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
- Helpful 11
- Helpful 6
- Helpful 2
My dog's belly goes from normal to hard and is causing him discomfort. Been to vet 2x all his vitals and blood work came back good this afternoon. He got excited and wanted a walk, so I put on his harness; he walked 20ft, and he sat down. His stomach got hard, and I had to carry him in. What could be causing this?Helpful 3
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?
Are there any abnormalities in the urinalysis? It does not sound like a UTI.
The first thing I thought of when I read your question was hormone induced urinary incontinence. This would explain why she seems more bloated in the morning.
If she is not spayed, however, you also have to consider pyometra. She would not be more swollen in the morning.
The other thing you need to rule out is a cancer in the bladder. She should have x-rays to examine the bladder, and possibly contrast x-rays to look for soft tissue tumor that does not show up on a regular x-ray.
The last possibility is damage to the bladder, but like with cancer and pyometra the swollen abdomen would not be getting smaller during the day.
I do not know what your financial situation is like of course but I definitely recommend that you have this looked at as soon as possible. If it is a tumor, it might be removed but if it is left too long it can grow until it is too large to remove. If it is a bladder injury, it should be closed as soon as possible.
© 2014 Dr Mark