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Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) Syndrome

What is Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) Syndrome?

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) Syndrome poses a grave threat to dogs, constituting a life-threatening emergency. It involves the swelling of the stomach, usually due to food and gas accumulation (dilatation), and its subsequent twisting on its axis (volvulus), hindering the passage of stomach contents into the intestines or through vomiting.

This condition not only jeopardizes the stomach but also impacts adjacent body systems such as the spleen and major abdominal blood vessels. The resultant stress on the heart, shock, and potential fatality accentuate the severity of GDV.

Although similar to bloat in dogs, GDV entails an additional twisting of the stomach, distinguishing it from mere bloat. The term “volvulus” stems from the Latin word “volvere,” meaning “to twist.” While bloat can sometimes be managed medically, GDV almost invariably necessitates surgical intervention.

GDV demands immediate attention as a medical emergency. If GDV is suspected in your dog, prompt action entails taking them to the nearest veterinary hospital without delay.


Symptoms of Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) Syndrome typically manifest initially as mild abdominal discomfort. These signs include restlessness, reluctance to participate in usual activities, reduced appetite, and excessive drooling. While a distended, balloon-like abdomen is often present, it might not be readily apparent. Importantly, volvulus can occur independently of bloat and still pose a serious threat.

An enlarged abdomen accompanied by frequent, unproductive retching and gagging necessitates an immediate visit to the veterinarian. Prompt attention is crucial, particularly in breeds prone to the condition. GDV constitutes an emergency situation demanding immediate treatment.


While a definitive cause of Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) Syndrome remains elusive, several confirmed risk factors have been identified. Although GDV can affect any breed, it is predominantly observed in breeds such as the German Shepherd, Great Dane, Saint Bernard, Weimaraner, Standard Poodle, Irish Setter, Gordon Setter, and Basset Hound.

Mixed-breed dogs with deep chests or a family history of GDV are equally susceptible to developing the condition. While the risk tends to escalate with age, GDV can also occur in younger dogs.


Diagnosing GDV typically begins with veterinarians having a heightened suspicion based on the patient’s history and physical examination. However, confirmation usually necessitates X-rays. The distinct shape of a twisted stomach on X-ray is easily distinguishable from ordinary bloat.

In addition to X-rays, bloodwork, blood pressure monitoring, and an EKG can aid veterinarians in assessing the severity of the condition and identifying any complicating factors that may impact treatment.


Treatment of Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus Syndrome almost invariably involves surgical intervention. Initially, the veterinarian’s priority is to alleviate cardiac stress through immediate and aggressive administration of IV fluids, coupled with alleviating bloat. This often entails sedation and the insertion of a tube down the esophagus to facilitate the release of accumulated gas.

Following initial stabilization, the dog undergoes anesthesia, and surgery is performed to address remaining gas, untwist the stomach, and assess the abdomen for indications of permanent damage. In severe instances, resection (removal) of extensively affected stomach wall, intestine, and spleen may be necessary. Subsequently, the stomach is surgically tacked to the abdominal wall in a procedure known as gastropexy, which significantly diminishes the likelihood of GDV recurrence.

Recovery and Prevention

Following surgery, most dogs necessitate hospitalization for pain relief, anti-nausea medications, and hydration. Hospital staff will diligently monitor for potential complications, such as arrhythmias and blood clots, which can arise in severely stressed body systems post-surgery.

Upon discharge, dogs will undergo a period of rest for several weeks to facilitate organ healing. Providing frequent small meals is crucial to prevent recurrence. While GDV is an emergency, preventive measures can be taken. Dogs should be fed multiple small meals daily instead of one large meal. Employing a puzzle feeder or mat can help slow down eating. Elevated feeding bowls, once commonly recommended, may actually heighten the risk of GDV and should be avoided. It’s advisable to refrain from vigorous physical activity immediately after meals, especially in breeds predisposed to GDV.

Gastropexy plays a pivotal role in preventing GDV recurrence and can be performed concurrently with neuter or spay surgery to mitigate the initial risk of GDV. Many surgical facilities offer minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures. Consulting with your veterinarian regarding the suitability of this procedure for your dog is highly recommended.

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) Syndrome FAQs

What is the survival rate for dogs with GDV?

Reports indicate that 25–30% of dogs diagnosed with GDV will not survive. Dogs that reach a veterinary clinic more than six hours after the onset of clinical signs face a considerably poorer prognosis. Prompt treatment is imperative for this condition.

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