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What Is A Gastropexy And Does Your Dog Need One?

Gastric Dilitation and Volvulus (often called “GDV” or “bloat”) is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach fills with air (dilitation) and twists upon itself (volvulus). GDV occurs most commonly occurs in large breed, deep-chested dogs, although all dogs are at risk.

Causes of this condition are not completely understood. High-energy, nervous dogs seem to have an increased risk of developing a GDV. Dogs fed single, large meals per day and dogs that exercise before or right after a meal also have an increased risk. Whatever the cause, if a dog develops GDV, it is a serious emergency which must be treated aggressively and almost always requires surgery. This condition has a potentially high death rate, especially if treatment is delayed. In a study done at Purdue University, the Great Dane was the #1 dog at risk, Saint Bernard was the #2 dog at risk, and Weimaraner is the #3 dog at risk. German Shepherds, Akitas, and Standard Poodles are also commonly affected.

Signs that a dog has a GVD are: unproductive retching, large bloated appearance to the abdomen, drooling, gasping for air, agitation, and weakness. If you see these clinical signs, your dog needs medical help immediately! Once your dog arrives at the clinic, we will perform a battery of tests: physical examination, bloodwork, and x-rays (radiographs) to confirm the diagnosis. Next step is surgery to decompress the stomach, assess internal damage and repair (sometimes involves removing the spleen or part of the stomach), and perform a gastropexy to prevent recurrence. For more detailed information on GDV and treatment click here.

Radiograph of a normal abdomen/stomach:


Radiograph of the abdomen of a dog with GDV:



One of the best ways to prevent an at-risk dog from developing a GDV, is performing a prophylactic gastropexy. This is a surgical procedure which involves surgically attaching the stomach to the body wall, thus preventing the twist, or volvulus. Dogs which have a gastropexy can still “bloat” or have a stomach that gets large, but it cannot twist, which causes the most lift threatening problems.

At Best Friends Animal Hospital, we offer prophylactic gastropexy surgeries to any at-risk dogs. We believe the best time to perform this surgery is in conjunction with a spay/neuter procedure. This may be a procedure that could prevent a fatal condition in your dog. Please call today to talk to one of our veterinarians about your dog’s risk and if they are a candidate for this surgery.

Below is a surgical picture of a healed gastropexy site – showing the stomach tacked into place on the body wall. ┬áThis picture was taken years after the original gastropexy (which was performed at his routine neuter) when the dog’s abdomen was opened for an unrelated issue: