Our Golden Retriever’s Experience with GDV

I haven’t posted for a few days because we have been taking care of our 8 year old Golden Retriever, Payton.  He recently underwent emergency surgery for GDV (Gastric Dilatation/Volvulus), which is fatal if left untreated.  We were completely shocked and surprised by this and it has been an emotional rollercoster.  He was our “first baby” and is like another member of the family to us.  I wanted to share the signs and symptoms of GDV in dogs.  If it can save just one dog’s life – it’s worth it!

Let’s start from the beginning.  On Tuesday, Payton spent the day at the vet/groomer getting bathed and groomed, and he had his yearly physical examination and vaccinations.  We picked him up that evening, brought him home, and took him for a short walk.  Around 7pm that night he started acting differently.  Payton would go to the back door with his tail between his legs and was acting like he was going to be sick.  I quickly let him out thinking he was probably nauseous from his recent vaccinations.  When I went outside I noticed he was trying to vomit, but nothing would come up.  He had an arched back and his whole body was convulsing each time he would try to vomit.  I did think it was odd, but after a few seconds he trotted back in the house wagging his tail and laid down. 

In the middle of the night this happened two more times.  I started thinking, maybe he ate something funny or accidentally ate one of the kids plastic toys.  (This has happened in the past).  So I slept on the couch next to him just in case he had to go outside to throw up.  By morning this was still going on and when I let him out he wouldn’t come back to the door to be let in.  I went out to find him and he was in a corner of the yard just staring at me.  When I called to him he didn’t immediately run over to me.  He was also panting, drooling, and somewhat foaming at the mouth.  I knew something was wrong and called the vet, who said to bring him in immediately.

When we got there, the vet examined him and said his spleen felt enlarged.  They did an x-ray and determined Payton had GDV (Gastric Dilatation/Volvulus), a condition where the stomach bloats and fills with gas, causing it to expand.  The pressure becomes too much, causing the stomach to rotate in the abdomen, essentially turning or twisting on itself.  This cuts off blood circulation and prevents the stomach from expelling foods and gases.  I was told he had to have emergency surgery or he would die.  And even with surgery the chance of death was high.  Our vet said she wouldn’t know what she would find when she opened him up – the stomach and other organs could be black and dead…and at that point I might have to make the decision to put him to sleep.

To put it mildly, I was extremely shocked when the vet spoke these words.  I was overcome with guilt for not recognizing these signs earlier or even knowing about this condition, which I have now learned is more common in large breed dogs, such as Golden Retrievers.  As they prepped for surgery I sat in tears with Payton and said my goodbyes.   

The surgery lasted three long hours.  During that time I googled GDV and learned it is the second leading killer of dogs after cancer.  More than half of dogs with GDV die (mainly because they can not get to a vet in time).  Surgical outcomes depend on many factors, and even if dogs make it through surgery, there may still be many complications.  Many dogs who seem to be doing fine two days post op can suddenly take a turn for the worse and die. 

Thank God Payton made it through surgery.  The vet said his stomach was not damaged, and though his spleen didn’t look good at first, as she twisted the stomach back, it began to look better.  Everyone in the office said he “cheated death”, but that he would have a long recovery and he was still not out of the woods.  After two days at the vet, we were able to bring Payton home on Valentine’s day.  Best Valentine’s Day gift ever. 

We are on day 4 post surgery and Payton is improving every day.  Each day has it’s ups and downs.  Our biggest challenge has been getting him to eat.  We finally determined his meds were making him so nauseous that he had absolutely no appetite.  Today he has had 3 small meals (crackers, peanut butter and shredded chicken breast).  Each day his appetite has improved, and he is getting the rest he needs.  Recovery for GDV in dogs takes about 3-4 weeks, and lifestyle modifications are required going forward including eating 2-3 small meals per day and not going for walks 1 hour before and 2 hours after eating.

If you ever see your dog showing these signs – take them to the vet immediately.  It could save their life!  The earlier you recognize the symptoms of GDV, the better your dog’s prognosis.

  • Unproductive vomiting (hallmark symptom
  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive drooling
  • Foamy mouth
  • Licking the air
  • Anxiety and restlessness
  • Does not want to be with people
  • Hunched up appearance
  • Hard or bloated stomach
  • Pacing or seeking a hiding place

For more information and to learn more about GDV in dogs please visit:

American College of Veterinary Surgeons  http://www.acvs.org/animalowners/healthconditions/smallanimaltopics/gastricdilatationvolvulus/

The Bark

Vet Surgery Central

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