Why Does My Dog Have a Swollen Belly?
Your dog should not have a big belly. If she does, it may just be caused by fat and can be dealt with at home by putting her on a good diet.
If you notice that your dog has a swollen belly, especially if the abdomen is painful, she is eating less, having problems breathing, and also has a thin face or muscle loss in other parts of the body; get help from your vet as soon as possible.
If your dog is in pain do something right away. A swollen and painful belly is an emergency!
Reasons Your Dog Might Have a Swollen Belly
• Heart Disease (like heartworm, heart failure due to severe dental disease)
• Obstipation (late stage constipation)
• Urinary obstruction/stones
• Hormonal (like Cushings)
• Torsion (a twisted stomach, liver, or other organ)
• Pyometra (an infected and swollen uterus in a female dog that has not been spayed)
• Other infection (like peritonitis, hepatitis, etc.)
Tests That Your Vet Might Perform If Your Dog Presents With a Swollen Belly
If the physical exam in abnormal, and the vet can tell that the dog is not just fat, pregnant, or suffering from a torsion, the side of the belly will be clipped and scrubbed before a needle is inserted. If fluid is present a small amount will be drawn off and examined under the microscope.
The thickness (specific gravity) of the fluid will be evaluated. It will be checked for white and red blood cells, bacteria, and any other abnormalities.
Based on the results, your dog may also have his abdomen (and chest) x-rayed and then might need an ultrasound, an EKG, or even exploratory surgery and a biopsy.
How Will Your Dog Be Treated If He Comes in With a Swollen Belly?
Treatment is going to depend on what was found during the dog´s exam and testing.
- For cancer (lymphoma), your dog might be put on chemotherapy, or you can discuss some alternative treatments for cancer.
- If your dog is having trouble breathing because of the fluid and heart failure, it might be drained off and then your dog can be started on medications.
- If the heart failure is secondary to heartworm disease, that will have to be treated too. I recommend the slow kill method, but some veterinarians will want to destroy the worms by killing them all at once.
- Surgery for bloat, other types of torsion, pyometra, urinary obstruction, and maybe for obstipation
- Your dog might need to be on supportive care (like fluids and hospitalization) until the cause of the problem is determined, like in cases of peritonitis.
- If your dog is in distress because of breathing problems, the fluid might be drained off and then he can be treated with antibiotics for the hepatitis or other infection/inflammation.
A Swollen Belly Is an Emergency
A swollen belly might not seem like much, but it is one of the most serious problems you can find during your examination of your dog. Your dog may or may not get better. It really depends on the cause of the swollen belly and how quickly you find out what is wrong.
Your vet can give you a better idea on whether your dog is going to get better after the problem has been determined. Getting thing taken care of right away might mean the difference between life and death.
If you ignore the problem, your dog might end up dying in terrible pain. Find out what is wrong, and do something about it right away.
If your dog is in pain, get help!
Questions & Answers
I gave my dog worm medication for heartworms, and she has blown up like a balloon. What should I do?
If your dog's face and lips are swollen, she is probably having an allergic reaction to the medication. If you have access to an emergency veterinarian, you should take her in right away so that he can monitor her breathing (the throat can become swollen too) and give her a shot for the reaction.
If you do not have access to a vet, then you might be able to give her an antihistamine. See if you have anything on the shelf at home and check the internet first to find out if it is safe for dogs.
If you have nothing available, and cannot take her anywhere, watch her closely. You can also call poison control if you can inform them of which medication you gave your dog.
My American bulldog puppy is two-months-old, vaccinated and dewormed. Suddenly, her stomach became bloated, and she can hardly walk. Why is this happening?
Your puppy may have a treatable condition like hepatitis or peritonitis. If you do not get her to your vet and have the stomach tapped no one can tell you what is going on. If pus comes out, she may be treated with antibiotics. If it is blood, she may need exploratory surgery.
It is probably a good idea to take an x-ray to find out what is going on but only after the swollen belly is examined and tapped.
My best advice to you is to get her to a vet ASAP. If you do not act as soon as possible, your puppy can die.
My dog’s abdomen is swollen. He is in a lot of pain. He cries out a lot. The x-rays the vet took show nothing abnormal. Blood tests show nothing abnormal. What could it be?
Pain is almost always a sign of a twisted organ, like a bloated stomach. The gas buildup would show up on an x-ray, but if it was a twisted liver lobe, it would not. Those organs are mostly fluid.
If you can afford it and your vet can do so, have an exploratory laparoscopy done to check your dog's internal organs. If it cannot be done, an exploratory laparotomy (a surgery to open the abdomen and look around inside) is the next best thing.
If this were you, and you were in pain and the physician could not figure out what was wrong based on x-rays and bloodwork, this is what he would want to do next.
Please do not wait if your dog is in pain.
My dog's abdomen is enlarged, and his x-ray is cloudy, so his organs aren't visible. What could be the problem?
If the organs are surrounded by fluid then they are difficult to see on an x-ray. Fluid on the abdomen can be caused by heartworm infection, heart failure, and many other diseases. The only way to find out what is wrong at this point is to drain off some of the fluid and examine it.
The fluid may be pus, it may be blood, or it may just be a clear protein rich fluid. Find this out as soon as possible so that he can be treated correctly.
I have a 10-year-old, three-legged rescue Miniature Pinscher. She's licked her vulva on & off but the other day had a pee accident/leakage while holding her. We started her on Clavamox in case of UTI. A day or 2 later I noticed her belly was distended but all vitals, excrement, behavior, etc. are normal. When she wakes up in the morning, her belly isn't swollen. It's now happened three days in a row. It's not bloated and doesn't seem to be causing pain; she doesn't seem to notice. Any thoughts?
© 2014 Dr Mark