapping the gas inside. This condition is fatal if not corrected and often requires emergency surgery.
Symptoms of GDV or “torsion” can include lethargy, inappetance, drooling, vomiting or attempting to vomit, distended abdomen and labored breathing. If you suspect your dog may have GDV it is an emergency situation and it is imperative that you bring your dog immediately to a veterinarian. Early detection and correction of this condition allow your pet the best chance for survival. Without early intervention and correction the gas pressure in the stomach pushes on the large veins that carry oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. Lack of oxygenated blood causes systemic shock, which is compounded by the stomach’s inability to receive adequate amounts of blood due to the torsion, causing death of the tissues in the stomach. Eventually gas pressure from the inside of the stomach paired with the death of the tissues can cause the stomach to rupture.
Little is known about the exact causes of GDV, but it most commonly occurs after a dog has eaten a large meal or drank a large amount of water. Strenuous exercise shortly thereafter may also be a contributing factor. Stressed or fearful dogs as well as dogs who eat very rapidly or are fed only once a day are more likely to develop GDV.
In some cases a stomach may simply bloat without twisting. This sometimes corrects itself or can be corrected by having your veterinarian pass a tube into your dog’s stomach- emptying the accumulated air. In most cases, however, the stomach twists upon itself, occluding the entrance and exit to the stomach. This diagnosis must be made by taking a radiograph.
Surgical correction is usually needed in order to fix GDV. In some cases your veterinarian may attempt to pass a stomach tube to relieve some pressure in the stomach. Many times this is not enough to correct the problem and surgery is needed. Some patients may need to be treated for shock before they are candidates for major surgery. This usually includes IV fluids and raising the core body temperature. During surgery the veterinarian will attempt to untwist the stomach, remove any damaged pieces of tissue and perform a gastropexy (suturing of the stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent future episodes).
Gastropexy is also the most effective way to prevent GDV in dogs. Many veterinarians recommend this surgery when a large breed dog is spayed since they are required to undergo an abdominal surgery regardless.
GDV is a very serious condition and the outcome of the situation depends greatly on how early the condition is realized and corrected. Even in cases where GDV is detected early the outcome can still be fatal. If surgery is successful your dog will likely need a recovery time of around 2 weeks. During this time your dog will need to eat multiple small meals throughout the day as well as receive antibiotics and pain medication.
If you suspect that your dog has developed GDV or you have any questions regarding this serious medical condition please call River Road Veterinary Clinic immediately.