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What is Bloated?

Your dog’s stomach may seem bloated once in awhile due to eating too much or eating something he is not supposed to, but a hard, swollen belly is not normal. If you notice that your dog is not acting normal, has a bloated belly, tries to vomit, circles like he cannot get comfortable, and has trouble breathing, you need to get your dog to a veterinary emergency hospital right away. This may be a life-threatening illness called bloat. Here are some other common causes of bloating in dogs:

  • Stomach cancer or other tumors
  • Heart problems
  • Internal bleeding
  • Infection
  • Parasites
  • Poisoning

Bloating in dogs is usually a sign that something is wrong and it needs to be checked out if it does not go away within a few hours. Since bloat can be lethal within hours, you should not wait longer than a few hours and you should not try to diagnose him on your own. Do not give him any kind of medication unless the veterinarian tells you to. It is best if you take him to see a veterinary professional right away.

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Why Bloated Occurs in Dogs

There are many causes of bloating in dogs and many are serious, so it is important to see a veterinary professional right away.

Bloat (Gastric Dilation Volvulus)

Bloat is considered by most experts to be the most emergent situation for a canine. This is a condition that happens when a dog eats too much or swallows too much air and the swollen stomach rotates and traps the gas inside the stomach. The other symptoms include circling, vocalizing, trying to vomit, depression, and anxiety. This condition is more common in older dogs and large dog breeds with deep chests such as:

  • Standard Poodle
  • Gordon Setter
  • Akita
  • Basset Hound
  • Irish Setter
  • German Shepherd
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Boxer
  • Weimaraner
  • St. Bernard
  • Great Dane

Intestinal Cancer or Other Tumors

Some types of cancer are more common in dogs, but the most common include:

  • Intestinal (Adenocarcinoma)
  • Liver (Hepatocellular Carcinoma)
  • Adrenal Gland Cancer (Pheochromocytoma)

Heart Problems

Heart failure and some cardiac infections can cause a buildup of peritoneal in the abdominal area. Other signs of heart disease in your dog are coughing and breathlessness.

Internal Bleeding

This is usually caused by a trauma to the abdominal or chest area. Blood will build up and cause the stomach to swell.

Infection

An infection of the womb (pyometra) and other infections, can cause abdominal bloating as well. Some of the other symptoms you will see may include:

  • Bloody vaginal discharge
  • Excess thirst
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Parasites

Roundworms can cause the stomach to swell. This is a common condition in puppies but can affect a dog of any age and breed.

Poisoning

There are numerous things that can cause poisoning in dogs, and that includes everyday items that we use every day such as seasonings and vitamins. Other items that can cause bloat are chocolate, some plants, medications, and even some bugs.

What to do if your Dog is Bloated

If your dog has signs of bloat, you need to take him to an animal hospital immediately. Do not wait to make an appointment with your regular veterinarian unless they will take you immediately. This is an extremely painful and fatal condition that will kill your dog within a few hours. Bloat causes the stomach to twist upon itself and blocks both the openings to the stomach, making it impossible for your dog to pass the gas and cutting off the blood supply. It usually requires emergency surgery to put the stomach back in its original position.  

Stomach cancer or other tumors can be treated with medication or may need to be removed surgically. Your veterinarian will let you know what options are available for your dog.

Heart problems such as infections that cause fluid retention are usually treated by removing the fluid with a needle. Medication will be started to control the heart problems.

Often, infections like pyometra, which is a uterine infection, can cause abdominal swelling. Other symptoms include bloody discharge, fever, and appetite loss. The veterinarian will likely prescribe an antibiotic and maybe a corticosteroid to reduce the swelling.

Parasites such as roundworms need medication to be removed from the body. You should make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as you can if you believe your dog has roundworms.

Poisoning needs to be treated immediately because it can be lethal as well. The veterinarian will likely give your dog an emetic to induce vomiting, a gastric lavage to flush the stomach, and intravenous fluids to help circulation.

Prevention of Bloated

To prevent bloat, you should feed your dog more than two meals per day and add canned food to his diet. Try to keep him calm after eating and do not let him run around with a full stomach.

You cannot prevent cancer, but you can feed your dog veterinary approved foods and supplements known to help prevent cancer. Talk to your veterinarian for suggestions about what is right for your dog.

Heart problems can be prevented by visiting your veterinarian on a regular basis.

Infections that can cause bloat include those that are bacterial, anaerobic, and fungal. You can prevent these infections by keeping your dog away from areas where there are known to be outbreaks and keeping your dog up-to-date on his vaccinations. 

Parasites such as roundworms and heartworms can be prevented by seeing the veterinarian every three months. You should also give your dog dewormer and follow up with the veterinarian as needed.

Poisoning can be avoided by keeping toxic chemicals, food, and other dangerous items away from your dog.

Cost of Bloated

The cost of bloating in dogs can range from $150 to $200 for a veterinary visit and some medicine for worms, to $7500 for intestinal cancer which is a more serious condition. The cost for treating a case of poisoning will vary depending on the toxic substance and the exposure to it; chocolate poisoning, for example, may present a cost of $2500.

Bloated Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Sadie
Basset Hound
1 Month
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Bloating

I have a 1 month and 3 week old female basset hound. I noticed today she her stool has been different than usual and is coming out a little liquidity than usual. I also noticed that her stomach is a little bigger however not hard. I noticed she has red eyes and she feels warm than usual. She pees on a regular basis and drinks water. Should I be concerned? Would I be able to get some advise. Or if need to take her to a vet or hospital. Thank you.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2479 Recommendations
There are a few different causes of bloating in puppies which may include worms, infections, dietary intolerance among other issues; you should make sure that Sadie is kept hydrated and up to date on worm prevention, but if it feels like she is running a fever you should visit a Veterinarian for an examination. While you’re at the Veterinarian you can discuss vaccination if you haven’t started already. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Sephiroth
Siberian Husky
9 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

Bloating

In September my Male Husky, was urinating blood,vomiting, was swaying, couldn't hold himself up and couldn't drink water by himself. Took him to the vet, they gave him Enroflox and Vitamin K; Before that he had fleas on him (i don't know if that has to do with him getting bloated but might as well add that information in) he then started to get bloated in October started urinating blood again, they prescribed Amoxi. In November the gave him Virbantal for tapeworms, he still had a bloated stomach (we noticed he was losing muscle a while later after he got bloated), took him to the vet to see why he was still bloated in January they took out blood from his stomach and said he had internal bleeding, they took x-rays, said the x-rays were white and couldn't see anything, but said he wasn't 100% sure what it was, said he was going to do research about what it might be; they gave us vitamin k to give to him to see if he would get better with that. The bloating still hasn't gone down and it's been months, Sephiroth is eating and drinking normally, looks uncomfortable with the bloating. Has been having diarrhea recently (there's no blood when he poops and pee's), vet said to give him Kaopectate for the diarrhea, if anyone has any idea what he might have please let me know, Thank You

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1057 Recommendations
Thank you for your email. Without examining Sephiroth, I'm not sure what might be causing his signs. Fluid in the abdomen can be caused by heart or liver disease, heartworms, or protein loss. Blood in the abdomen might be due to a tumor or rat poison ingestion. If he hasn't improved since January, you should follow up with your veterinarian. If they aren't sure what is going on with him, they may want to refer you to a specialist to determine what is happening and what can be done about it.

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Buddy
Corgi
7 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Swollen Abdomen

I have a 7 yr old corgi/rat terrier mix. He has been fine up until about a year ago. Everytime he eats and generally most all of the time his tummy is rock hard and swollen. He quietly whines generally all the time. However, at any moment you can get his attention to a toy, go outside, play with him etc...and he shuts the whining off like flipping a light switch. I have taken him to the vet and they said it was possible that it was his food so we have changed his food several times over the course of many months to no avail. Took him back to the vet and he now says possible gastroperisis. Please help me try to figure out what is going on with my baby.
Sometimes after a good BM he will stop the whining and stomach softens and swelling goes down.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2479 Recommendations
It is difficult to say what the specific cause of the bloating is, food elimination diets can be random at best; infections, parasites, gastroparesis among other causes may cause bloating but I cannot really say what the specific cause is. It may be a case of consulting with a Specialist to help narrow in on a diagnosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Brona
German Malinois
3 Months
Fair condition
0 found helpful
Fair condition

Has Symptoms

Bloating

I have a 3 month old German Shepherd mixed Belgian Malinois, everytime she eats her dog food and drink water, she become bloated and the after how many hours passed by, her stomach becomes normal sized again. Is this normal?

Dr. Michele King, DVM
Dr. Michele King, DVM
1057 Recommendations
Thank you for your question. WIthout examining Brona, it is hard for me to comment on whether the degree of stomach bloating that she gets is normal. It isn't abnormal for puppies to have a more full appearance after eating, but she may also be showing a food intolerance. It would be best to have her examined by your veterinarian, make sure that she doesn't have intestinal parasites, and assess her general health. If you are able to take pictures that show he before and after eating, that may haelp as well, as your vet will be able to assess if that is normal or not. I hope that she does well.

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Dobson
Bouvier des Flandres
7 Years
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Bloating

Hi, my dog has only been eating snow (he has a bad habit every winter to do this) and refusing to drink water and/or eat his regular dry dog food. He appears bloated. He is not very energetic, but he has enjoyed his walk the past couple days. We live in a very cold climate and he is not able to get out for his regular walks, which I feel he might be stressed about; plus, during the holidays we have company staying with us, which has thrown him off his regular routine. He is urinating normally, his defecating but feces appears black? He hasn't eaten much, but has eaten treats and ice cubes? I am worried about him. Unsure if this is an emergency. It's Christmas and vets are closed and do not want to disturb individuals on their holidays. He just doesn't seem like himself and my husband notices the same behaviour and we are all worried. Hope you can provide us with some good advice. Thank you

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2479 Recommendations
Whilst eating snow isn’t a bad thing and may not be indicative of anything important, the black faeces is concerning and may indicate digested blood in the stool. I would recommend keeping an eye on Dobson for the next few days and don’t allow him to consume any snow (take him out on a lead); also ensure that he has an appropriate complete diet for his age and size. Monitor him and his stool, but I would suggest visiting your Veterinarian to take a look at the black faeces for the presence of blood. There are varying opinions on why dogs eat snow, some are shared in the article below. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/dog-spies/why-do-dogs-love-snow/

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Susie
Chihuahua
9 Years
Serious condition
0 found helpful
Serious condition

My 4 pound female 9 year old Chihuahua has developed a bloated abdomen which has not subsided for months. She has become an extremely picky eater and eats much less and poorer food choices as she refuses to eat the normal healthy foods that she used to consume on a regular and normal basis. Her abdomen feels like a soft balloon. She has had X-ray and Ultra Sound which shows everything appears normal. I haven't done blood work yet but that is next. My Veterinarian cannot give me a sound answer or solution to my Chihuahuas issue.
She has not lost weight.
What do I do to rid her of her bloated belly and resume her appetite for the healthy foods she once consumed eagerly?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2479 Recommendations
Picky eating is difficult to resolve as a dog may turn its nose up at quality food in favour of a poor quality food which may cause gastrointestinal issues like bloating and other issues (similar to a child which will refuse a slice of beef but will eat a beefburger). I am not sure specifically what is wrong with Susie, but you should try encouraging eating with high quality wet food which is slightly warmed up in the microwave to make it more appetising; I don’t have any shortcuts unfortunately. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Daisy
Shih-Tzu
3 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

My 3 year old shih tzu/dachshund mix has a hard distended abdomen. I got home around 5pm and immediately let her outside, when I let her in about an hr later I noticed how hard and distended her abdomen is, she has no other symptoms. She was wrestling around like normal with my other dog, her abdomen isn’t tender to the touch, she’s urinating, and she DOES have bowel sounds. My dogs are famous for getting into things they shouldn’t, so I don’t want to take her to the vet and pay an outrageous bill if she simply just ate something she shouldn’t of, but I also don’t want to not take her to the vet and something be wrong.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2479 Recommendations
It isn’t just if Daisy ate something she shouldn’t but if she did, is it dangerous for dogs? A distended abdomen by be bloated by gas or fluid, sometimes a bit of gas will accumulate after eating something or from air gulping and usually passes; fluid may also accumulate due to various different issues. Without examining Daisy I cannot say whether or not if you should be worried or not; if she is otherwise in good spirits and playing with the other dogs I’d keep an eye on her but if in doubt visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Weenie
Daschund
7 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

My daschound is 7 yes old and he is walking like he has to poop and once he does he picks up the pace a little, tummy is hard, shaking a little but is eager to eat

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2479 Recommendations
Weenie may just have some abdominal pain or discomfort which may pass, he may also have something else going on; without examining him I cannot say what the possible cause may be but if this tense abdomen and shaking doesn’t resolve in the next day or so I would suggest taking him into see your Veterinarian. In the meantime, give him some plain canned pumpkin in his food which may help to loosen his stool to help with defecation and general gastrointestinal transit. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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