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“Bert’s” Story and GDV in Dogs

GDV is a painful, life-threatening condition that requires immediate, emergency treatment

“Bert’s” Story and GDV in Dogs

“Bert” was a magnificent, six-year-old Newfoundland. He was very docile, happy, and friendly. He ignored all the passing comments about his sheer size, as he ambled along quietly in a wee world of his own.

Sadly, Bert was rushed into the surgery as an emergency case, as his owners had noted him retching uncontrollably and in some distress after eating a recent large meal.  

His retching bouts were unproductive which was of great concern, and he had an obvious, distended, gassy abdomen on his examination. Bert was admitted immediately into the clinic for X-rays and further investigations. 

His X-rays and examinations revealed that Bert had a GDV, a life-threatening condition often found in large breed dogs, which would require immediate surgical intervention to correct. 

GDV: “Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus” or “Bloat” is a painful, life-threatening condition that requires immediate, emergency treatment. Stomach bloating, pain and unproductive retching are the most common symptoms. 

If your dog has a GDV, they will need an operation to un-twist their stomach but sadly, due to the seriousness of the condition, even with emergency treatment, some GDVs cases are still fatal. 

A GDV happens when the stomach bloats and twists around itself. Once the stomach twists, it quickly starts to fill with more gas, causing a severe and life-threatening bloat and shock. The only cure for a confirmed GDV is an operation to reverse the stomach twist but sadly, due to the seriousness of the condition, even with surgical treatment, some GDVs are still fatal due to the severe shock to the system that the patients go through. 

Symptoms of GDV are a swollen abdomen; vomiting and unproductive retching and gagging; restlessness; distress; abdominal discomfort and pain; pale gums and collapse. 

Symptoms of a GDV tend to start very suddenly and can get worse quickly. Dogs are at more risk after they have eaten or drunk a lot, especially if they are exercised or get excited straight afterwards. 

A GDV is and emergency. If your dog is developing symptoms of a GDV, contact your vet immediately, never wait to see if things may improve. The quicker your dog is treated, the better their chance of survival.  

If your vet suspects a GDV, X-rays and scans can quickly confirm the bloated, twisted stomach. The patient will need an emergency operation to untwist their stomach and check it for any damage. Pain relief will be given, and a fluid drip will be placed to help keep blood pressure up and there may be a need to release some of the gas from your dog’s stomach before their operation using a stomach tube. After untwisting the stomach during surgery, it can be stitched into place against the abdominal wall to reduce the chance of it happening again. The patient’s spleen will also be carefully checked very carefully because it sits very close to the stomach and can get caught up in the twist. The spleen may need to be removed if it has been badly damaged. 

Sadly, due to the seriousness of this condition, some dogs with GDV die despite treatment. There are high risks of shock during the surgery, and there is potential for complications afterwards. 

If your dog survives a GDV, there is still a risk that it could happen again. So, knowing the signs to look for and acting quickly is important. The sooner your dog is treated, the better their chances of survival. 

No one really knows why GDVs develop, but there are some factors that are known to make it more likely. Deep chested, large, and giant breed dogs are most at risk, such as Great Danes, German Shepherds and Greyhounds; Exercise, travelling in a car, or any other form of excitement soon after a meal can increase the risk of a GDV; Eating quickly, and gulping air while eating can also increase the risk.  

Feed several small meals through the day rather than one big one, and feeding meals pre-soaked can help. If your dog gulps food, consider using a slow feeding bowl, or try “scatter feeding”. Gulping a lot of water in one go can also increase the chance of a GDV, do not withhold water, but try to encourage your dog to drink "little and often" rather than large bowlfuls at a time. Excitable and nervous dogs also tend to be more prone to developing a GDV. Try to keep your dog quiet and calm after feeding and avoid any undue excitement at feeding times. In warm weather, when they are more inclined to pant and drink more water, be particularly careful, and ensure that they are not panting and are cool and settled before feeding. 

Thankfully, after a couple of days stay in the clinic hospital, Bert was recovering well from his emergency surgery, and he was able to be discharged home. His owners were very grateful, and they made sure that he was kept as calm as possible during and after his mealtimes and fed smaller meals often from now on. 

GDV surgery is urgent and complex and as a result, it is often very expensive. Do consider adequately insuring your dog with a good, and well researched, pet insurance, and do this as soon as you get them, when they are young pups, before any signs of illness start. This will ensure you have all the financial support you need to care for them in any emergency. 


Alison Laurie-Chalmers 

Senior Consultant, 

Crown Vets