Causes of Ascites in dogs
Learn what to watch for should your dog have a distended abdomen
Ascites is a medical definition depicting fluid accumulation in the abdomen. In a dog, it can have various underlying causes and it often indicates some sort of organ malfunction or abnormality. A dog may have a slight form of ascites with subtle symptoms when there is little fluid accumulation, or the dog may present with a distended and enlarged abdomen when the fluid accumulation is substantial.
In a dog, ascites may indicate a serious underlying condition that requires treatment. In some cases, the abdomen may enlarge rapidly requiring immediate veterinary help, because the enlarged abdomen may compress the diaphragm and interfere with breathing. This is a symptom you definitively don't want to try to treat at home. First because the fluid accumulation may be due to many serious underlying conditions that need addressed, and second because the fluid accumulation may increase causing serious complications such as trouble breathing and weakness. Below are some common causes of ascites in dogs:
- Liver disease causing low serum protein levels.
- Heart failure causing increased pressure in the veins making fluids leak into the abdomen. At times, this can be cause by the presence of heartworm disease.
- Peritonitis causing intestinal contents to leak out
- Hypoalbuminemia, which means low albumin levels caused by the liver not functioning well possibly because of a portosystemic shunt or an infection. In this case, when albumin is lacking, there isn't anything that can help contain water in the blood stream so it just leaks out of blood vessels and other spaces of the body such as the abdomen.
- Pyometra, causing pus in the uterus to leak out. This is seen in unspayed females and is a medical emergency.
- Kidney problems causing the dog to be losing albumin out of the kidneys,
- Bleeding disorder such as from ingesting rat poison or an inherited blood clotting disorder (causing blood to seep into the abdomen)
- Trauma (caused by the rupture of the spleen, bladder or gallbladder and its contents to leak out)
- A ruptured blood vessel in the abdomen causing blood loss, anemia and shock (often caused by injury or a ruptured tumor)
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Symptoms of Ascites
Dogs affected by ascites will exhibit the typical sign of a distended abdomen. Tapping on the abdomen will produce a dull, flat noise. Depending on the underlying cause of ascites there may be accompanying symptoms owners must be on the look out for:
Breathing difficulty (suggesting the distended abdomen is interfering with breathing)
Cough (often suggesting heart disease)
Weakness (in some cases, suggesting internal bleeding)
Pale gums (suggesting anemia or shock from internal blood loss)
Treatment of Ascites
Treatment focuses on detecting the underlying causes. Often a procedure called Abdominocentesis is required where a needle is inserted to drain out the excessive fluids allowing the dog to breath better. This can help the pet feel more comfortable, but it won't stop the fluid leaking unless the underlying cause is addressed.The fluids collected are often analyzed so to come to a proper diagnosis. Ascites due to trauma may require blood transfusions and emergency surgery. Diuretics are often prescribed (such as Furosemide) to aid the body in flushing away excessive fluids. Dogs on diuretics will urinate more. IV Fluids are administered in case of shock or dehydration.
Ascites is a condition that should not be left untreated especially when it appears suddenly. The underlying cause needs detected as soon as possible in order to treat effectively and promptly. Never underestimate a dog with a distended abdomen.
Vet explains possible causes for dog ascites
Four further reading
- How to Get an "Almost" Free Veterinarian Visit
If you are short of money and your dog is sick, you may be looking for a low-cost or free veterinarian visit. Following are some strategies to save some money.
- How to Protect Your Dog from Heartworm Disease
Learn what heart worm disease is, the symptoms it causes and how you can prevent it from happening. The likeliness of getting this disease are naturally much higher from the beginning of early spring up to late fall, when mosquitoes are most likely e
- Heartworm disease and dogs
Heartworm: the name of this disease effectively depicts this deadly condition caused by adult worms living along the pulmonary arteries and within the right ventricle of the dog's heart. Not many owners are aware of this condition, but veterinarians.
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