Learn to recognize the signs of GDV, act swiftly and save a life.
Time is the most crucial factor dictating survival in GDV. Each grain of sand represents a minute of the patient’s life slipping through the hour glass.
WHAT IS GDV?
GDV (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus) is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach over-inflates with air and twists upon itself.
GDV is also sometimes called “bloat”, but the word “bloat” really doesn’t do justice to how serious GDV is.
It is helpful to think of a clown making balloon animals to understand the concept of a volvulus (aka torsion. When a GDV occurs:
1) the stomach first becomes inflated with air. This is called gastric distension.
2) then the stomach twists on its axis, strangulating the blood supply. This is called volvulus. When a volvulus occurs, the blood supply to the stomach is cut off. (If you imagined an elastic band were tied tightly around your wrist…your hand would turn purple quite quickly)
WHO GETS IT:
Large breed dogs (specifically those with a “deep chest“) are at the highest risk, but any dog can develop a GDV. Some of the most common breeds are Great Danes, Akitas, German Shepherds,Setters, Standard Poodles, Weimeraners, Rottweilers, St. Bernards, Chow Chows, Retrievers, etc.
Older dogs are more prone to GDV than younger dogs.
RECOGNIZING THE SIGNS:
Learn to recognize the signs of GDV, and get help immediately before it is too late.
The signs of GDV include:
- Drooling and profuse salivation
- Attempting to vomit and frequent retching. Some dogs will try to drink water, but the water will come back up in a pool of clear foamy liquid.
- Pacing, agitation, restlessness
- Panting and signs of distress
- Shock (pale gums, cool limbs, extreme weakness, rapid/ laboured breathing)
You may find the abdomen to be bloated, distended, or hard to the touch, but not all owners will notice these signs.
Here is a video to help pet owners and pet care workers learn to recognize the signs of GDV. The sooner it is recognized the better!
WHAT TO DO:
GDV is a true emergency. Without aggressive and timely intervention, death is imminent.
Transport your dog to the nearest veterinarian that is equipped to handle emergencies and emergency surgery ASAP. Know where your nearest emergency clinic is. Call the emergency clinic and let them know you are coming so they can get ready.
An emergency vet will usually have a strong suspicion that a GDV has occurred based upon the owner’s history and a brief physical exam.
A quick x-ray of the abdomen will clearly diagnose a GDV in moments. The hallmark “double bubble” is hard to miss, and signals that the emergency team must move quickly to save the dog’s life.
- STABILIZATION: Under the care of the emergency vet, initial stabilization measures are directed at:
- Treating circulatory shock.
- Decompressing (de-inflating) the stomach. This can be done by passing a stomach tube or by a method called “trocarization.”
- SURGERY: After these steps have been completed, the next step is surgery to:
- De-rotate the stomach.
- Suture or tack the stomach it into its normal place so that it cannot twist again. This is called a gastropexy.
- RECOVERY: After surgery, your dog will spend some time in the hospital for careful monitoring and support. While some dogs recover very quickly and are able to go home the next day, most will spend a few days in the hospital. The most severe cases may require intensive care and prolonged hospitalization.
The damage to the stomach will be assessed during surgery. In severe cases, part of the stomach will have died from being deprived of its blood supply too long. These dead or necrotic areas will need to be removed.
REMEMBER: The most important factor determining survival is the amount of time that elapses between when the stomach twists to when it is decompressed.
So, if you think your dog is experiencing a GDV, get help immediately. If it is happening in the middle of the night, do not go back to sleep and wait until morning.
If your dog is considered high-risk, your family veterinarian may discuss a preventative surgery called a prophylactic gastropexy. This surgery can usually be performed at the time the puppy is spayed or neutered and involves attaching the stomach to the body wall so that it cannot twist later in life.
It is also speculated that the risk of developing GDV may be decreased by preventing at-risk dogs from:
- eating very large meals all at once
- eating too quickly
- from exercising vigorously after eating
This article is written by Dr. Eric Monnet, one of the greatest veterinary surgeons of our time.