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
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