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What are Ascites?

Ascites is common in cases of organ failure 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 fluid can cause discomfort, pain, and difficulty 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 the 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
  • Hypoalbuminemia, or low albumin levels
  • Lymphoma
  • Peritonitis, or inflammation of the membranes lining the abdomen
  • Hookworm infection, especially in young dogs
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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 a fluid wave. A CT scan or ultrasound may be used to confirm the presence of fluid. Blood samples will be collected for testing. The peritoneal fluid, or abdominal fluid, may be collected by a syringe for analysis, this is an abdominocentesis. The fluid 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 is unlikely 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 regularlyto 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 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.

Ascites can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs.

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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

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American Pit Bull Terrier

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Thirteen Years

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Unknown severity

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10 found helpful

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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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10 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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6 found helpful

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

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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6 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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Ascites Average Cost

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

Average Cost

$1,800

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