Working Dog Health - Twisted Stomach

Twisted stomach or Gastric Dilated Volvulus (GDV) in dogs is a reasonably common, rapid onset, emergency affecting large dogs.  Often the dog is found dead in its kennel in the morning, however if noticed and treated in time then the outcome is often good.  The key to success is the quick identification of the problem and getting into surgery.  Often a few hours make the difference between life and death.

The biggest risk factor of a GDV is dogs that have a direct relative having had one, which is due to the size and shape of the chest.  Large chested dogs, especially huntaways are most likely to experience a GDV.  Other risk factors for GDV include large meals/feeding every second day, drinking large amounts of water rapidly, dogs that eat rapidly and lean dogs.

Signs to look for - off food, vomiting or unproductive retching, tight/distended abdomen, whimpering and other signs of abdominal pain, pale gums, lethargy/collapse.

Treatment involves stabilising the dog, which is usually in shock, then proceeding to surgery, where the stomach is untwisted and stitched to the abdominal wall preventing it happening again.  The outcome of the surgery depends on the amount of time that the stomach has been twisted and the extent of damage to the stomach, in areas that have lost blood supply.  If corrected with the stomach tissue having good viability, the prognosis is good.

Prevention involves surgery (Gastropexy) to open the dog up and stitching the edge of the stomach to the abdominal wall, which lasts a lifetime.  Preventative surgery should be considered in all huntaways, especially in dogs with a direct relative having had a GDV and in valuable dogs.