Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) is a rapidly progressive life-threatening condition of dogs. The condition is commonly associated with large meals and causes the stomach to dilate, because of food and gas, and may get to a point where neither may be expelled. As the stomach begins to dilate and expand, the pressure in the stomach begins to increase. The increased pressure and size of the stomach may have several severe consequences, including:
- prevention of adequate blood return to the heart from the abdomen
- loss of blood flow to the lining of the stomach
- rupture of the stomach wall
- pressure on the diaphragm preventing the lungs from adequately expanding leading to decreased ability to maintain normal breathing
The entire body suffers from the poor ventilation leading to death of cells in many tissues. Additionally, the stomach can become dilated enough to rotate in the abdomen, a condition called volvulus. The rotation can lead to blockage in the blood supply to the spleen and the stomach. Most pets are in shock due to the effects on their entire body. The treatment of this condition involves stabilization of your pet, decompression of the stomach, and surgery to return the stomach to the normal position permanently (gastropexy). Abdominal organs will need to be evaluated for damage and treated appropriately as determined at the time of surgery.
Several studies have been published that have evaluated risk factors and causes for gastric dilatation and volvulus in dogs. This syndrome is not completely understood; however, it is known that there is an association in dogs that:
- have a deep chest (increased thoracic height to width ratio)
- are fed a single large meal once daily
- are older
- are related to other dogs that have had the condition
It has also been suggested that elevated feeding, dogs that have previously had a spleen removed, large or giant breed dogs, and stress may result in an increased incidence of this condition. A 2006 study also determined that dogs fed dry dog foods that list oils (e.g. sunflower oil, animal fat) among the first four label ingredients predispose a high risk dog to GDV.
Nearly all breeds of dogs have been reported to have had gastric dilatation with or without volvulus, but many of the commonly seen breeds are Great Danes, Weimaraners, St. Bernards, Irish setters, and Gordon setters.