Gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) is also referred to as gastric torsion or bloat and results in many emergency visits to veterinarians. This disease occurs when the stomach dilates and twists or rotates. This gastric rotation is very serious in dogs and is life-threatening, and may result in a number of conditions including damage to the cardiovascular system, severe abdominal pressure, progressive distention of the stomach and death.
According to dog and cat health nutrition manufacturers, Royal Canin®, the condition’s cause is uncertain, but it has almost always been diagnosed shortly after ingestion of a meal. The condition is exacerbated if meals are followed by exercise or after drinking large amounts of water. Torsion occurs when the stomach fills with gas and becomes twisted and in cases where the stomach just fills with gas, it is referred to as bloat.
Royal Canin South Africa’s veterinarian and technical manager, Dr. Michelle Harman, explains what happens, “After the stomach becomes distended (swollen), it puts pressure on the diaphragm and internal organs in close proximity to the stomach. This, in turn, may lead to complications with the cardiovascular and respiratory system. Breathing becomes difficult and the heart struggles to get blood circulated around the body. Blood supply to the stomach and spleen is affected too. Dogs suffering from GDV will go into shock relatively quickly and will need to receive urgent veterinary treatment. Unfortunately, mortality rates are high if the pet does not get immediate veterinary attention.”
Dogs prone to GDV mainly include the larger barrel-chested breeds such as German Shepherds, Rhodesion Ridgebacks, Boxers, Boerboels, Dobermans and Great Danes. Age is also a factor with older dogs being more predisposed to GDV.
Dr Harman says that early signs to watch out for include a change in normal behaviour, restlessness, rapid breathing rates, drooling, vomiting white froth or unsuccessful attempts to vomit. You will normally note the swelling of the abdomen and gums may become very pale and the heart rate quickens resulting in the dog collapsing. Seek immediate veterinary care as soon as you identify any of these signs. The success of treatment is largely due to the quick response of owners in getting their dogs to the vet.
Patients are admitted immediately and given aggressive treatment. This includes a drip to aid in recovery from shock and, in some cases, gastric decompression is required. If the veterinarian cannot insert a tube down the dog’s throat and into the stomach to ‘flush’ the food out that is causing the problem, then surgery is required. Once stable, surgery is performed to return the stomach to its correct position, surgically attaching the stomach to the body wall is necessary to prevent future risks. The spleen is examined and, if damaged, may have to be removed. At the same time, a number of other tests are performed to check heart and respiratory irregularities while blood tests are carried out to identify any other risks.
Dr Harman concludes that owners need to pay careful attention to their dog’s diet, feeding and exercise regimes, to prevent risks associated with GDV. Feeding smaller, better quality and easily digestible (the pack will tell you if the dog food is highly digestible) meals twice a day, and avoiding any exercise for at least an hour after feeding times may help prevent the occurrence of GDV. Also, feeding a diet formulated to encourage chewing the kibble helps reduce the rapid rate of ingestion so prevalent in dogs and in so doing can help to avoid the very real risks of GDV. Dr. Harman also advises to feed all large breed dogs from a height, i.e. the food bowl placed on a stool or chair so that the dogs do not have to bend their heads while eating. This helps to reduce the swallowing of air while eating and has been shown to reduce the chances of gas buildup in the stomach, and thus development of bloat and/or GDV.
For more information on any Royal Canin® canine or feline health nutrition solutions, contact them on 0860 630 063 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Royal Canin® is a registered member of the Pet Food Industry (PFI) of South Africa.