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Josey Ranch Pet Hospital, PC
... where caring makes the difference.

Date: October 1st 2003

Josey Ranch Pet Hospital, PC
... where caring makes the difference.
A Free Service of Josey Ranch Pet Hospital

Few disease syndromes challenge the veterinarians medical and surgical skills to the extent that gastric dilatation-volvulus does. Veterinarians understand the progression of this disorder, but its underlying cause is still not completely understood. GD-V is a very serious medical emergency which, if not treated, will end in death of the patient. Research is ongoing to determine the origins of GD-V, so that individuals at high risk can be identified and given reliable advise on prevention. However, the origin of this disease becomes a secondary concern to the vet presented with a dog succumbing to GD-V.

GD-V is a condition in which the stomach becomes extremely dilated, either with gas or food. This is often called "bloat." A dogs stomach which has bloated can be displaced to an abnormal position in the abdomen. When displaced, the stomach can twist on itself, preventing its contents from emptying into the intestines or from being vomited up the esophagus.

It is believed that delayed stomach emptying results in continuous traction on ligaments supporting the stomach. This could lead to a tendency toward GD-V. Aerophagis (the dog swallowing a large amount of air) is a major source of gastric or stomach gas and is thought to contribute to GD-V in most cases.

GD-V is most common in giant breeds such as Great Danes, St. Bernards and Borzois. German Shepards and Irish Setters are also commonly affected. However, any size dog can be affected with this problem. Dogs generally develop this condition between the ages of two and ten years, and there is no sex predilection. Once a dog has bloated, they are more prone to this problem occurring again, unless surgery is performed to keep the stomach in its proper location.

When the stomach rotates or twists on itself, a very serious chain of events occurs in the dog. From the lack of blood flow to the gut once torsed, the lining and gut wall will become necrotic (dead) and the tissue can slough, or peal apart. The acid produced by the stomach further enhances this problem. The dogs can become very shocky, because major veins in the abdomen/liver are occluded, thereby decreasing blood flow to the heart. The shock leads to many problems within the various organs of the dog. If not treated immediately, this is usually fatal in the patient.

Treatment is a definite veterinary challenge. Some dogs can be treated by passing a tube into the stomach to release gas build-up. Others can only be treated by immediate surgery. Because these dogs are so shocky, surgery becomes an even greater risk. Numerous procedures have been shown to resolve this. The appropriate procedure depends on the size, displacement and health of the stomach, once the vet is performing the surgery. Post-operative management is also a challenge to the vet, due to the shock and its accompanying medical problems.

Because GD-V is such a serious medical problem, it is best to try to decrease any chances of its occurrence that you can. When this condition is present, your pet will look distended just behind the rib cage, and may be vomiting and depressed. Seek veterinary attention immediately. If you have large, deep chested dogs, keep them confined after eating a large meal. Do not feed them and then allow them to exercise or run excessively. This does not necessarily cause the problem, but it has been seen as a factor in some cases. Feed these dogs several smaller meals throughout the day. Be aware of the symptoms, and seek immediate veterinary assistance if you suspect medical problems with your pets.

If you have any questions, we would be glad to hear from you. Please call our office any time during our business hours at 972-446-0667.

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