It’s important to know if your dog is at risk for GDV and to know the signs to watch for.
Gastric dilatation and volvulus, more commonly known as GDV, is one of the most dangerous situations seen in dogs. It tends to affect large and giant breed, deep-chested dogs most commonly though small dogs and cats can develop the condition on occasion as well. It can very quickly become a life-threatening situation.
Essentially, in GDV, the dog’s stomach dilates as it fills up with air or fluid and then twists in the abdominal cavity. As the stomach twists, the gastroesophageal sphincter (at the beginning of the stomach) rotates on itself and the pyloris (which exits the stomach into the small intestines) is pulled around and across the part of the esophagus that is located inside the abdomen. As the stomach rotates, it carries with it the blood vessels and other organs that have attachments to the stomach, resulting in restriction of the blood supply to the stomach and other organs, which in turn leads to shock caused by low blood pressure (hypovolemic shock). Pressure on the diaphragm from the progressively enlarging stomach depresses breathing. Toxins and shock cause abnormalities in the rhythm of the heart beat (cardiac arrhythmia).
It is unknown currently whether gastric dilatation or volvulus occurs first. Some dogs have been known to develop dilatation without volvulus however the opposite is true also.
Is My Dog Likely to Develop a GDV?
The most commonly affected dogs are larger and deep-chested. Both males and females can be affected and dogs of any age can suffer from the condition. Dogs that eat large meals, particularly those that gulp their food, are more likely to develop a GDV shortly after a meal.
Other factors known or suspected to increase the risk of GDV include increased gastrin production or altered gastric motility, drinking large quantities of water, and strenuous exercise and/or stress after eating. Anxious dogs are more likely to develop GDV than happy dogs. Splenectomy may or may not be a risk factor.
Signs of Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus
Dogs with GDV are generally uncomfortable. They may be trying to vomit or retch, usually unproductively. Excess salivation may be present. A distended abdomen will be visible and will get progressively worse. Breathing may become difficult as the severity of the condition progresses. As the condition worsens, the dog will also get progressively weaker and will eventually become unable to rise.
Diagnosis is usually based on clinical signs but radiographs (x-rays) will be necessary to confirm the diagnosis. Blood testing will likely be performed also. An echocardiogram will need to be done to evaluate heart rhythm.
Initial treatment is stabilization through intravenous fluids to treat shock and, if possible, passing a stomach tube to release the excess air/fluid from the stomach. If tubing is not possible, gastrocentesis (tapping the stomach with needles) can be attempted. Treatment for arrhytmias may be necessary also.
Ultimately, surgery will be necessary if volvulus is present. Surgery will require derotation and replacement of the stomach. If the stomach wall has been compromised, it is possible that part of the stomach may need to be removed. Gastopexy (tacking the stomach to the body wall to prevent further torsions) will usually be recommended as well. In some cases, removal of the spleen may also be necessary.
The longer the condition has been present, the less the chances of a successful treatment/surgical outcome.
Feeding two to three small meals daily rather than one large meal is preferred. Preventing exercise directly after eating is advisable also.
Some veterinarians recommend routine gastropexy at 7 to 8 months of age, usually at the time the pet is spayed or neutered, as a preventive measure also.
This article is posted and shared through the courtesy of the Pet Health Care Gazette