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What are Ascites?

Ascites is common in cases of organ failures or low protein levels, such as in the case of nephrotic syndrome. Fluid and blood can leak into the abdominal cavity from diseased organs, from parasitic migration, from leaks in the tricuspid valve in the heart, or from blocked blood vessels due to high blood pressure. This accumulation of fluids can cause discomfort, pain, and difficulties breathing, as the fluid puts pressure on the organs in the body. While ascites can be treated with a combination of therapies, it will most likely return if the underlying condition is not successfully treated.

Ascites refers to the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity, causing a distension of the abdomen. This is a secondary condition of a more serious issue, such as heart failure, liver disease, or cancer, and needs to be investigated immediately to identify and treat the underlying condition.

Ascites Average Cost

From 341 quotes ranging from $350 - $6,000

Average Cost

$1,800

Symptoms of Ascites in Dogs

The general symptoms of ascites in dogs include:

  • Distension of abdomen due to fluid accumulation
  • Lack of appetite
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Abdominal pain

Due to the range of serious conditions that can cause ascites, other symptoms may be present that can point to the underlying problem, and should be reported to your veterinarian. These can include:

  • Confusion
  • Lethargy
  • Decreased stamina
  • Coughing
  • Shock
  • Anorexia
  • Depression
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased defecation
  • Diarrhea
  • Fainting
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Excessive panting
  • Pale or bluish gums
  • Seizures 
  • Increased urination
  • Increased thirst
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Causes of Ascites in Dogs

The underlying causes of ascites in dogs include:

  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Right heart failure
  • Chronic liver failure
  • Portal hypertension
  • Kidney failure
  • Malnutrition
  • Abnormally low protein
  • Hypoalbuminemia, or low albumin levels
  • Lymphoma
  • Peritonitis, or inflammation of the membranes lining the abdomen
  • Hookworm infection
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Diagnosis of Ascites in Dogs

Your veterinarian will start by confirming the presence of ascites in your dog, and will then search for the underlying cause. This begins with a physical exam, considering all the symptoms present, and any you have reported. A fluid thrill test by palpating the abdomen may reveal the presence of fluid. A CT scan or ultrasound may be used to confirm the presence of fluid. Blood samples may be collected for testing. The peritoneal fluid, or abdominal fluid, may be collected by a syringe after administering medication to prevent shock. The fluid and blood will be tested for abnormalities, and the presence of bacteria, fungus, or any other cause of peritonitis.

Other tests can include fecal samples, a urinalysis, X-rays, MRIs, EKGs, and echocardiographs for heart issues. If a specific condition is suspected, further diagnostic testing can include biopsies of tissues or organs.

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Treatment of Ascites in Dogs

Treatment of the condition of ascites itself includes incorporating a restricted sodium diet. This may not be sufficient to eliminate the abdominal fluid alone, and in that case, diuretics may be used to increase the elimination of sodium through the urine. Prescribed diuretics can include spironolactone and furosemide. Your dog should be reevaluated every 7 to 10 days to adjust medications as needed.

If the ascites is causing considerable discomfort, a significant loss of appetite, or difficulties in breathing, an abdominocentesis may be performed to manually remove only enough fluid to improve your dog’s comfort level. This is accompanied by the administration of polyionic fluids and diuretic therapy. Once the ascitic fluid is mobilized, diuretic therapy with a concurrent low sodium diet may be continued.

The underlying condition that caused the ascites needs to be treated as well. This therapy will be dependent on the condition itself. Treatments can include medications, such as antimicrobials, beta blockers, hepatic protectorants, anti-inflammatories, or antibiotics; replacement of fluids, blood, plasma, or electrolytes; surgeries to remove tumors or perform a liver transplant; or standard cancer treatments. Your veterinarian will discuss the disease and the risks involved and create a treatment plan specific to your dog.

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Recovery of Ascites in Dogs

With concurrent treatments, ascites in your dog can be reduced and managed. You may be sent home with medications and a specific dietary plan, and may have future visits scheduled.

However, recovery will ultimately depend on the success of treatments for the underlying condition. If the ascites is resolved, but the underlying problem is not, the ascites may return. 

Your veterinarian will discuss any home care specific to your dog’s situation, which may include further medications to administer, post-operative care, dietary changes, and future veterinary visits for treatments, or to adjust therapy as needed.

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Ascites Average Cost

From 341 quotes ranging from $350 - $6,000

Average Cost

$1,800

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Ascites Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Chihuahua

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Thirteen Years

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Fluid In Abdomen

Dog was coughing took to get had fluid in lungs, after starting medication had two seizures. Now has fluid retintion in belly, sometimes confused, no appetite. It appears lasik not working. What would be next course of action?

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello I'm sorry to see that your pet has fluid build up in his abdomen. This is usually from right-sided heart failure. Left-sided heart failure can cause fluid build up in the lungs. The next step might be to drain some of the excess fluid from the abdomen, and consider adding another diuretic to his treatment plan. Or if you haven't already, take him to see a veterinary cardiologist for a consult. Good luck.

Aug. 2, 2020

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American Pit Bull Terrier

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Thirteen Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Stomach Bloating, Pacing

My dog's stomach is very bloated. It's been that way for a couple months. She still eats and poops okay. She has two large fatty masses on her body. She's gotten those before and the vet told us they were benign. The one on her underbelly feels softer and looks different than the ones she's had previously. Sometimes she drinks a lot of water likes she's really thirsty. Thank you

July 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. There are a number of things that might be going on with her, including a growth in her abdomen, or a fluid build up. If this has been going on for a couple of months, it would probably be a good idea to have her seen by a veterinarian. They would be able to examine her, see what might be going on, and see if any treatment is needed. I hope that all goes well for her.

July 27, 2020

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Cocker Spaniel

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10.5 Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Bloated Stomach, Breathlessness, Loss Of Appetite, Panting

His stomach has enlarged abnormally due to fluid in his stomach. Uneasiness is movement

July 9, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, This fluid accumulation could be due to heart issues. Your vet can drain some of this fluid off to help your dog feel better. It would be best for your vet to examine your dog and start him on medication to keep this fluid from accumulating. I hope your dog starts to feel better soon.

July 9, 2020

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chi-chi

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Shih Tzu

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2 Months

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Weakness
Abdominal Distension

hi my puppy is an 11wks old shih tzu. i got her 2 wks ago (8wks old) the seller said she had 1 vaccine and 1 deworming. 0.5kg i have noticed that her gums were pale. so i consulted a vet and she was given vitamin b complex with iron after 1 wk she was a little lethargic, but with good appetite and good urine output. she had no diarrhea, but i have noticed that her abdomen was a little big. so since she was scheduled for her next vaccine i brought her to the vet and informed the vet of my concerns. the vaccine was not administered and i was advised to observe her for 24 hours. the symptoms persisted with increasing abdominal girth, her abdomen was like about to explode. i went to the vet the following day and she was admitted and the vet said she has worms. antibiotics and deworming was done. there was a little improvement. she was discharged after 3 days with worsening ascites take home meds cefalexin her cbc sept 11- sept 14 hg-5 hg-2.9 wbc- 7 wbc-5 platelet- 3 platelet-13

Sept. 14, 2018

chi-chi's Owner

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Meg

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Irish Springer spaniel

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13 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Acsitis

Hello, our dog has abdominal effusion and has been drained many times but the vet says he won’t drain her anymore, it’s nearly her time to go and we really want it to be peaceful; would a dog suffering from this usually be in pain when they die? How would it usually happen?

July 21, 2018

Meg's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Depending on the cause of the ascites, a few problems might occur that would be very uncomfortable, but the most pronounced problem would be how difficult it would be to breathe, move, eat, or lie down as her belly gets larger. This is a situation where you making the decision for her is the kindest thing for her. To wait for her to pass on her own from this problem would be cruel. Your veterinarian can help you know when it is time for her, as well.

July 22, 2018

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Izzy

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Pit bull

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Izzy our 9 year old pitty started throwing up 3 weeks ago along with diahrea took her to the vet assuming it was a parasite. They gave us medicine about 6 days later she still had diahrea vomiting and her abdomen was beginning to get bigger. Took her into emergency vet after blood work and xrays her albumin was low and alt a little high. Ultrasounds show no tumors no blood in abdomen after amniosentesis chest xrays show no sign of heart failure. Anti nausea pills worked but abdomen still big and no appetite. Liver bile test showed slightly elevated but not bad. They put her on a diuretic but her abdomen is still big. They also put her on a steroid and the diahrea stopped and appetite is back. We give her b12 shot 1 time a week but her belly is worse and her muscles appear to be wasting away. The vet will not drain her abdomen because her albumin is so low. We haven't solved the underlining problem and not sure where to go from here.

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Dozer

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Pitbull/Husky

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9

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Depression
Not Eating
Unable To Sleep
Extended Abdominal Area
Doesnt Like To Stand For Very Long

my family and i had 2 dogs and after our oldest dog passed away a couple months ago our other dog whos a 9 year old Pitbull/ Husky named dozer got really depressed. He's got back to the happy dog he always was but the last couple weeks we've noticed his abdominal area slowly getting larger. at first it was just a lump of what we thought was a fatty mass, but i was looking at his abdominal area today and its huge. he hasn't wanted to eat anything for the last week and a half, instead he just drinks water, and instead of the happy playful dog he normally is he looks sad, doesn't want to play and doesn't want to stand for very long. i know that he has some type of ascite but how do i figure out what the cause of the problem is?

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Mack

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Boxer

dog-age-icon

5 Years

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Critical severity

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

Mack woke up in the morning and wasn't right. Lethargic,vomiting water,wouldn't eat, unstable walking. Took him to Vet Emergency hospital. He had a septic abdomen, azotemia, peritoneal fluid and was in shock. Serum values: Bun >130 Creatinine 8.0 Phosphorus >16 Amylase >2500 Lipase >6000. CBC was normal. Abdominal fluid turbid and dark yellow, fluid Bun >130, fluid creat 9.8, fluid lac 6.79 We decided to euthanise him after poor prognosis and discussion with VMD. We are devastated. What do you think could have caused this? He was seemingly fine the day before. I don't regret our decision but feel I need an answer for closure. Thank you.

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Bella

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Yorkshire Terrier

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12 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Abdomen
Weight Loss
Vomiting
Diarhea

My 12 year old yorkie yes having a bout of what we thought was IBD but it went on a good deal longer than usual and she was began to lose a lot of weight. Vet placed her on Flagyl after a couple days the wet stools cleared but I noticed her abdomen looked swollen. The vet just found peach colored fluid in her abdomen. Her blood levels all came out good and besides a heart murmur her heart looked good on ultrasound. They want to do a more in depth ultrasound but it seems like something should’ve picked up in her blood panel?! She won’t leave my side and lays around all day now. I feel so terrible.

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Cisco

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French Bulldog

dog-age-icon

4 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Bloated Stomach
Bloated Stomach, Low Hemoglobin

Hello, my 4 month old french bull dog was initially diagnioised with tick fever, his platelets went down drastically. He was prescirbed zedox and lysibin tablets. He started showing signs of improvement however since almost a month he has bloated stomach. couple of weeks back the scanning showed some problem in is liver. His hemoglbing levels are between 6-6.5 and because of this he is also anemic. Currently doctor has stopped all medicines and only prescribed denamarin as the tick fever symptoms have subsided. Currently he is mildly active plays around sometime of the day. Generally alert, eats his food but only if there is egg ! we give him puppy kibbles from royal canin with boiled egg white. Are there any specific food, medicnes available for liver issues and increasing hemoglobin levels and what are the chances of him getting back to normal and by when ?

Ascites Average Cost

From 341 quotes ranging from $350 - $6,000

Average Cost

$1,800