GDV - what it is and how to recognise it

Those of you who follow our Chief Taste Tester Baldrick on Instagram @baldrickbeagle will know that we are very lucky that he is still with us.

On 10th July Baldrick had a gastric torsion (Gastric Dilation-Volvulus or GDV for short). Some of you may know this as bloat, although technically, bloat is something different.

GDV is incredibly serious, and can be fatal for many dogs. In simple terms, the stomach flips over, blocking off entry and exit points. So the dog can’t drink, or vomit, or belch. He can’t poop or pass wind. And meanwhile, the gut produces gases which are building up with nowhere to go.

Typically, dogs which are large and have deep chest cavities eg great danes, weimeraners, are susceptible to this frightening condition. It also commonly occurs within an hour or two of eating, when a dog has been quite active.

Baldrick is a 10kg beagle. There is nothing typical about him, and this started in the afternoon many hours after his breakfast. There was absolutely no reason for me to suspect GDV as the reason for his distress.

Fortunately, after watching his increasingly distressed behaviour for 10 minutes, I made the decision to take him to our local vet, a 5 minute drive away. They are a satellite surgery for a larger vets in our nearest town, a 30 - 35 minute drive. And that afternoon, their portable xray machine was doing what it does best - being portable out on a call. The vet examined Baldrick thoroughly and decided he really ought to travel into town for xray, to rule out any obstruction. At this point, no one was thinking GDV, simply because he didn’t fit the typical profile. I thought he must have eaten something - although what I had no idea, as he hadn’t really had much opportunity. The vet was thinking obstruction of some kind, maybe a bone, maybe a sock - Baldrick does love to steal socks, but actually, he really doesn’t eat them, he just likes to have them.

I drove him into town and he was rushed in for an xray. The vet popped in and told me he needed surgery, and that he would be back with consent forms. 20 minutes later he still hadn’t reappeared, so I asked the receptionist if she could chase the forms. It turned out that what they had thought was a simple obstruction was in fact GDV and Baldrick was already anaesthetised and about to go into emergency surgery.

Staples in wound following GDV surgery

Many of you won’t have heard of GDV. Some of you may have heard of bloat, but think it only happens to huge dogs who bolt their food and then roar around like lunatics. The truth is whilst it isn’t common, it can happen to any dog, at any time.

To minimise the likelihood of it happening to your dog, don’t let your dog exercise immediately after feeding. Don’t let your dog gulp huge amounts of water down. Try to prevent your dog gulping their food - a slow feeder bowl works wonders. 

Signs to be aware of include obvious distress, wanting to vomit, panting, a distended stomach, hunching, pale gums, drooling, restlessness.

We are very lucky that Baldrick has made a full recovery, and was back competing at an agility trial on Saturday, none the worse for his experience. We did have a lengthy rehab time as obviously we needed to rebuild all his stomach muscles before he could start exercising fully. 

In a future blog I will share how we got him back to full fitness.

If you would like to read more about GDV, there is a very good article here