GDV Nightmare


Ask any vet what are the nightmare cases that wake them up in a cold sweat, and it’s a pretty safe bet many of them will say GDV. These letters, even the sound of them sends chills down the spine, stand for gastric dilatation with volvulus, a condition in which the stomach distends with liquid and gas, then twists suddenly.

The result is a catastrophic collapse of multiple body systems, caused by the twisted stomach losing its blood supply and starting to die.

Multiple nasty chemicals get dumped into the circulation, spread around the body, and cause massive damage to blood vessels, heart, lungs, intestines, pretty much everything. 

A twisted stomach that is identified within the first hour, has about an 80-90% survival chance, assuming there are no other complications (such as an elderly patient, or pre-existing heart disease etc).  The impact of the changes mentioned above mean the survival chances drop by about half with every hour delay. 

Large, deep-chested dogs, are those most at risk. They may present with a suddenly enlarging abdomen, repeated unsuccessful attempts to vomit, and rapid, shallow breathing. But the signs can be more subtle than that.

Risk factors for developing a GDV include:

  • Large breed, deep-chested
  • Nervous disposition
  • Feeding bowl raised from the ground
  • Once daily feeding
  • Exercise within an hour after eating
  • Dogs that gulp their food down

Changes you can make:

  • You can slow down a dog that eats too fast by using one of the maze-type bowls. We have one for little Eddie as he goes crazy at dinner time and tries to set a speed record, and it works great at slowing him down.
  • Feed twice daily, it’s a really simple change to make.
  • Rest after eating, just like your mother told you. 
Clooney the poodle cross with a GDV


Clooney is a 7-year-old poodle cross, who was collected from his boarding kennels and noticed immediately to be not quite right. On getting home he drank some water and promptly vomited it back up. Clooney was brought down to the clinic immediately and was found to have a distended abdomen, with x-ray showing classic signs of a GDV. 

Clooney went straight to surgery and had the twist corrected, and the stomach permanently fixed to the abdominal wall to prevent it twisting again. Clooney made a very rapid recovery, and was home again in a couple of days. 

This was a great result, and as always we so much appreciate it when problems are brought in nice and early. In almost every case it makes things much easier, especially with the nightmare that we call GDV.

Paul Eason BVM&S MANZCVS (Surgery; Emergency and Critical Care Medicine)


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