One of the more challenging emergencies we deal with here is called a GDV (Gastric Dilation-Volvulus).  This is a rapidly progressive, life-threatening condition in dogs and can result in death.

The condition is commonly associated with large meals and causes the stomach to expand because of the food and gas.  This expansion can cause the stomach to rotate in the abdomen (volvulus) which leads to a blockage in the blood supply to the spleen and the stomach.  This in turn leads to the prevention of an adequate blood return to the heart from the abdomen and pressure on the diaphragm preventing the lungs from expanding adequately.  Dogs will quickly go into shock due to the effects on their entire body and will require urgent treatment involving the stabilization of the dog, decompression of the stomach and surgery to return the stomach to the normal position permanently.

We had such an emergency back in August when Barney’s owners brought him to see us.  She was very concerned about him and the symptoms he was showing.  After a thorough examination Drew suspected a GDV and knowing how quickly a dog can deteriorate from this condition, instigated the treatment protocol immediately after consultation with Barney’s owners.   mm0_Gastric+dilatation-volvulus+(GDV)

The treatment process isn’t without risk but the fact that Barney’s owners had noticed something was wrong very quickly, Barney’s chances of survival were greatly increased.

The syndrome is not completely understood but there are known associations in dogs that have a deep chest, are fed a single large meal once a day, are older or are related to other dogs that have been affected.

Many breeds have been known to have experienced stomach expansion with or without the stomach rotation but the more commonly affected breeds are those such as Great Danes, Weimaraners, St Bernards, Irish setters and Gordon setters.

It’s very important that owners are aware of the symptoms their dog could show, as time is of the essence.  Symptoms to look out for are:

  • an anxious look or looking at the abdomen
  • standing and stretching
  • drooling
  • distending their abdomen
  • retching without producing anything
  • bloating
  • panting
  • weakness and/or collapse
  • need to lay down

It was touch and go with Barney for 24/48 hours but we are pleased to say that he fully recovered and is now fighting fit.  It was a very stressful time for his owners and the team worked hard to make sure he received the care he needed.

*Picture shown is not of the patient mentioned in this piece.