Gastric Dilation Volvulus (GDV) – Bloat

GDV is a life threatening condition of dogs where the stomach fills with air (dilatation) and in some cases twists on itself (volvulus or torsion). Although the mechanism of this disease is still poorly understood, breed, genetics, feeding habits and environmental stressors are all components of the development of bloat.

Breeds commonly reported to be at high risk are usually large breed, deep chested dogs such as Great Danes, St. Bernards, Irish Wolfhounds, Weimaraners, Standard Poodles, German Shepherds, Irish Setters, Doberman Pinschers, Labradors, even Dachshunds to name a few.

The timing of treatment is critical. As the stomach fills with air, pressure increases on the diaphragm results in difficulty breathing and poor (hypo) ventilation. This same pressure compresses the major blood vessels that return to the heart, resulting in poor return of blood to the heart and other organs. Life threatening systemic shock and heart arrhythmias then develop. Finally, the stomach enlarges and twists on itself, resulting in stretching and tissue death (necrosis). Large areas of devitalized tissue leak endotoxins and bacteria into the abdominal cavity. Patients that reach this stage have a very guarded prognosis, with fewer than 50% of them surviving even the surgery.

Caught early enough, approximately 85% of dogs treated for GDV will recover. Treatment consists of decompressing the stomach, stabilizing for shock, and then surgery to reposition the stomach and permanently fix the stomach to the body wall (gastropexy) to prevent future torsion.

The gastropexy procedure will prevent the stomach from a future torsion, however, feeding behaviors and environmental factors will still need to be modified as dilation of the stomach with air and food will always be possible if not addressed.