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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bloated Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Sephiroth

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Siberian Husky

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9 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

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

Feb. 18, 2018

Sephiroth's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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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.

Feb. 18, 2018

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Buddy

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Corgi

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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.

Jan. 27, 2018

Buddy's Owner

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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

Jan. 27, 2018

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