Dog lucky to survive twisted gut ordeal

I recently very nearly lost my dog Griff to GDV (gastric dilatation and volvulus) and would like to share his story to help raise awareness of this very frightening condition. I have had Griff since he was eight weeks old, he is now 7, and he means the world to me. He is the most gentle, loving, loyal dog anyone could wish for. He runs up to complete strangers and asks for a cuddle, and spreads the love wherever he goes! I love him to bits.

I had heard of GDV, or twisted gut, before and was always careful not to exercise him after food. Griff had never shown any signs of bloat before. He first showed signs of being unwell on a Friday night – he was hunched up and looked a bit miserable. I did think that his tummy looked a little swollen, but it was difficult to be sure. However, he does get urine infections a few times a year, and so hunching up like this is not unusual for him. The next day, he was fine, and had a walk and fed normally. However, I did notice that he didn’t ‘go to the toilet’ during his walk, which is unusual for him. But still, he seemed fine, and I thought no more about it. We went out for the evening, and when we got home, he again looked hunched,  uncomfortable and refused a biscuit treat. Shortly afterwards, Griff started trying to be sick outside – I found him collapsed in the hedge, yelping and retching. The important thing to note here is that while he was trying to be sick,  nothing was coming up (which I now know is a classic symptom of GDV).

He was still hunched over and was obviously in pain. I called the vet at Vets Now Colwyn Bay, and she advised me that it could be GDV, but since he had a history of urine infections, it could be that, and she wouldn’t know for sure without looking at him. Since he was willing  to lie down on his tummy, and I still couldn’t see any obvious swelling, I decided to stay up with him and keep an eye on him overnight before making a decision on what to do (with hindsight, of course, I should have taken him in, but the seriousness of the situation hadn’t hit me yet). He settled down and dozed through the night. I thought he was getting better, and I had decided just to take it easy and keep an eye on him on Sunday –  but then he started retching again, and I made the decision to take him to the vet. Although Griff was still hunched over and looked in pain, he was willing to walk and get in the car and even wagged his tail at my boyfriend on his way out. I still didn’t think that he was, in fact, suffering from a critical life threatening condition.

Things happened very quickly after that. Lucy, the vet, quickly diagnosed GDV – by this point, you could see the swelling in Griff’s abdomen. He was starting to show signs of shock – shallow rapid breathing and pale gums. Lucy explained that this condition is life-threatening and that he had a 50/50 chance of getting through it. I was stunned – I very nearly hadn’t brought him in at all and had no idea he was this sick.

Griff was put on intravenous fluids to stabilise him before being x-rayed. The x-ray showed that his stomach had indeed become very bloated and had twisted round on itself. Blood tests showed that the levels of lactic acid in his blood were close to normal, which indicated that the actual twist of the stomach might have happened fairly recently, so Lucy advised me that it was worth going ahead with emergency surgery.

I sat with Griff, careful not to dislodge the drips that were in both his front legs and stroked his ears gently. I tried to make sure I stroked and cuddled every bit of him, thinking that this could be the last time I would ever do it. I was heartbroken to think I could be about to lose him. I told him I loved him very much, and then left him in his cage, anxious not to distress him. He had been given a sedative by this point, so he just looked at me  with his ‘sad ears’ on (anyone with a German shepherd will understand what I mean, their ears betray their every thought!)

I was told that this was a serious, life-threatening condition and that once the stomach has twisted, the surrounding tissue will start to die off and might need to be cut away. We had to leave Griff at the vets while he underwent the surgery, and they told me that they would call me during the operation to update me, but also to advise me if there were any complications so that I could decide whether to proceed. Waiting for the call was agonising, but 2 hours later, the vets called during the operation to say that Griff’s stomach tissue was healthy, they had been able to correct the twist, and all the signs were that we had caught it very early, so the damage was minimal. His stomach was then tacked to the side of his body cavity – a process called Gastropexy, which will hopefully stop it twisting again. Another call an hour later told me that the surgery was complete, and he was recovering and coming round from the anaesthetic. I could finally start to feel a little bit of hope that he might be ok.

Suggested Tweet


When I saw Griff that evening – I was told he had made a remarkable recovery, and when he staggered out of his pen wagging his tail, hours after life-saving surgery, I couldn’t believe how lucky we had been. Griff spent 2 nights at the vets on a morphine drip, being continuously monitored and busily making all the nurses fall in love with him. His heart rate was a little unstable at first, but that settled down. He finally came home on Tuesday, and is currently enjoying sleeping by the fire and relaxing. He has a huge scar, and a bald tummy, and is very hungry as he is still not allowed to eat very much. He will need a  lot of care for the next few weeks while he recovers.

I have been told that a dog that has experienced GDV is likely to have bloat again in the future (but the gastropexy should prevent his stomach from twisting  again). I don’t know what caused him to bloat in the first place, he did not exercise after food, but he does bolt his food, and drinks a lot of water after eating or after walks. The vet advised me to split his food into 3-4 meals a day, and feed him from a muffin tray with lots of compartments – might look  silly, but if it takes him more time to finish his food, it could help. We have another dog, and since being around her, Griff had tended to bolt his food more – so we will feed them separately from now on. He will also be on medication for the rest of his life to help his stomach to function, and hopefully prevent bloat.

I am happy to tell Griff’s story in the hope that people will become more aware of GDV and what to look for. My mistake was not recognising the symptoms and not realising how serious it was early on. I very nearly didn’t take him to the vets at all. I was extremely lucky to catch it in time – left much longer and  the surgery might not have been so successful. Left untreated, Griff would have died that day.

Please take time to learn the symptoms of GDV, but also, know your dog, watch it and listen to it. GDV usually happens quickly with the dog deteriorating within hours – mine did not. He bloated in the evening, then got better and was normal the next day. Then he bloated again, settled down overnight but deteriorated in the morning. Dogs are remarkably good at hiding their pain, so a dog that seems a bit off colour and uncomfortable, like Griff was at first,  might in fact be going through the first stages bloat leading to GDV. Any signs of stomach pain, retching, or just seeming off colour – take them in to the vets, it is far better to have a wasted journey and be told that your dog is healthy, than to lose it to something preventable like this.

I count myself very lucky to still have my Griff and I hope his story can help others. I can’t thank Vets Now enough for saving his life.

Ceri and Griff