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Seriously Scary - GDV

First off, GDV stands for gastric dilation and volvulus. This is a serious, life-threatening condition that can occur in any dog breed, but most commonly in deep-chested dog breeds like Great Danes, Labradors, Weimaraners, Standard Poodles and Saint Bernards. The direct cause of GDV is not known but there are many factors that contribute to the development of the condition. These factors include rapidly consuming food, exercise immediately before or after eating, stressful conditions, increased age or inherent motility disorders of the stomach. There is a gas accumulation in the stomach that then leads to distention and a rotation or twist of the entire stomach.

So, how do you recognize this condition? The most common signs are abdominal distension, vomiting or retching (unproductive vomiting), restlessness or signs of pain. Occasionally, the dog may even collapse. These signs usually progress as the condition worsens. This condition can become very serious very quickly. As the stomach twists, the blood supply is cut off. This is a life-threatening situation that can lead to necrosis of the stomach. If your pet is showing any of these signs, they should already be in the car and on the way to a vet!

Diagnosing GDV is usually fairly straightforward. Abdominal radiographs show a dilated stomach that is full of gas and some food materials. Often times, a stomach tube cannot be passed due to the rotated stomach. Treatment of a GDV is multi-faceted. IV fluids must be administered for cardiovascular support. The patient is typically placed under anesthesia and decompression of the stomach is attempted. Usually, surgery is required to reposition the stomach. The stomach is then sutured to the abdominal wall in a procedure called a gastropexy. This prevents the stomach from twisting again in the future, as this condition often repeats itself. If the condition is severe enough, sometimes the stomach or the spleen may need to be resected due to necrosis. These conditions unfortunately increase the mortality rate of this condition. Recovery from the condition takes several days, as food is slowly re-introduced post-operatively.

This radiograph of a canine abdomen shows a severely distended stomach full of gas. 

This radiograph of a canine abdomen shows a severely distended stomach full of gas. 

There are many things you can do to try to prevent this condition from occurring in your pet. Changes to feeding habits can decrease the incidence rate. Feed multiple, smaller meals throughout the day and have a significant time gap in between feeding and exercise. Some dogs, like my mother’s dog Milly, often inhale their food within seconds. Placing a rock or large ball in the bowl to slow down eating is often helpful. None of these methods, however, are 100% effective. A prophylactic gastropexy may prevent this condition from occurring in your pet. This procedure tacks the stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent twisting from occurring. This procedure does involve an abdominal laparotomy; it is often done when spaying female dogs that are pre-disposed to this condition.

Hopefully, this gives you a bit of insight on a serious and life-threatening condition many dogs face. Most famously, Marley from the film “Marley and Me” suffered from a GDV at some point in the film. 

Marley from the classic canine film "Marley and Me". Just had to throw a cute lab puppy picture in for a smile.

Marley from the classic canine film "Marley and Me". Just had to throw a cute lab puppy picture in for a smile.

Breaking Down the Feline Annual Exam

This post is meant to breakdown what we at CSAH call a "feline yearly." Cats are now the number one pet in America, but very few Americans bring their cats in for annual exams. As with dogs, it is highly recommended to bring your cat in for an annual visit every year. Vaccines and a good physical examination are essential to feline preventative care. Here is a breakdown of our feline yearlys:

Feline annual examination:

  1. FVRCP
  2. FeLV Vaccine
  3. Rabies Vaccine
  4. Nail Trim (if desired)
  5. Annual Bloodwork
  6. Full Physical Examination

1. FVRCP: a combination booster with a lot of letters representing different diseases – we will break down the acronym below:

  • FVR: stands for Feline Viral Rhinotracheitis and calicivirus – these two viruses cause upper respiratory tract infections in cats that are easily transmitted from cat to cat. Kittens are more often affected, but unprotected cats can easily be infected. Once infected, many cats become a carrier of these viruses for life.
  • C: stands for Chlamydophilia– this is a bacterial infection that causes respiratory disease in cats. It is highly contagious, especially in kittens. It can cause infection in the eyes and the lungs if it is left untreated.
  • P: stands for panleukopenia – this is the feline distemper virus. This is a highly infectious disease that can survive in the environment for up to a year! Treatment of this disease is very difficult and the prognosis, once infected, is typically poor.

2. FeLV Vaccine – a vaccination agaisnt Feline Leukemia. This disease is the leading cause of death in cats in North America and can cause very serious health problems in cats. Cats can develop cancerous leukemia and secondary infections throughout the body. Cats can be carriers of this disease for months or years before showing clinical signs.

3. Rabies Vaccine – required by law. We usually start giving a 3 year vaccine to cats after they have had two one year vaccines in a row. We will give each cat a current rabies tag at every annual visit. See our previous blog post for more information on rabies.

4. Nail Trim – a complimentary pedicure for any cat that wants one. This is done much less often than in dogs, but is actually easier to do on a well-mannered cat. 

5. Annual Bloodwork – this is optional, but highly encouraged as your cat begins to age. We have two options available, depending on your cat’s current health status and age:

  • Junior Profile: a mini-chemistry panel checking liver and kidney values, blood glucose, thyroid (T4) levels, a complete blood count looking at red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, and a heartworm antigen test. We recommend this bloodwork for cats once they turn 3-4 years old and annually after that until your pet reaches their “senior years.”
  • Senior Profile: a full chemistry panel with a more in depth look at liver and kidney function, electrolytes, blood glucose, thyroid (T4) levels, a complete blood count looking at red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets, a urinalysis and a heartworm antigen test. We recommend this bloodwork for cats once they reach 7-8 years old. This is also a good panel for any cat that has been sick or having urinary issues. 

6. Full Physical Examination - there is nothing more valuable to a veterinarian than a physical examination. Looking at every aspect of your pet every year helps to keep track of your pet as they age. We can make sure any lumps or bumps are not changing significantly and check for early signs disease, especially heart disease and dental disease in aging kitties. There have been several cases where a cat comes in for annual vaccines, and a very significant disease has been found and treated just from a good physical examination. 

Hopefully this has been a good break down of our typical feline yearly examination. We would love to see more cats coming in for annual for vaccines in 2014. We see many dogs annually for vaccines, but cats do not come in nearly as often, and it is just as important! Please post a comment if you have any questions. Call us today at 615-377-4959 to schedule your pet’s annual exam!

Pet Loss Support Sessions

The loss of a pet can be a devastating loss. To many of us, a pet is another member of the family. If you, your family or someone you know has lost a pet, they may benefit from grief support. Nashville Veterinary Specialists and Licensed Counselor Peg Beehan are hosting a series of free Pet Loss Support Sessions to help grieving pet owners. These sessions are going to be held Saturdays from 9 to 10 am at Nashville Veterinary Specialists, 2971 Sidco Drive. The dates are as follows: January 11th, February 8th, March 8th, April 12th, May 3rd and June 7th.  Please call 615.386.0107 to reserve a spot at one of these beneficial sessions. If you have any questions, you are welcome to call our office at 615.377.4959, and we will be glad to help you!