Gastric Dilitation and Volvulus – GDV.
Ever heard of it?
Neither had I.
It almost cost me my beloved Rottweiler, Kara.
This happened back in February. I’ve been too traumatized by the thought of it to write about it until now.
It was a stinking hot day – 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) – almost unbearably hot.
I was just getting ready to go out when I noticed that Kara was stumbling around and seemed a bit disoriented. Then she started dry retching inside the house – this was really unusual because she always runs outside to be sick. Nothing was coming up except some frothy white foam.
I guided her outside, and she seemed pretty off color. She was panting a lot and looked very tired. I gave her some water but she wouldn’t drink.
I was only going out for an hour or two, and I thought it was mainly the heat that was making Kara feel ill, and I almost went.
Thankfully, I decided to call the vet first and describe the symptoms, just in case it might be more serious than I thought.
I am so glad I decided to do that. If I had gone out as I planned, Kara would not have been alive when I returned.
After describing the retching and the stumbling around, the vet asked me about Kara’s stomach. It was hard. Kara had had a similar seeming episode of stomach hardness when fluid retention caused a large, hard stomach, several months earlier, so I wasn’t all that concerned by that symptom – it was a concern, but not an urgent one.
How wrong I was.
This time the hardness was not caused by fluid retention.
I was told to bring her down to the veterinary hospital immediately. By this time, Kara wouldn’t get up at all, and I called the vet back and said I wasn’t going to be able to get her in the car. I was advised to come and collect a stretcher for her to lift her into the car (I only live a 4 minute drive from the veterinary hospital). I started to walk out to the car, and Kara decided to get up. She was very unsteady on her feet, but I led her out the front door and down the driveway to the car. My son was there and helped me lift her into the car, as she was completely unable to get in herself.
By the time we arrived at the vet (4 minutes later), Kara truly looked as if she was on her last legs. Her whole face was drooping. I can’t explain it any other way. I’ve never seen her like that, and never want to again.
My son lifted her out of the car and she just collapsed into the gutter. He ran inside the vet and they came out with a stretcher.
They took her into the surgery and spent several minutes stablising her (I have no idea what was happening but that is what I was told). Then I was given the option of surgery or euthanizing her. I was advised that the prospects were “poor”. I actually interpreted this as less than 20%, but apparently that’s not what poor means in veterinary terms. There was no choice to make, for me. I signed whatever paperwork they put in front of me, to authorize them to commence the surgery.
It was explained to me that Kara had GDV which, in layman’s terms, meant that her stomach had twisted over on itself. It is a condition that creates an emergency from which surgery is the only option, and a majority of dogs die from this condition, either before, during or after surgery.
I was told that the surgery was going to take at least an hour and to go home and wait.
About an hour later, the vet called. She said she was in the middle of the surgery, and that she had untwisted the stomach but that part of the stomach tissue was necrotic (basically was dead tissue due to the blood supply having been cut off to it for too long). The necrotic tissue needed to be cut out, and it was not clear how much tissue was involved until they started cutting it away. Further, it was always difficult to determine whether all the necrotic tissue had been removed, and if it hadn’t, then the dog would die from the effects of the dead tissue inside. The vet advised me that the prognosis had accordingly gone from just under 50% to less than 25%. (I was surprised by this, as I had understood that “poor” at the beginning would have meant less than 20%, when in fact it meant close to 50%).
The vet asked whether I wanted her to continue with the surgery, or whether I wished to euthanize in these circumstances. I advised her to continue. Call it intuition, or whatever you like, but I had a premonition during that phone call that Kara would survive the surgery.
Kara was in surgery for more than 4 hours. The stomach was also stitched to the abdominal wall, which is done as a precautionary measure to prevent GDV from occurring again.
The vets told me later that they did not expect her to last through that first night. (Heart problems or other complications are apparently common following this type of surgery.)
But she did!
The following day, I was invited to spend as much time as I wanted with her. And the same for the next 2 days after that.
The vets told me later that they did not expect her to pull through, and thought I should have the opportunity of saying goodbye.
For three days Kara was almost non-responsive to anyone but me. One of the vets commented on this. I am convinced that my being there had an impact on the outcome of all of this. I spent several hours of each of these 3 days with her.
At the end of the second day, she drank a little water from my hand.
Towards the end of the third day, Kara tried to get up. She tried, and tried and tried, but she couldn’t manage it. She ate some roast chicken breast.
On the fourth day, Kara got up.
I knew she was going to be okay.
On the sixth day, we brough Kara home. She was very weak, and had lost between 17 and 22 pounds in weight (8 to 10 kilos). She was terribly skinny, and she wasn’t allowed to eat much for a couple of weeks more.
But she was oh so happy to be home, as were we!
I am thankful every single day for having her with us.
The vet is amazed that she has done so well. It took a few months to build her up again, but she is no longer skin and bones as she was when we brought her home. The vet tells me that Kara is sure to live to 21 now! (And I’m taking that literally!)