Last week, I received a phone call from a client who had just returned with her dog from Paris. Her dog, Gigi, had been dry heaving at the airport and seemed uncomfortable. But after a few minutes, Gigi seemed fine. I knew that her dog was a deep chested breed and suggested that she bring the dog in for a check up as soon as she could.
When she arrived, Gigi seemed to be normal but had a little bit of abdominal tenderness. I explained that dry heaving may mean nothing, but it can be a sign that the stomach has twisted on itself, also known as Gastric Dilation and Volvulus, GDV (more commonly called "bloat"). I suggested that we take abdominal radiographs to look at the position and shape of the stomach. And the films did show that the stomach was mildly dilated and in an abnormal position typical of early GDV. I transferred Gigi to North Peninsula Emergency Hospital where she had surgery that night. The surgeon untwisted the stomach and sutured it in place so that it cannot flip over again. Because the problem was caught early, she did not have any complications. She had a smooth recovery and went home the following day.
Gigi was very lucky because her owner had heard about GDV and she knew the warning signs. Dry heaving a few times may seem insignificant, especially when your dog seems normal afterwards. But please remember this: If you have a deep chested dog and you see any dry heaving, bring your dog in for a check up right away. And since you have read this article, your dog can be as lucky as Gigi!
I think most people have heard of large, deep chested dogs being prone to the stomach flipping. But I also think that most do not worry about it until the dog is really acting sick and the stomach is so full of gas that it distends the abdomen. And with this unfortunate condition, it can progress and be fatal within hours.
The abdominal radiographs below show a normal stomach and stomachs with bloat (GDV).
By Dr Elaine Salinger
VMD, Medical Director