This is always an emergency! It is caused when a dog’s stomach fills with gas and flips on itself. Because the spleen, an organ for helping with the immune system and producing blood, is attached to the stomach it too can sometimes get twisted. The action prevents food from moving in or out of the stomach. Even more concerning is that the blood supply to the stomach and spleen is also twisted and cut off. If left untreated the stomach and spleen can suffer permanent and life-threatening damage.
What animals are commonly affected by GDV?
This is almost exclusively a dog problem. It primarily affects large breed dogs and those with deep chests. Deep chested refers to the length from the spine to their breastbone. Deep chested breeds includes but is not limited to the following Great Danes, German Shepards, and Labradors. That being said GDV can affect any dog regardless of size or conformation. While cats have a similar anatomy it is very, very rare in cats.
What would GDV look like in my dog?
Owners most commonly reports GDV’s occurring shortly after their dog eats dinner, but they can occur any time. Classically your dog will try to retch or vomit, and nothing will be produced. They often try and try but cannot produce anything even though they just ate. Owners may or may not notice their pet’s abdomen becoming distended meaning the sides of their stomach sticks out more than usual on both the right and left side. It may have a very firm quality when you touch their stomach instead of the usual soft, doughy feeling you are used to. If you see any of these signs in your pet this is an emergency! We can help you at MarQueen with this emergency.
How is GDV diagnosed?
GDV is diagnosed based on history, physical exam, and abdominal x-rays. Your emergency clinician may request that x-rays of the stomach be taken right away to expedite the diagnostic process. The stomach flipping on itself produces a very classic appearance on x-ray that looks like the cartoon character Popeye’s arm. Your emergency clinician will also likely request some bloodwork be run so they can better assess the severity of the situation as there are some changes on blood work that can help us predict the severity of the damage to your pet’s stomach.
How is GDV treated?
GDV is a surgical emergency and one that must be treated as soon as possible. In surgery, the stomach is drained, and this allows it to be flipped back into place. Once back in place a gastropexy is performed. This is a procedure that secures a part of the stomach to your pet’s inner body wall to prevent the stomach from flipping again. It doesn’t prevent bloat, filling of the stomach with gas, but the stomach will not be able to twist again. The twist is the life -threatening portion of this disease. The bloat can often be treated with supportive care. The spleen is also assessed at the same time. If it looks like there is severe damage to the spleen it may also be removed (“splenectomy”). Dogs can do very well without a spleen long term. The post-operative care is typically 2-3 days in hospital before your pet can go back home with you to finish resting and recuperating.
If GDV is caught early and treated aggressively the long-term prognosis is good. If left untreated the prognosis is extremely grave. We at MarQueen can help you with diagnostics and consultation to help make more informed decisions about your pet and their ongoing care. We have clinicians on staff 24/7 who can perform this life saving procedure so we can help you any time of day.
You can have a gastropexy performed on an elective basis to help prevent the twisting. It is often performed at the same time pets are spayed and neutered as young adults. If this is something your primary veterinary hospital is not comfortable with the surgery, MarQueen 24 veterinary emergency and specialty hospital has an emergency vet staff with the training to perform this procedure. Please call to set up a consultation with our surgery department. When performed on an elective basis pets can often go home the next day to finish resting and recuperating.