Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus Syndrome in Dogs
Gastric dilation and volvulus syndrome (GDV), more commonly referred to as gastric torsion or bloat, is a disease in dogs in which the animal’s stomach dilates and then rotates, or twists, around its short axis. A number of emergency conditions may result as a consequence of this gastric rotation, including progressive distension of the stomach, increased pressure within the abdomen, damage to the cardiovascular system, and decreased perfusion. Perfusion is the process of delivering nutrients via blood in the arteries to the body’s tissues. Insufficient perfusion may lead to cellular damage and even organ death.
Symptoms and Types
Symptoms of GDV include anxious behavior, depression, abdominal pain and distention, collapse, excessive drooling, and vomiting to the point of unproductive dry heaving. Further physical examination may also reveal an extremely rapid heart beat (known as tachycardia), labored breathing (known as dyspnea), a weak pulse, and pale mucus membrane (the moist tissues lining the body’s orifices, such as the nose and mouth).
The exact causes of GDV are unknown. A variety of factors, including genetics, anatomy, and environment, are most likely to blame. For example, dogs that have a first relative with a history of GDV have been shown to be at higher risk. Additionally, large and giant-breed dogs may be at higher risk, especially deep-chested breeds such as great Danes, German shepherds, and standard poodles. Although GDV has been reported in puppies, risk does increase with age.
Some factors that are believed to contribute to the development of GDV include ingestion of excessive amounts of food or water, delayed emptying of the gastrointestinal system, and too much activity after eating. In some cases, dogs affected by GDV have a history of gastrointestinal tract problems. It should be noted, however, that these characteristics do not necessarily occur with all cases.
A primary method of diagnosing GDV is imaging techniques, such as x-rays of the abdomen. Other tests may include a urine analysis and testing concentrations of lactate substance in the plasma.
If GDV is not to blame, other possible causes of the patient’s symptoms may include bacterial infection, gastroenteritis (which is the inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract involving both the stomach and small intestine), or “food bloat” due to overeating.