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Dilatation means that the stomach is swelling out from the inside with air but still located in it's correct place in the abdomen.

Volvulus means that the swelling is associated with the stomach twisting on its longitudinal axis.

GDV means that a dog’s stomach is expanding with gas to the point that it will go into shock and may die.

The condition nearly always occurs in deep-chested, large or giant breed dogs such as German Shepherds, Great Danes, Irish Setters, Afghan Hounds etc.

An x-ray is used to confirm the diagnosis of the dilatation and can also identify the presence of volvulus in many cases. This is an emergency situation and needs to be treated as such. If you suspect your dog has GDV, transport them to your veterinary clinic or after-hours emergency veterinary clinic immediately.

The first major life-threatening event that occurs is shock.

Shock occurs because the swollen stomach puts pressure on the large veins in the abdomen that carry blood back to the heart. Without the proper return of blood, the output of blood from the heart is diminished and the tissues are deprived of blood and oxygen.

The reduced blood output from the heart and the high pressure within the cavity of the stomach cause the stomach wall to lack adequate circulation. If the blood supply is not restored quickly, the wall of the stomach begins to die and may rupture. If volvulus occurs, the spleen’s blood supply will also be impaired. As the spleen is attached to the stomach wall, it shares a number of large blood vessels. When the stomach twists, the spleen also rotates to an abnormal position and its vessels are compressed.

When the stomach is in this situation, digestion stops and this results in the accumulation of toxins that are normally removed from the intestinal tract. These toxins activate several chemicals which cause inflammation and are also absorbed into your pet’s blood circulation. This causes problems with blood clotting factors and inappropriate clotting occurs within blood vessels which can be fatal to your pet.

Important steps that must be taken quickly to save the dogs life:

  1. Shock must be treated first. This is done with the administration of large quantities of intravenous fluids and they must be given quickly. Some dogs will require more than one intravenous line to administer the large quantity of fluids.

  2. Pressure must be removed from within the stomach. This may be done with a tube that is passed from the mouth to the stomach. Another method is to insert a large needle through the skin into the stomach. A third method is to make an incision through the skin into the stomach and to temporarily suture the opened stomach to the skin, this method is usually done when the dogs condition is so grave that anaesthesia and abdominal surgery is not possible.

  3. The stomach must be returned to its proper position. This requires abdominal surgery to be performed which can be of high risk depending on the dog’s condition.

  4. The stomach wall must be inspected for areas that have lost blood supply.

  5. Abnormalities in the rhythm of the heart (arrhythmias) must be monitored. Severe arrhythmias can become life-threatening at the time of surgery and for several days after the surgery.

The survival rate of dogs who require this surgery largely depends on the severity of the condition, the degree of shock, how quickly treatment was administered and the presence of other diseases - especially those that involve the heart. if you suspect that your dog has GDV, it is imperative that it is inspected by a veterinarian as quickly as possible.

This advice does not substitute a proper consultation with a veterinarian and is intended only as a guide. We recommend you follow all advice as given by your veterinarian and contact them immediately with any concerns. You must follow medications as dispensed by your veterinary clinic and monitor your pet closely during their recovery period noting any changes and contacting your veterinary clinic as needed.

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