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It’s a Gastrointestinal Emergency! Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV) in dogs

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) is a life-threatening condition affecting dogs where the stomach becomes bloated (dilated) and twists, with catastrophic consequences.

What is Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus?

Gastric Dilatation- Volvulus is a life-threatening condition requiring urgent veterinary attention. When the stomach swells with gas and food, it reaches a point where the mixture cannot be passed. Pressure starts to build in the stomach. The bloated stomach puts pressure on surrounding tissues, such as the diaphragm, affecting breathing. It also prevents blood returning from the abdomen to the heart as it should. Lack of oxygen in the tissues can cause the tissues to die off. In some cases, the stomach may rupture. Shock and septicaemia may also occur.

Which breeds are affected?

Giant and large breed dogs are most at risk for GDV, and those with a deep chest also have an increased risk. It is thought that dogs that are fed once a day, older dogs and dogs that have relatives who have had GDV may also have a higher risk of developing the condition.

According to PetSure data (across the 2020 calendar year), Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus is most prevalent in the following breeds:

Great Dane1.95%
Bernese Mountain Dog1.39%
German Shepherd0.63%
Dogue De Bordeaux0.56%
Poodle – Standard0.48%
Rhodesian Ridgeback0.41%

Prevalence = Total number of unique claiming pets / total number of insured pets across 12-month period. Excludes breeds with less than 500 active pet insurance policies.

Signs of Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

Generally Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus is very painful, especially in the initial stages. The dog may be drooling, retching as if trying to vomit, restless, looking back towards their stomach, or stretching/bowing. As the condition continues, they may show signs of increased panting, breathing difficulty, pale gums, weakness, collapse and sudden death may occur.

Management of Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus

GDV is an emergency condition, requiring urgent treatment. The longer that it goes untreated, the more damage that occurs to the tissues which increases the chances of death. The earlier it is treated, therefore, the better chance for survival. Initial treatment includes stabilisation of shock and other systemic signs. Decompression of the bloated stomach is also performed. Surgery to untwist the stomach and check the surrounding tissues for damage is performed. Sometimes damaged parts of the stomach and the whole spleen may need to be removed. The final part of the surgery involves attaching the stomach to the abdominal wall to prevent the stomach twisting again. This is called a gastropexy. Some Vets recommend that preventative gastropexy is done at the time of de-sexing for young, at risk dogs. 

How much does it cost to treat?

According to PetSure claims data from the 2020 calendar year, the average, single treatment cost relating to Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus was $1,391, with the highest, single treatment cost being $13,040.

Is Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus covered by pet insurance?

Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus is generally covered under Comprehensive Accidental Injury and Illness pet insurance policies administered by PetSure (check our brand partners at, unless related to a pre-existing condition or exclusion and subject to your policy terms and conditions. Refer to your policy documents and Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) for more information.

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