Treatment for Gastric Dilatation Volvulus

Great Dane

Learning that your pet needs surgery can be an overwhelming experience, especially if you are unsure of what the procedure entails. At Anicira, we work with pet parents to ensure you are well-informed before your pet’s surgery. Our veterinary team provides compassionate care before, during, and after surgery to ensure your pet is safe and comfortable.

What is gastric dilatation volvulus? What causes it?

Gastric dilatation volvulus – also known as a stomach torsion or bloat – is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach enlarges and rotates, twisting off blood supply and trapping air and gases. It is life-threatening and requires immediate veterinary intervention. Because circulation to the stomach and spleen are cut off, the dog could go into shock and die – usually within a matter of hours.

The cause of GDV is unknown. However, it has been suggested that exercising after ingestion of large amounts of water or food can lead to bloat. Large-breed male dogs with deep chests are more likely to develop GDV; however, the condition has also been reported in cats and small dogs.

What are the signs of gastric dilatation volvulus?

Some pets may experience:

  • Progressively distending abdomen
  • Abdominal pain (arched back)
  • Nonproductive retching
  • Drooling
  • Restlessness

However, gastric dilatation volvulus can develop quickly without warning signs.

What breeds are more prone to developing GDV and bloat?

Deep-chested, large breeds are statistically more likely to develop bloat. These include:

  • Great Danes
  • Saint Bernards
  • Weimaraners
  • Standard Poodles
  • German Shepherds
  • Irish Setters

Pre-Surgical Instructions

Admission Time – Bring your pet to Anicira at 7 am.
Food – You may feed your pet a quarter of their normal breakfast no later than 6 am.
Water – Your pet may have water until the surgery.
Pre-surgical exam – Your pet must be in good health and show no signs of sickness such as coughing, sneezing, or diarrhea.
Medical records – Please bring proof of rabies vaccination if you have not already provided this. If your cat or dog has not been previously vaccinated or lacks proof of vaccination, we will administer a rabies vaccine on the day of surgery. If you have not already sent your medical records, please bring all relevant medical records.

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus Surgery

Before surgery, our veterinary team will perform a thorough pre-surgical examination to ensure that your pet is a good candidate for anesthesia. It is strongly recommended that your pet receives pre-anesthetic blood work to ensure that no health concerns go undetected.

It may be necessary to remove the trapped air in the stomach before surgery. This is done by inserting a large needle into the side of the abdomen into the stomach.

Your pet will be under general anesthesia. The surgical team will prepare the surgical site by shaving and then cleaning the area to remove bacteria and decrease risk of potential infection.

The veterinarian will then perform surgery to return the stomach back to its normal position and remove any dead or dying tissue if necessary. This will be accomplished through a relatively large mid-abdominal incision. After the stomach is returned to its correct position, gastropexy will be performed to permanently adhere it to the inside of the body wall, making it much more difficult to flip again.

How long does it take to recover from gastric dilatation volvulus surgery?

The total healing time is generally 10 to 14 days.

Caring for Your Pet After Gastric Dilatation Volvulus Surgery

Anesthesia may take 24 to 48 hours to wear off.

  • Your pet may be groggy or whiny during this time.
  • Keep your pet confined in a secure, quiet, and comfortable space. We recommend a crate or a small room.
  • Isolate them from other pets and children while recovering.

Make sure your pet wears their Elizabethan Collar (E Collar / Cone)

  • Your pet’s surgical site will take 10 to 14 days to heal. During this period, they should wear an e-collar at all times.
  • Allowing your pet to lick their incision can lead to infection or dehiscence (opening of the incision).

Offer food & water after surgery

  • When your pet returns home, offer them a small amount of canned or moistened dry food (soak in a small amount of warm water for 5 minutes before feeding) and water.
  • Anesthesia may cause nausea, so your pet may not be interested in food
  • If vomiting occurs, wait 12 hours before offering more food.
  • We recommend feeding small meals spread throughout the day for the first week.
  • Please separate your pet’s daily allotment of food into 3-5 meals.
  • If your pet refuses to eat, you may offer a bland diet such as white rice and lean protein (for example, boiled chicken breast) while they regain a normal appetite.
  • Please do not feed your pet junk food, table scraps, or milk.
  • After the first week, you may switch to twice-daily feedings and can feed a mixture of kibble and moistened food.

Give all medications as directed

  • Your pet will be sent home with oral pain medication. Please follow the instructions on the label.
  • If possible, please give the pain medication with food. If your pet has no appetite, please ensure that they still take the pain medication.
  • OTC pain relievers such as Tylenol and Advil are toxic to pets. Please do not give these to your pet.

Check surgical incision daily for the first week

  • Your pet’s surgical site will be healing for 10-14 days.
  • What you see on the day of surgery is what we consider normal
  • Monitor for increased redness, swelling, discharge or pulling apart of the incision.

Other shaved areas

  • Your pet will likely have shaved areas on one or more legs from where an IV catheter was placed as well as under the tail for monitoring equipment during anesthesia.
  • These areas may be irritated or bruised. If your pet is excessively licking, please use a taste deterrent spray or e-collar to prevent self-trauma.
  • If your pet went home with a brightly colored wrap on their leg, this should be removed 30 minutes after returning home.

Limit your pet’s activity and keep them clean, dry, and warm for 10 days after surgery.

  • Ensure your pet is supervised around all potential hazards (including stairs)
  • Pets should be kept indoors so they can stay clean, dry, and warm.
  • Dogs should be walked outside on a leash to urinate and defecate. No off-leash activity during the entire recovery period.
  • No running, jumping, playing, swimming, or other strenuous activity.
  • Do not bathe your pet or have it groomed during the recovery period.

Possible minor complications

Complications from gastric dilatation volvulus surgery are rare. If your pet experiences these issues after surgery, please contact Anicira.

  • Redness, swelling, or discharge at the surgical site which could be signs of infection
  • Dehiscence – both sides of the surgical site should be touching. Watch for any gapping.

Rare, but Serious Complications of Gastric Dilatation Volvulus Surgery

  • Septic peritonitis – If the stomach tissue was compromised when rotated, the tissue could die, allowing contents from the gastrointestinal tract to leak into the abdomen. This would cause infection and inflammation of the lining of the abdomen. This is usually seen 3-7 days after surgery. This requires immediate surgical intervention.
  • Electrolyte imbalance – many dogs with GDV experience low potassium levels and require supplementation.
  • Gastric ulcers and/or Gastritis (inflammation of the stomach lining) – this could lead to bleeding from the stomach lining and/or vomiting
  • Cardiac arrhythmias (heart dysfunction) – usually begins 12-36 hours after surgery.

Please contact Anicira, your primary care veterinarian, or an emergency clinic if any of the following occur:

  • Pale gums
  • Severe pain, depression or weakness
  • Vomiting or Diarrhea
  • Labored breathing
  • Decreased appetite for more than 24 hours
  • Lethargy lasting more than 24 hours