What is GDV in dogs?

Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) is a life-threatening condition in dogs. It is normally seen in large, deep-chested breeds, but any dog of any size can suffer from it. Today, our Boulder and Westminster vets discuss GDV in dogs and why you should get your dog to the vet immediately if you notice symptoms.

What is GDV in dogs?

Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) is a life-threatening condition primarily seen in large, deep-chested dogs. It begins with a simple gastric dilatation or "bloat." But it can quickly turn into a volvulus. 

When it does, it blocks both the entrance and exit of the stomach. This life-threatening emergency requires urgent surgery to correct and is almost always life-threatening in dogs.

What causes GDV in dogs?

GDV in dogs is a highly complex disorder. It can involve multiple factors, such as genetic predisposition, deep-chestedness, lean body condition, fast eating, raised food bowls, and fear or nervousness.

Large or giant breed dogs are most at risk because of genetics, but as stated above, GDV is a complex disorder with multiple genes involved, not a single gene abnormality. Therefore, GDV can afflict any dog of any size.

What are the symptoms of GDV in dogs?

The most common is unproductive retching. There are, however, a slew of other, including:

  • Distended abdomen
  • Abdominal pain
  • Restlessness
  • Pacing
  • Panting
  • Excessive drooling or salivation
  • Unsuccessful attempts to vomit

If you notice any of the above symptoms in your dog, it's always a good idea to contact your veterinarian or the closest emergency veterinary clinic.

How is GDV in dogs treated?

GDV requires immediate veterinary care to reduce pressure on the stomach wall and internal organs. A veterinarian may place a stomach tube, but if that’s not possible due to stomach twisting, a large bore needle or catheter might be inserted. 

Shock treatment with intravenous fluids and emergency medications is also necessary. Once stable, the veterinarian will need to perform surgery.

The surgery aims to restore the stomach's normal position, remove dead or dying tissues, and prevent future gastric bypass surgery. Procedures like gastropexy and pyloroplasty can be used. The veterinarian should be able to determine the best approach for your dog’s condition. If the twisted and bloated stomach significantly damages the spleen, it may need to be removed.

Is it possible to prevent GDV in dogs?

Gastropexy, the surgical attachment of the stomach to the body wall, is probably the most effective prevention method for high-risk breeds. Some veterinarians suggest this preventive gastropexy during spay or neuter. In most cases, it can reduce twisting.

Some lifestyle preventive measures can include:

  • Eating two or more meals per day
  • Adding canned dog food to the diet
  • Having a relaxed, contented, or easy-going temperament
  • Feeding a dry food containing a calcium-rich meat

Finally, some lifestyle factors that can increase the risk of GDV include:

  • Having only one meal a day
  • Rapid eating
  • Being thin or underweight
  • Having a fearful, anxious, or nervous temperament
  • Having a history of aggression toward people or other animals
  • Males are more likely to bloat than females
  • Eating moistened dry food, especially if citric acid is used as a preservative

Is your dog showing signs of GDV? Visit our Boulder and Westminster emergency vets to receive urgent veterinary care for your dog. Our emergency veterinarians are here to help any time your primary care veterinarian is unavailable.