Luke*, a 13 year old Samoyed, emerged from his backyard with what sounded like an acute onset of coughing. Luke had been normal just moments before and was in extremely good health. His owners were understandably concerned and rushed him down to BRVC as an Urgent Care appointment.
When Dr. Trevor Miller examined Luke he checked all his vitals and palpated his abdomen. Luke’s gums were pale—a sign that he was in shock. His abdomen felt soft. Dr. Miller’s first thoughts were that Luke might be bleeding internally. X-rays were taken and it was revealed that Luke was not hemorrhaging internally—he actually was suffering from Gastro Dilatation and Volvulus syndrome, or GDV (also referred to as “bloat”).
GDV is when a dog’s stomach rolls or twists and cutting off blood flow to the esophagus, intestines and other organs. What had sounded like coughing was actually non-productive retching caused by the twisted stomach. Normally a dog’s stomach becomes distended and taut; a symptom, that Luke had not developed yet. GDV is life-threatening and progresses rapidly. Luke’s owners’ decision to act quickly and bring him into BRVC immediately greatly improved his chance of survival.
The first step was to release pressure from the stomach by placing a trochar, a special surgical instrument shaped like a tube with a sharp end that allows drainage. The trochar helped decompress the stomach by allowing the trapped gas to escape. Supportive care of fluids and oxygen was quickly given to prep Luke for emergency gastropexy surgery. Without surgery, GDV is nearly always fatal. Dr. Miller deflated and rotated the stomach into the correct position. The next step in a gastropexy procedure is to firmly secure the stomach to the abdominal wall in order to prevent future twisting.
GDV is an incredibly serious veterinary emergency that requires fast and decisive treatment. Large breed and deep-chested dogs are prone to this syndrome. A gastropexy can be performed as a preventive procedure at BRVC for these breeds of dogs to help dramatically decrease the chance of GDV occurring. Thanks to his fast acting parents and the experienced care of Dr. Miller and his team Luke made it through his emergency procedure successfully. After a day of supportive care and recovery he was able to go home; a happy and healthy dog!
*Luke’s name has been changed for privacy.