This is the winter of our GDV’s

 (Apologies to Shakespeare!)


A feature of the last few weeks at Clutha Vets, has been a rash of Gastric Dilation with Volvulus – abbreviated to GDV in the surgery and known on the farm as ‘bloat’ in the dogs. This is a syndrome that is almost exclusive to large, deep chested dogs, so the Huntaway features particularly prominently. In the last 3 weeks we have had dealings with 5 of these dogs – 2 didn’t survive to make it to the clinic, 1 was put to sleep on the operating table, and 2 have just had their sutures removed following successful surgery. It is quite likely that a few more dogs have died in their kennels overnight and we haven’t heard about them.


Why the sudden rush?

GDV is a syndrome that is associated with feeding, and my theory is that with shorter days and less work, the dogs are fed in the evening without getting the same length of run around that they usually get.


With a lack of exercise, a large meal (sometimes every other day) and boredom, resulting in increased drinking and a fluid filled stomach. Dog rolls over and the stomach fails to make the turn – the twist happens and it is all downhill from there! The stomach fills with gas, puts pressure on the diaphragm and compromises blood supplies, and the dog dies of a combination of shock and asphyxiation.


It is of note that the dog with the least damage from the GDV had been spotted out of sorts in the early afternoon and veterinary attention was sought quickly. The other survivor lost part of its stomach but at least he’s still alive. Interestingly, most of them seem to be dogs, not bitches.


What to look out for?

If any dog, particularly a Huntaway, shows a sudden depression, restlessness, abdominal distension (drum like in size and tone!), excessive drooling or retching without vomiting -


 This is not a condition that can be popped onto the truck or back in the kennel until the stock work is finished! By then the dog will be dead, or the damage so severe that euthanasia will be required.


What to do to prevent it?

If we had a protocol that farmers could follow that would prevent this condition, we wouldn’t see it! Unfortunately there is more to it than that.

  • The veterinary profession is united in the opinion that feeding smaller meals regularly is a key to prevention, but by no means the whole story.
  •  Maintaining a working dog in good condition and keeping some weight on when they are working is important, even if it means feeding a premium diet.
  • Many lines of huntaway have had the tendency bred into them, and not breeding from these blood-lines would definitely reduce the incidence. Any dog with a first degree relative that has had a GDV should not be bred from.
  • It is possible to perform a surgical procedure called a ‘gastropexy’ that tacks the stomach to the abdominal wall and prevents the stomach from twisting. In more litigious societies (i.e. the USA), a veterinarian would be considered negligent for not doing this procedure during any abdominal surgery on at risk breeds!


GDV is a particularly unpleasant way for a dog to die; owners of deep chested breeds should be constantly aware of the possibility of this condition and do what they can to prevent it. GDV is a condition that we at Clutha Vets would be happy to never see again!