Cheltenham Vets: Beware The Twisted Stomach!

GDV in Dogs

We’ve recently dealt with some cases of GDV (Gastric dilatation and Volvulus) or twisted gut/bloat. I thought I’d describe the signs to spot should your dog develop this life-threatening condition.

GDVs can occur in any breed of dog but usually affects the large breed, deep chested dogs such as Great Danes, Irish Woolfhounds, Labradors, Rotweillers, Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds etc. The exact cause of this condition is not fully understood although there is thought to be a genetic predisposition and the risk of developing a GDV increases with age. Other factors such as eating from a height, exercising intensely on a full stomach, only being fed once daily and copious water intake following a meal may be implicated but none have been proven.

Initially the stomach dilates – this is something that happens regularly, particularly in young animals that are fast eaters. Normally the dog will burp or even vomit in response to this dilation and this corrects the problem. However, some dogs will be unable to clear the dilation and gassy build-up on their own and a stomach tube may need to be passed under anaesthesia. This can alleviate the problem on occasion when the stomach has not yet twisted. However, some animals will experience a twist and the stomach will physically change position. The opening between the oesophagus (gullet) and stomach will then close and many of the blood vessels supplying the stomach and some other abdominal organs will then become blocked. This is the point at which the dog will become seriously ill, go into shock and require emergency surgery.

Signs to look out for.

The main symptoms to be aware of are non-productive wretching – the dog will make gulping noises and appear to want to be sick but nothing will be brought up other than saliva. You may notice abdominal swelling as the dog’s tummy fills with gas.¬† Many dogs resent being touched around the abdomen¬† as they find it painful. If the condition has progressed you may find the dog collapsed, with a distended abdomen and panting. If any of these symptoms are seen then the dog must be taken to the vet immediately.

Diagnosis and treatment.

The diagnosis of GDV is made on the basis of an examination of the dog. Often an abdominal XRAY will be taken that will show classical changes of a dilated, twisted stomach.

The treatment for this condition is emergency surgery. Dogs will be placed onto an intravenous drip and then abdominal contents will be inspected. Often, there is evidence of damage to the spleen and this organ may need to be removed. Sometimes, part of the stomach may need to be removed if the blood supply has died. The stomach will be repositioned and usually attached to the abdominal wall via a number of possible techniques.

If identified early, and the surgery is successful, the long-term prognosis is good . Unfortunately, all too often, by the time the animal presents at the vets, the dog is in a severe state of shock and the damage to the abdominal organs is such that the dog doesn’t pull through.