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!)
For my layman’s summary of GDV – including the symptoms to look out for, and how to hopefully recognize the condition early enough, click here.
Your story is similar to mine. Simba my seven year old German Shepherd started dry wretching and digging at the ground. Luckily I had belonged to an online German Shepherd club who’s dogs had perianal fistulas like mine who also talk about other topics. I had read about it before so when it happened I realized. Like you the vet was about three minutes away. I was alone with a heavy dog at midnight. Called the vet. Went in and the vet said he isn’t that bloated for it to be GVD and sent us home. Luckily I don’t listen very well and trust myself too. As soon as I got him back in the car he was dry wretching again he did this at the vets too. I marched back into the vets and asked for a xray, this comfirmed twisted stomach. He did the surgery and put a pexy band in so it would not happen again. He also made it through and slowly began to drink and eat. Then he did have heart problems and pus oozing from in between his toes and toe pads. I took him to another vet and he gave me little hope and about $600. of all kinds of drugs. He said he had really bad heart problems and most likely would die soon. He said this right in front of then six year old son, who had grown up with Simba. I went home read the internet all about the drugs and gave the drugs back to the vet. The vet said I treated my dog like a common coyote. I then went to an on line homeopathic vet who Rx a remedy for six months and he oozed and smelled from his undercarriage by his heart and then got better. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Well it’s almost five years later since this has happened and he is still here. It’s amazing through all the PF, GVD, arrythimias. Now he has ear infections which I have tried homeopathics on and not able to fix this. I had to leave the vet on line because he was charging astronomical fees for six months and told me that it would most likely be for years like this so I stopped. He also has some infection close to one of his testes which doesn’t seem to heal. I try antibiotics it goes away but comes back in a little while. Well I am still with unsolved mysteries with him but he is still here at almost 12. Oh and I phoned and left a message with that vet saying I am glad that I treated my dog like a common coyote because he is still here at almost 12. I just couldn’t help it, I thought I deserved to gloat a little…
Oh dear and I forgot to mention he had just eaten dry kibble crap when he torsioned as he had done for seven years. It never agreed with him so when I went to the homeopathic vet he suggested to feed raw meat and veggies. This has made a huge difference in his health. He always layed down and ate slowly unenthusiastically. He inhales it down standing excitedly since I feed him raw, now he eats like a common coyote too. Thanks for your informative health care magazine…Kudos to people who care about others and their animals…
Oh man and I forgot to mention. I learned something new again the other day on that same GSD on line PF club. Animals can also torsion in the spleen and intestines, this is most always fatal.
Well Done Kara!!!!Well done Brigitte!!!! Hope Kara is getting stronger day by day. I have heard of that condition once before. But never knew what it was called. About the gut twisting. Every day is a bonus and I hope Kara brings you happiness for a long time yet.
It is the condition I have read about called ‘torsion’ but I am so glad to now have a more comprehensive list of things to look out for. Thank you Brigitte. And best wishes to Kara and Judy’s GSD.
Brigitte, I can’t believe you’ve never heard of GDV or more commonly known as Bloat. Sorry but it just surprises me, with al the other info you have in your newsletters. It’s quite common in deep chested dogs.
Glad to hear Kara came through it like she did!! 🙂
My 3 year old Bloodhound Sandy Sue had surgery for this condition today. Got her in pretty quick but still waiting to see if possible tissue damage may affect her recovery. I haven’t found any symptoms listing excessive thirst but she was heavily drinking water last night and again early this morning which sort of clued me into something being wrong. Also, she refused to eat…never happens.
Vet told me that often is too late and that he doesn’t often see this condition. If I had waited and not reacted so quickly he said she would have had no chance. If you know your dog’s breed is prone to this condition be on the lookout. Will update with outcome but thought this was a good article.
My dog just had the gdv surgery and her spleen was removed. She did really well the first night and the second night she started vomiting. Her heart also started the arrhythmias, they put her on the heart meds and kept her on fluids. They started giving her food mush on the 3rd day but she wouldn’t eat. They let us come in and she ate a little for us. The vet decided to release her on the 4th day, once home she settled down, her breathing seems off and she has a runny nose. The last 2 nights she has had vomiting. I went and got a shot for her today, she is on the nausea meds already, plus pepsid and baytril, the vet said she has a little pneumonia. I have been feeding her small amounts of canned food, but I am having to force it down her. She wants water but I have withheld it for now. I am giving her only a couple of tablespoons at a time. I am also using essential oils to help with the pneumonia, I have also started patting her chest. I just read that there is a difference between vomiting and recurgitation. So some of what I thought was vomiting was actually regurgitation. She has always been a poor eater and has always had problems with her stomach. She is only 9 years old and was in good health until sunday a week ago 2/14/10. This happened suddenly and we got her to the vet quickly. She has food allergies to beef and poultry, which limits what I can get. I am open to any and all suggestions, I have thought about doing subcutaneous fluids instead of water, but she isn’t dehydrated.
She hasn’t had a bowel movement either since she has been home.
I am really worried. If anyone has any suggestions I would appreciate them. Thanks
I’m sorry to hear about your dog. No wonder you’re worried.
The fact that the vet allowed her to go home, though, must be a good sign.
Why are you not allowing her to drink? Did the vet tell you to withhold the water? That sounds strange to me (not that I’m a vet – as you know I am NOT, and I have no veterinary training whatsoever).
So far as I am aware, food is not essential for short periods, but water always is.
With the food, I would be feeding fresh food if I were you. And if you’re having trouble getting her to take food, then get some Slippery Elm Bark powder. Mix a teaspon of it in water and see if she will lick it. If not, get a large syringe (e.g. 30 mls) and syringe it into her mouth every couple of hours. A holistic vet advised me that it contains many nutrients and will keep a dog alive for several days if it won’t eat anything. Additional water is essential, though.
Subcutaneous fluids is another option if you have been advised to withhold water, and I would use this if I were you at the first hint of dehydration.
If she’s not eating, then it’s not really surprising that there has been no bowel movement, but again, you should check this with your vet.
Hope it all goes well.