Understanding GDV, also known as bloat, begins with understanding digestive system anatomy. The affected organs include the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, small intestines, and spleen. The esophagus is the tube that runs from the mouth to the stomach; it is a hollow dilation of the gastrointestinal tract where food is initially digested. The spleen is attached to the stomach by a series of blood vessels and the gastroplenic ligament. The duodenum is the first part of the small intestine as it leaves the stomach.
With gastric dilatation and volvulus, the stomach becomes distended – or overstretched from being overfilled – with gas, fluid or food, causing it to twist, usually in a clockwise direction. This twisting kinks off the esophagus and duodenum, trapping the gas in the stomach and preventing the stomach from emptying as it would during normal digestion. The result is not only extremely uncomfortable, it also impairs the blood flow to the stomach, and often also to the spleen. If left untreated, the lack of blood flow can result in death of the stomach tissue and, ultimately, of the patient.
Blockage of the main vein leading from the back half of the body to the heart can also result from this twisting, as it prevents blood from traveling from the body to the heart to become re-oxygenated, causing shock. Shock, in which there is inadequate perfusion (pouring through) of the body with blood, is fatal if left untreated. Symptoms of bloat include abdominal distension and unproductive retching. Emergency surgery is always required, as there is no non-surgical treatment for GDV.
Any dog showing signs of bloat should immediately receive emergency veterinary medical care. If the dog’s stomach is not decompressed before the disease becomes severe, the enlarged abdomen can endanger the circulatory system by preventing the blood in the stomach and rear limbs from returning to the heart.
Whenever your pet is showing signs of a health issue your first step is to contact your primary care veterinarian. If it is indicated that your pet may suffer from patent ductus arteriosus or another serious condition, a veterinary specialist is available at an ExpertVet certified or affiliated hospital.