Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV)

Written by the amazing Lynne Falconer - Veterinary Surgeon with over 20 years experience in small animal private practice, animal welfare and shelter medicine.

 GDV, also commonly referred to as bloat or gastric torsion is a rapidly progressive life-threatening syndrome of dogs in which the stomach dilates with food and gas and then may twist around its short axis (volvulus). The increased size and pressure of the stomach may result in several severe, emergency consequences including

·      Reduced return of blood flow from the abdomen to the heart (decreased perfusion)

·      Loss of blood flow to the stomach lining

·      Rupture of the stomach

·      Increased pressure on the diaphragm (muscle involved in breathing) making normal breathing difficult

Perfusion is the process whereby nutrients and oxygen are delivered via the blood to the body tissues and organs. Compromised perfusion results in cellular damage and may lead to organ death. The entire body can be affected.

The causes of GDV are not known however, some factors are known to be associated with an increased risk of developing GDV. These include

·      Dogs with a deep chest eg, Great Danes, German Shepherds, Standard Poodles

·      Dogs fed a single, large meal a day

·      Older dogs tend to have increased risk

·      Genetics

·      Stress

·      Exercising following eating

The initial signs of GDV are associated with abdominal pain and may include (but are not restricted to)

·      Anxious behaviour/pacing or looking at abdomen

·      Depression

·      Standing and stretching

·      Drooling

·      Abdominal pain and distention (hard and balloon like)

·      Retching without producing anything

·      Rapid heart rate, difficult breathing, weak pulse, pale gums

·      Collapse

 This is an emergency situation requiring immediate veterinary attention. The risk of death is real and any delay in veterinary attention will increase the chance of a poor outcome. 

While the exact cause(s) of GDV remain uncertain risk factors can be addressed including the feeding of multiple smaller meals, avoid exercise post feeding, elevated feeding and the use of slow feeders.                                                 

GDV is one of the most serious of all pet emergencies, if left untreated your dog will almost certainly die!