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J.C. Hardin, DVM
Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV) is an acutely life-threatening emergency condition. Basically, the stomach becomes gas filled and rotates, cutting off its own blood supply. This creates profound changes in the body, including increased heart rate, shock, stomach tissue death, sepsis, and DIC (disseminated intravascular coagulation; a condition where blood clots where it shouldn’t and doesn’t clot where it should).
Keys to successful treatment include decompressing and getting the stomach back to its correct position as quickly as possible after it has twisted and keeping blood pressure up. Often, an incision has to be made in the stomach to remove food or other material that led to the gas buildup or twisting in the first place. Then, the stomach is anchored to help prevent the problem from happening again.
During the surgery, it may be found that some of the stomach tissue has already died. This will need to be trimmed away during the surgery. Sometimes far too much of the stomach is found to be ‘necrotic’ (dead) that further surgery is obviously not going to be helpful. Sadly, it is most humane if these patients are euthanized while still under anesthesia. In some cases, stomach tissue that was thought to be alive and able to survive during the initial surgery ends up becoming necrotic later, requiring either a second surgery or euthanasia.
The pancreas may sustain no to severe damage from the stomach twisting. It may stay inflamed and cause vomiting and other problems for days after the surgery.
Patients need to have their heart monitored periodically over the next 48 - 96 hours to look for empty heart beats, called VPC’s, or long sequences of these beats called V-Tach (ventricular tachycardia). Drugs can be used to help control VPC’s and V-Tach. Examinations and one or more blood clotting tests can help determine if DIC is occurring. Most animals who enter DIC do not survive, and aggressive help is needed for those that do survive.