The most obvious signs are abdominal distention (swollen belly) and nonproductive vomiting (animal appears to be vomiting, but nothing comes up) and retching. Other signs include restlessness, abdominal pain, and rapid shallow breathing. Profuse salivation may indicate severe pain. If the dog’s condition continues to deteriorate, especially if volvulus has occurred, the dog may go into shock and become pale, have a weak pulse, a rapid heart rate, and eventually collapse.
How is a GDV treated?
When the dog is presented to the hospital his condition is assessed. Blood samples are generally taken and tested to help determine the dog’s status. Usually the animal is in shock, or predisposed to it, so intravenous catheters are placed and fluids are administered. Antibiotics and pain relievers may be given.
The air in the stomach is removed either by passing a stomach tube or inserting a large needle into the stomach and releasing the gas.
After the animal is stabilised, x-rays are taken to help determine whether or not a volvulus is present.
Some dogs with GDV develop a bleeding disorder called disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), in which small clots start to develop within the dog’s blood vessels. To prevent or treat this condition, heparin, an anticoagulant, may be given.
The heart rate and rhythm are closely monitored. Some dogs with GDV develop heart arrhythmias, and this is a common cause of death in dogs with GDV. Dogs that already have heart issues are generally treated with appropriate medications.
What happens in a GDV surgery?
Abdominal surgery is usually indicated to accomplish three things:
- Assess the health of the stomach and surrounding organs. If areas of the stomach or spleen have been irreversibly damaged, they are removed. In such a case, the chances for recovery are very poor, and euthanasia may be an alternative.
- Properly reposition the stomach.
- Suture the stomach in a way to prevent it from twisting again (a procedure called gastropexy).
After surgery, the dog is closely monitored for several days for signs of infection, heart abnormalities, DIC, stomach ulceration or perforation, and damage to the pancreas or liver. Antibiotics and additional medications may need to be given.
Written by Solange Newton