Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) is also often referred to as bloat or gastric torsion and is a life-threatening condition of dogs in which their stomach twists (torsion) and distends with gas.  In some cases the stomach merely distends with gas and does not twist (bloat). GDV is probably the most serious non-traumatic emergency that regularly 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%.

It is 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.

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.

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.

The distended stomach presses on the diaphragm and other internal organs, causing problems with blood flow and making it difficult for your dog to breathe.  Your dog will very rapidly go into shock.

Very prompt Veterinary attention is essential as success rates decrease the longer the delay in starting treatment. 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.

Gastropexy (surgical attachment of the stomach to body wall) is the most effective means of prevention.  In some breeds of dog it is often recommended for prevention of GDV, and can often be done at the same time as routine neutering; at Donaldson’s Vets, we can now perform this procedure by “key-hole surgery”.