Ask the Veterinary Services Expert – Megan Herman
Gastric Dilation and Volvulus
Gastric Dilation and Volvulus (GDV) is a relatively uncommon but serious condition. It is very important to know the risk factors and clinical signs, as it requires prompt medical attention. GDV occurs when the stomach dilates excessively with gas and then twists. Once the stomach twists, air/feed is unable to move through and the stomach dilates further. In addition to the stomach twisting, the spleen can also become twisted. Distension of the stomach is very painful and can limit the amount of blood reaching organs in the body. When the blood supply is limited to organs and tissues the result is death of these tissues.
GDV is most common in large and giant breed dogs with deep chests (Great Dane, German Shepherd, Weimaraner, St. Bernard, Irish Setter, Doberman Pinscher, old English Sheepdog and Standard Poodle are over represented). It is very rare to occur in small breed dogs or cats. The most common clinical sign is a sudden onset of vomiting or retching (unproductive vomiting). You may also notice that the abdomen becomes visibly distended as the stomach fills with gas. This is a very painful condition and often accompanied with whining, grunting, standing with an arched back and general distress. It can occur at any time but most often occurs after consumption of a large meal followed by exercise. The onset of retching in a large breed dog warrants an emergency phone call to your veterinarian.
A diagnosis is made by a veterinarian based on physical exam findings and radiographs (x-rays). Treatment then includes decompression of the gas filled stomach, treatment of shock (IV fluids and pain management) followed by surgical correction. Surgery includes returning the stomach to the normal location and performing a gastropexy (stomach is attached to the inside of the abdominal wall) in order to help prevent the stomach from twisting again. During surgery the other organs are assessed for vitality and treated accordingly. Following surgery monitoring is very intensive as the patient is still considered high risk.
Prognosis for patients that develop GDV depends on how fast the condition is noted and treated (including surgery). Early treatment increases the prognosis significantly.
In breeds with a high risk of GDV, it is recommended that a gastropexy be performed as a preventive measure. This is usually performed at the time of spaying or neutering. It may also be helpful to feed smaller more frequent meals and reduce exercise post meal. If you have any questions about this, come in to the clinic or give us a call at 403-527-4888 and we will be happy to help you out!