What is a GDV/bloat in dogs?

GDV stands for Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus. It is also commonly referred to as bloat or gastric torsion.

GDV is a life-threatening condition of dogs in which their stomach twists and distends with gas (torsion).  In some cases the stomach merely distends with gas and does not twist (bloat). 

Is it serious?

GDV Bloat

Yes - this is probably the most serious non-traumatic emergency that occurs in dogs.  Mortality rates without prompt veterinary treatment are high (without treatment, the dog will almost
certainly die).  Even in fairly uncomplicated cases that are treated promptly, mortality rates are in the region of 10-18%

What causes GDV?

We are uncertain exactly what causes GDV to occur, but it is most commonly seen 2-3 hours following ingestion of a meal, particularly if it follows strenuous exercise or after drinking a large amount of water.

What breeds of dog suffer from GDV?

All dogs can suffer from GDV, but it is much more likely to occur in large, deep chested breeds such as German Shepherds, Dobermans, Great Danes and Setters.  The risk of GDV increases with age and is more common in pedigree dogs.

What symptoms will I see?

Some of the early signs of GDV include a change in behaviour or restlessness, increased breathing rate or effort, excessive drooling, vomiting white froth or trying, unsuccessfully, to vomit.  As the condition progresses you may notice your dog’s abdomen become enlarged, the gums become pale, the heart rate is high and your dog may collapse.

What happens to my dog?

The distended stomach presses on the diaphragm and other internal organs, causing problems with the cardiovascular system (circulation) and respiratory system.  This makes it difficult for your dog to breathe and for his heart to get blood (and oxygen) around the body, as it should.  Your dog will very rapidly go into shock.  While the stomach is twisted, the blood supply to the stomach and also sometimes the spleen is affected meaning that the stomach wall and spleen can start to necrose (die).

What should I do?

If you suspect your dog has a GDV it is imperative you seek immediate veterinary treatment.  Success rates decrease the longer the delay in starting treatment.

Treatment

GDV is an emergency condition requiring patients to be hospitalized and aggressively treated.  Treatment consists of fluids (a drip) to counteract shock and, sometimes gastric decompression.  Once your dog is stable he will need surgery to return the stomach to its correct position.  A gastropexy (in which the stomach is attached to the body wall) will be performed to hold the stomach in the correct position.  Your dog’s spleen will also be examined and may need to be removed if it has been damaged.  Various other tests including blood tests are likely to be performed, as complications such as heart irregularities and blood clotting problems following GDV are common.

Can GDV be prevented?

Gastropexy (surgical attachment of the stomach to body wall) is the most effective means of prevention.  In some breeds of dog it is sometimes recommended for prevention and can often be done at the same time as routine neutering – speak to your vet for further details.

What can I do to prevent my dog from getting a GDV?

By ensuring that you pay careful attention to your dog’s diet, feeding and exercise you can help to prevent your dog developing GDV.  Feed small meals regularly through the day (rather than one large meal) and avoid exercising your dog immediately after feeding.

Please note:
Vets Now assumes no liability for the content of this page. This advice is not a substitute for a proper consultation with a vet and is only intended as a guide. Please contact your local veterinary practice for advice or treatment immediately if you are worried about your pet’s health - even if they are closed, they will always have an out of hours service available. Find out more about what to do in an out of hours emergency.

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