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!
© 2014 Dr Mark