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Treatment options for Gastric Dilatation Volvulus in dogs.

What is canine gastropexy?

Gastropexy is a surgical procedure which prevents a life-threatening condition in dogs called gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV). This is where the stomach twists and distends with gas; it is also commonly referred to as bloat. Other terms you may hear to describe gastric dilatation volvulus are GDV, gastric torsion, stomach torsion and twisted stomach.

Is gastric dilatation volvulus in dogs a serious condition?

YES, this is one of the most serious non-traumatic emergencies that can occur in dogs. The condition is life threatening, with sudden death occurring within a few hours if prompt veterinary treatment is not carried out. It is estimated that there is a 45% mortality rate if treatment is delayed.

Is there anything that can prevent this life-threating condition?

Because of the severity, Medivet is now offering an optional preventative surgery for gastric dilatation volvulus called gastropexy. This involves the stomach being secured to the side of the abdomen so it is unable to twist throughout life. The procedure is clinically known as prophylactic gastropexy due to it being a preventative procedure.

This surgery is highly recommended and it is ideally performed at the time of neutering your pet, either via a midline incision or laparoscopically (keyhole). However, if your pet has already been neutered, we can still perform the surgery.

Why is preventative surgery a good option?

We advise doing surgery while your dog is healthy, stable and presents a minimal anaesthetic risk, as that is the safest and best option for your pet. Performing emergency surgery when your dog is bloated or is in a full GDV crisis poses very high surgical risk factors, including impairment of blood flow back to the heart, restricted blood flow to the stomach (possibly causing death to part of the stomach) and multiple factors including shock and cardiac arrhythmias that can cause death.

A gastropexy will not entirely prevent your dog from bloating, but it will decrease the probability of bloat by allowing your dog to burp and pass excess gas through the stomach to the rest of the intestinal tract. However, prophylactic gastropexy, if done correctly, will prevent the stomach from turning on its axis, which is a critical, life-threatening situation. Extreme bloating itself can be fatal, but not as quickly as GDV. If the stomach cannot rotate, the time your dog has gained, even during the bloat episode, may be enough to save their life.

Are all dogs at risk?

Large breed dogs are most susceptible to this condition with the most common being the Great Dane, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, Weimaraner, Boxer, Irish Setter, Golden Retrievers and large cross breeds. However, any deep-chested breed is at risk.

German Shepherd

Gastric dilatation volvulus can occur any time between 10 months and 15 years of age and the current statistics show that around 60,000 cases are reported each year, meaning roughly 1 in 5 dogs will be affected.

What are the symptoms of gastric dilatation volvulus?

The key signs of bloat in dogs include:

  • Retching or vomiting with nothing being produced (most important)
  • Restlessness
  • Abdomen increasing in size (most important)
  • Stretching in discomfort
  • Pale gums
  • Collapsing

If your dog does have gastric dilatation volvulus, then you should seek emergency lifesaving first aid support immediately.

What happens to my dog and what signs should I look for?

When the stomach twists and fills with gas, it can be very painful. It also affects the blood supply to the stomach and the return supply to the heart, which causes circulatory collapse. The extremely large stomach can put pressure on the diaphragm, making it harder to breathe. As the stomach turns, it can pull the spleen with it, causing it to twist and bleed into the abdomen.

Surgery can be quite a high risk if your dog has fully contracted GDV but is essential. Recovery can range from a couple of days to a week or more if the dog is very sick.

Talk to our vets about gastropexy and how to prevent gastric dilatation volvulus in your dog …

At Medivet, our veterinary surgeons are more than happy to answer any questions you may have about the procedure, condition and your pet’s needs. Contact your local vet to book a consultation here: Find your local Medivet