Twisted gut in working dogs


Gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), often referred to as “a twisted gut” is a common, life threatening condition in large, deep chested dogs around the world. In NZ there is a high incidence of this condition in Huntaway working dogs. GDV is invariably fatal unless treated with emergency surgery, and even with the most advanced treatment some dogs do not survive.

A gastropexy is a procedure in which the stomach wall is adhered to the abdominal wall in order to prevent the stomach from twisting again. This is routinely performed as part of the surgical protocol when a dog afflicted with a GDV is brought in for veterinary treatment in order to prevent recurrence of the problem. Gastropexy is recommended for every patient with GDV and also those with a history of dilatation (bloating).

It is important to understand that gastropexy does not prevent future episodes of gastric bloating, but does greatly reduce the incidence of volvulus which is the life threatening twisting of the stomach. Prophylactic (an elective, preventative measure) gastropexy should be considered in any dog that is considered to be at high risk, even if there have not yet been clinical signs or any known family members affected by GDV. Close attention to after-care and feeding instructions will reduce the chance of any post-op complications.

The procedure should not cause any complications to the stomach's natural placement or flow but long term feeding management can still be helpful to lessen the risk posed from bloat. Although usually done once the dog has proven to be promising as a working dog remember that in a young dog this procedure could be done at the same time as castration or spay surgery to preemptively prevent the occurrence of GDV. Have a regular discussion about the health and performance of your working dog team with the veterinarians at VetSouth Ltd.

- Hugh Hasselman


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