If your pet is experiencing persistent, non-productive retching, this is considered a “RED” – or true emergency – on our Fast Track Triage chart. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!
- Non-productive retching & a painful, enlarged stomach are signs of Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV), also known as “bloat”, “twisted stomach”, or “flipped stomach.”
- GDV is a severely painful, life-threatening medical condition.
- GDV can happen when the stomach expands, filling with gas and fluid.
- If stomach is constricting surrounding blood vessels, your pet may also experience systemic shock.
Our tale is certainly not Dante’s Inferno. But for the hero of our story, Dante the Great Dane, the severe pain he endured just might be comparable to hellfire and brimstone! So without further ado, we introduce to you the five circles of Dante the Great Dane’s GDV Inferno.
Circle One: The Twist
Before we can get to Dante’s story, we have to backtrack and explain Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV), also known as “bloat”, “twisted stomach”, or “flipped stomach”. The exact cause of GDV is unknown, but it is a severely painful and life-threatening medical condition.
GDV can happen when the stomach expands, filling with gas and fluid. The stomach literally twists, and nothing can enter or leave. Food, water, and gas are all trapped inside. Even scarier, the spleen and pancreas often shift when the stomach twists which increases the risk of the pancreas producing toxins that can cause the heart to abruptly stop.
Circle Two: The Shock
As the pressure builds and the stomach becomes larger, it presses against the surrounding blood vessels. The constriction blocks blood flow to the internal organs. As a result, most pets experience systemic shock. When in shock, the body is deprived of oxygen and organ damage may result.
Circle Three: The Early Signs
The painful, enlarged stomach causes abdominal discomfort and the pet starts to retch (dry-heave). However, since the stomach is blocked, the pet is unable to produce any vomit. And here is where we meet Dante. He was experiencing Circle Three when his parents realized something was wrong. He was gagging and retching continuously, but no matter how many times he tried, he couldn’t vomit. Sounds like a circle of hell all right, for Dante and his parents!
Knowing he needed immediate veterinary attention, Dante’s parents rushed him to Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota’s emergency room. Given Dante’s symptoms and breed, our team quickly suspected the scary diagnosis of GDV. After all, GDV is quite common in large breeds with deep chests, such as Great Danes. Our team hurried to confirm the diagnosis because with a diagnosis of GDV, they were racing against the clock.
Circle Four: The Wait
The best way to diagnose GDV is with abdominal x-rays, and that diagnosis must be made before many other life-saving measures can be taken Our team rushed into action so that Dante’s wait for those treatments would be minimized. Fortunately, it does not take long to interpret the classic “double bubble” or “Popeye’s arm” appearance of the stomach when it has flipped over on itself (see x-rays below). Dante’s radiographs provided a definitive diagnosis of GDV.
With this confirmation, there are only two options: emergency surgery or humane euthanasia. Returning home without treatment is not an option because dogs cannot survive GDV without treatment, and the pet would suffer a very painful death. With emergency surgery, dogs stand an 80% chance of survival, but there is still no time to waste.
Circle Five: Emergency Surgery
With Dante’s parents’ approval to proceed with emergency surgery, Dr. Anderson, one of our board-certified veterinary surgeons, untwisted Dante’s stomach. The organs were also evaluated for viable blood supply. Fortunately, Dante’s spleen and stomach still had excellent blood flow and no resection of the stomach or spleen was required. Then Dr. Anderson performed a gastropexy,a procedure in which the stomach is surgically attached to the abdominal wall to prevent a retwist.
A Happy Ending
In the real Inferno, Dante travels through nine circles of hell and then moves through Purgatory and finally, to Heaven. In Dante the Great Dane’s story, his parents’ quick action saved his life. He recovered well from surgery, and his family was able to bring him home on Christmas morning! Heaven, indeed!
Our “Fur-tunately: Stories of Animal Survival” series feature real pets treated by our team at Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota. All images and information have been shared with the owner’s permission.
Case content provided by Nikki Scherrer, DVM.