Its technical name is Gastric Dilation (bloat) with Volvulus (torsion): we know it commonly as bloat. And 3 people I know have had their Danes suffer this appalling event in just the last week. One at least did not survive.
For those who don’t know, GDV is an emergency: your dog’s stomach fills with gas (bloat), and the pressure pulls it–and often the spleen–away from the abdominal wall, flipping it and displacing it within the abdomen (torsion). The inlet to the stomach and its outlet to the intestines are both blocked, and the arteries and veins are twisted closed. Tissue starts dying immediately. The only known cure is immediate surgery, which must be performed quickly, or the stomach will be irretrievably damaged and the dog will die anyway. If you haven’t seen a dog suffering bloat symptoms, go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1WrT2719yo, and watch a video of an Akita in the mid to late stages of GDV. If, like me, you’ve seen a dog bloat, you will begin shouting at the screen: get that dog to a vet!! (The Akita survived, by the way.)
While the current research suggests that dogs fed only once a day, those with nervous temperaments or under stress, dogs with a near relative which has bloated, and older dogs all face a higher risk of bloat, it can strike even when none of these factors are present. Depending on which study you believe, anywhere from a quarter to a third of all Danes will bloat some time in their lives. GDV is the second most frequent cause of death in large breed dogs. (See, Glickman, LT, et al., 2000, Journal of the American Veterinary Association, 216: 40-45.)
There’s a preventative: gastropexy surgery, or “tacking,” where the stomach is actually sewn to the right side of the inside of the abdomen. The dog can still bloat with gas, but this prevents it from torsioning, which does most of the damage. It can be done in conjunction with spaying or neutering, and where I live, it can be done laparoscopically, through two smallish incisions (on the non-show side!).
We have put this surgery off for Kunga long enough. Today he is visiting Deer Creek Animal Hospital, where he will have the preliminary blood work before getting tacked in the next few weeks. I just do not want to lose my precious boy to this horrific syndrome.