A dog’s abdomen that is larger or fuller than usual and protrudes beyond the body’s typical shape is said to have abdominal enlargement (see image). Another phrase with a similar meaning is abdominal distention, which frequently refers to cases of abdominal enlargement that are more severe.
What are some causes of abdominal enlargement?
Depending on the age and gender of the dog, abdominal enlargement can occur for a variety of causes. It could be a straightforward issue or perhaps a typical one in some animals. But belly expansion can also be a sign of a serious underlying illness.
Simple reasons for belly growth include:
- Worms in the intestine: Many worms in the intestine can enlarge the abdomen and give a pet a “pot-bellied appearance.” Since pups are more prone to have worms than adult dogs, this is frequently seen in them. In most cases, a straightforward deworming regimen will solve the issue.
- Obesity: When a dog eats excessively, doesn’t exercise enough, or does both, weight increase usually results. Obesity causes abdominal fat to build up and may cause abdominal enlargement. Obesity in dogs may also be a symptom of hormone imbalance (see below).
- Female pregnant dogs typically exhibit belly expansion around the middle to end of pregnancy. The majority of dog owners are aware when their female dog has given birth and anticipate that an abdominal bulge will appear. Spaying female pets who are not reproducing is the simplest technique to prevent pregnancy, ideally while they are young. Try to keep track of when your dog gets spayed if she hasn’t already “You will be ready for potential belly growth from pregnancy and in heat (ready to mate).
- Organ enlargement: The belly may appear bloated if one or more abdominal organs have grown in size. Organ swelling is frequently a symptom of a deeper ailment, such as an infection, inflammation, tumor, neoplasia, or another condition.
- Abdominal fluid that is not constrained: An abdominal fluid buildup is usually cause for concern. Urine, blood, or an effusion—a fluid that escapes from body tissues and gathers in the abdomen—can all be considered free fluids.
- Free pee in the abdomen implies a damaged bladder that is leaking urine; this typically happens after trauma like being hit by a car.
- Free blood in the abdomen is linked to malignancies, bleeding diseases, surgery, trauma, and some types of surgery.
- Effusions may form due to a variety of conditions, including liver illness, heart disease, malignancies in the abdomen, and inflammation of the abdominal lining. Always look into effusions to determine the underlying reason.
- Cancer/tumor: Abdominal organ-specific malignancies and tumors frequently cause abdominal hypertrophy.
- Heart disease: Heart failure can cause the liver to grow and can also lead to an accumulation of free fluid in the abdomen, which can enlarge the abdomen.
- When the thyroid gland is unable to create adequate thyroid hormone, hypothyroidism occurs. Even if these dogs eat less and move more, they still get lethargic and put on weight. Over time, fat deposits surrounding the abdominal organs cause a protruding abdomen.
- Cushing’s Disease is a condition that affects the adrenal glands “hyperadrenocorticism. Dogs with the condition frequently have abdominal enlargement as a result of liver enlargement, abdominal fat buildup, and weakening body walls.
- Gas buildup: Large volumes of gas can become trapped in the stomach and intestines of some dogs, particularly large deep-chested breeds like Great Danes, St. Bernards, and German Shepherds, leading to major abdominal distention. Sometimes the intestines and stomach twist, resulting in a life-threatening condition that calls for immediate surgery.
How do we determine the cause of abdominal enlargement in my dog?
A thorough history and physical examination serve as the starting point for the investigation. The “history of disease” for your dog includes information regarding the duration and speed of any belly enlargement as well as any circumstances that may have occurred before you became aware of the change. For instance, “hypothyroidism” may be present in an overweight, middle-aged dog with a history of sluggish, steady belly expansion (low thyroid hormone). In contrast, bleeding into the abdomen is more likely to occur in a young dog who has been struck by a car and exhibits acute abdominal distension. A thorough medical history provides the vet with crucial hints regarding what is causing the belly bulge.
“A thorough history and physical examination are the first steps in the search for solutions.”
A comprehensive physical examination includes checking the dog out from head to tail, palpating the abdomen, and using a stethoscope to listen to the heart and lungs (gently squeezing or prodding the abdomen with the fingertips to identify abnormalities). A thorough examination may find other anomalies that could account for the abdominal enlargement, such as heart disease, organ enlargement, an abdominal mass, the presence of free fluid, or intestinal gas.
The history and physical examination are crucial, but more testing is typically necessary, and your veterinarian could advise performing screening tests. These straightforward examinations reveal details about the pet’s general health. Complete blood count (CBC), serum biochemistry profile, and urinalysis are the three most popular screening tests.
What might these screening tests indicate?
(a)Complete Blood Count: This straightforward blood test reveals details on the various blood cell types. These include platelets, which aid in blood clotting, white blood cells, which fight infection and respond to inflammation, and red blood cells, which deliver oxygen to the tissues. The CBC identifies the presence of aberrant cells in circulation and offers information about the quantity, size, and shape of the distinct cell types.
The CBC may show anemia, a condition where there are less red blood cells than normal in the blood. Mild anemia in a canine with belly enlargement may indicate hypothyroidism or another chronic illness. An abdominal tumor or more severe anemia may indicate bleeding into the abdomen as a result of trauma. An increase in white blood cells may be a sign of an infection, inflammation brought on by a tumor, or an accumulation of fluid in the belly.
(b) Serum biochemistry is the study of serum’s chemical composition (the liquid part of blood). Serum contains a variety of chemicals, including as proteins, enzymes, lipids, carbohydrates, hormones, electrolytes, and more. The health of the body’s organs and tissues, including the liver, kidney, and pancreas, can be determined by measuring the levels of various chemicals in the blood, which also aids in the early detection of diabetes.
Abnormal biochemistry findings in canines with abdominal distension may reveal which organ is impacted and what the issue might be. Examples include:
- An underlying liver condition or maybe Cushing’s disease may be indicated by excessively high levels of the liver-related enzymes alanine aminotransferase (ALT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), and gamma glutamyltransferase (GGT).
- Abdominal distension may be caused by an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen due to extremely low levels of albumin, a blood protein.
- Serum globulins are immune system-produced proteins that can indicate the presence of malignancy, an infection, or inflammation.
- A dog’s elevated cholesterol level may be a sign of underlying hypothyroidism.
- Very low blood sugar levels may indicate a pancreatic cancer called an insulinoma.
The chemical and physical characteristics of urine are examined during a urinalysis. A urinalysis is crucial for the accurate interpretation of the serum biochemistry profile in sick animals, especially in those with renal or diabetic disease.
What other tests might be done to investigate abdominal enlargement?
Additional testing might involve: Depending on the outcomes of the history, physical exam, and screening tests:
1. Specific blood testing: If a specific disease or sickness is suspected, specialized blood tests may be done. There are numerous specialized tests, some of which include:
Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV)
If ignored, your dog could be in one of the most fatal circumstances. In GDV, the stomach twists, trapping food and gas and obstructing blood supply to the affected area. If untreated, this might become fatal in just a few hours. Gas that has become stuck in the stomach region and started to uncomfortably expand as a result of the bloat restricts blood flow and stops digestion.
GDV cannot be attributed to a single, universal cause. Even yet, it is typically believed to be brought on by swallowing too much air and engaging in strenuous activity just after a large meal. Other elements include:
Visit the neighborhood emergency animal clinic right away if your dog starts to show signs of GDV. Several things to watch out for are:
Feeding your dog at least twice daily can help to avoid this problem, as will delaying exercise following meals.
Cushing’s syndrome, a medical disease, could be the root of your pet’s potbelly. This is brought on by an excess of the stress-related hormone cortisol. Bloat is a symptom of Cushing’s syndrome, which is most frequently seen in dogs older than six. Excessive eating, drinking, and urinating, as well as odd pacing and hair loss, all signs your pup may be going through this.
The dangerous illness known as peritonitis is brought on by a stomach or intestinal wall injury. Ingestion of sharp particles like wood splinters, bone fragments, other abrasive environmental components, tumors, and ulcers are the most frequent causes of this. The local animal emergency center must treat this extremely painful ailment right away. It is highly likely that this problem will need to be corrected by emergency surgery.
Many internal illnesses can result in fluid accumulation in the abdomen region. Ascites is a condition that may be brought on by this buildup. This disorder can be brought on by malignancies, liver disease, kidney disease, digestive issues, and heart failure. Additionally, parasites may be to blame. Ascites is one of the signs of a severe late-stage heartworm infection.
Why is the tummy of my dog so large and solid?
Your dog’s stomach must be bloated, hard, or have an unusual shape for the disease to be true bloat and not weight gain. Make a quick call to your veterinarian if you observe this. You should take him to the emergency vet if it is after business hours. Bloat typically happens when food or gas causes the dog’s stomach to expand.
How is a dog’s stomach debloated?
You are not alone if you have never heard of this word. It goes by the brand names Gas-X and Phazyme, respectively.
Recall from earlier when I said that bloating happens when the stomach swells due to a buildup of gas, liquid, or food.
Although simethicone doesn’t prevent gas bubbles from forming or get rid of them after they’ve formed, it does speed up the process of getting rid of the gas from your dog’s body.
Your dog will feel less bloated and more at ease if the gas leaves more quickly.
By lowering the surface tension of the gas bubbles, it hastens gas expulsion.
These bubbles can, however, easily interact with other tiny bubbles because simethicone reduces their surface tension. The larger bubbles that arise are ejected out more easily because they move through the intestines more quickly.
Simethicone works quickly, and outcomes are typically audible or odorous within minutes.
How Much Gas-X (Simethicone) Can I GIve my Dog?
For dogs, simethicone is quite safe. It is typically well tolerated at particularly high doses and is not absorbed into the bloodstream.
Given that dogs have received doses of up to 8000 mg without experiencing any side effects other than loose stools, many people take the “better safe than sorry” stance when administering this medication and administer extremely high doses anytime they suspect their dog is bloating.
I advise all owners of huge and gigantic breed dogs to keep simethicone on available as a last resort bloat remedy. You might choose to offer 2-4 180mg pills or a chewable type of simethicone to your dog, depending on its size. Bloat Buster, a liquid version of simethicone, is an additional choice.
Do not forget that simethicone is NOT a substitute for veterinary care! You can offer your dog this to pass the time while you’re traveling.
How can you determine if your dog’s tummy is bloated?
While the phrases stomach bloat and GDV are commonly used interchangeably, they are actually two completely different illnesses. Simple stomach bloat or distension occurs when the dog still has the ability to burp and vomit despite having a distended or inflated abdomen.
GDV is more severe, on the other hand. The stomach’s entry and exit twist when the dog’s stomach does. There is no way for the food, gas, or other contents to escape. As the stomach grows bigger, it presses against other organs and veins, causing the bloating to intensify. This hurts and restricts blood flow to other bodily areas, including your dog’s limbs.
The dog’s stomach lining is destroyed by the pressure that the increasing gas in the stomach causes. The tissue may be crushed by the pressure, which causes the cells to perish.
How long before a dog dies from bloat?
Bloat in dogs is a sudden, fatal illness that, if untreated, can kill a dog in a matter of hours. The outlook is frequently bleak even when an owner does suspect a case of bloat and contacts a veterinarian right after.
My dog seems swollen or overweight.
The stomach can enlarge beyond what is normal for a variety of causes. I’ll group them according to the reason for enlargement and begin with the most severe. Near the conclusion of puppies, there are two exceptional cases.
Bloat, also known as GDV, happens when the stomach suddenly twists, obstructing the release of gases. Without treatment, dogs experience gastric enlargement and a quick, horrifying death.
Large breeds of affected dogs are typically distressed and have a painful, hard abdomen. Your dog does not have bloat if they are content and eating or drinking. More information about bloat’s causes and prevention can be found here.
Sometimes less serious causes, including overeating, cause a dog’s stomach to bulge up with gas. This week, I witnessed one that occurred for no apparent reason. These dogs require xrays to monitor the size of the stomach and distinguish them from bloat that might be fatal.
Dogs who are in discomfort hold their stomachs taut and rigid like a drum. We refer to this as splinting. This signal must always be handled seriously.
You can learn more about pancreatitis, which is the most typical cause, at the provided link. Without testing, this cannot be distinguished from other sources of infection or inflammation, such as:
- intestinal blockage brought on by improper food consumption
- twisted or ruptured bowel
- disorders of the gall bladder
- Gunshot wounds or stake wounds
The tummy may appear larger as a result of internal bleeding, but this is rarely the most noticeable symptom. Additionally, these dogs frequently appear sickly, pale, lethargic, or even collapsed.
Two common factors lead to gastrointestinal bleeding:
- Although there is an antidote, most dog owners don’t realize their dogs ate rat poison until symptoms appear. Rat poison prevents blood from clotting.
- The earliest sign of the spleen tumor haemangiosarcoma, which is frequently an inexplicable blood loss,
After any major operation or accident, abdominal hemorrhage is also a very real possibility. Obviously, bleeding is a serious emergency no matter the cause.
Urinary Tract Damage
Urine can seep into the abdomen if there is damage to any part of the urinary tract. The most frequent causes of this are automobile accidents and bladder stones that block the urethra.
Similar to bleeding, the volume of fluid is typically minimal, and other, more blatant symptoms of disease, such as fatigue, straining, or pain, are also present.
When a dog biscuit bag is left out while you’re away from the house, it’s a traditional and occasionally significant cause of bloated stomachs. The majority of dogs will consume the kibble in excess until they are full, at which point the kibble begins to bloat as it absorbs water. Often, the only way for these dogs to feel better is for the vet to make them puke.
Following a meal, stomach distension in pups is extremely common. Nothing to be concerned about as long as they are happy and playful and it passes in a few hours. The following reason must also be taken into account, though…
An extremely common and deadly cause of a young puppy’s bloated stomach is intestinal worms. Roundworms, like the one in the picture, frequently become big and numerous enough to enlarge the stomach and obstruct food flow.