GDV (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus) in dogs
GDV is a sudden and potentially fatal condition in dogs that develops when the stomach becomes distended (dilates) and rotates within the abdomen (volvulus). It is sometimes referred to as a twisted stomach, or bloat. GDV is similar to bloat, where gas, liquid or solids accumulate excessively in the stomach. Twisting of the stomach prevents the dogs being able to vomit or expel gas. It also cuts off the blood supply to the stomach, spleen, which can lead to circulatory shock and death.
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Symptoms of bloat
- Anxious behaviour
- Rapid or laboured breathing
- Excessive drooling
- Retching or attempts to vomit without bringing anything up
- Enlarged/bloated abdomen
- Abdominal pain
Causes of a twisted stomach
Whilst the exact causes are unknown, a variety of factors are thought to contribute which include genetics, anatomy and the environment. A number of these risk factors can be managed. Large breeds of dog with deep and narrow chests are most at risk, for example, Great Danes, Saint Bernards and Boxers. Male dogs are more at risk than females. Stress, a nervous temperament, and being underweight are additional risk factors. GDV is more commonly seen in middle to older aged animals.
Potential factors associated with eating patterns include: large portions sizes, feeding once a day; eating fast; exercising after eating; eating from a raised bowl; eating dry food that has been mixed with water. Having a previous episode of bloat will also make a dog more prone to further episodes. However, surgical treatment is available, which involves permanently securing the position of the stomach with the aim of preventing GDV. Please see the treatment section below for further details.
How can you help to reduce the risk of GDV?
- Avoid strenuous exercise after eating and drinking
- Ensure your dog eats slowly
- Feed frequent small meals, rather than infrequent large portions
- Discourage your dog from drinking large volumes of water in one go
- Do not mix dry food with water
- Avoid diets with a very high fat or oil content.
Elective surgical fixation of the stomach to the abdominal wall may be done in certain dogs to prevent GDV occurring.
Treatment of GDV
A dog with GDV is a true emergency. Your dog must be taken to a veterinary clinic immediately and without delay. This condition requires hospitalisation and aggressive treatment. Diagnostic tests, such as x-rays, urinalysis and blood tests may be required..
First, the circulatory system will be stabilised. Next, the stomach is decompressed by passing a tube through the mouth and down into the stomach. Once stable, a surgical procedure may be needed to untwist the stomach, return any displaced internal organs back to their normal positions and assess any damage. The stomach may be permanently, surgically attached to the wall of the abdomen to prevent GDV recurring. This is called a gastro-pexy. This procedure can be done before GDV develops in order to eliminate the risk of stomach rotating.
After surgery, your dog will require administration of painkillers and any additionally prescribed medication. Activity must be restricted for two weeks whilst the surgical site heals; activity must be limited to short lead walks for toileting only.
Unfortunately, it is possible for this condition to be fatal despite treatment. This is often due to the damage to internal organs during the bloat/twisting episode.
When to see your physical veterinarian:
- Sudden onset unproductive retching or attempts to vomit, typically shortly after eating a meal
- Severe abdominal pain
- Enlarged/bloated abdomen
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