Distended Abdomen in Dogs

The causes and treatments of a dog’s distended abdomen.


Parasites/Parasite-borne diseases: Roundworms (especially in puppies) or heartworms.

Non-infectious/Acquired disease: Heart disease (leading to congestive heart failure, which is characterized by ascites, an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen).

Miscellaneous disorders: Gastric dilatation-volvulus, chronic hypertrophic gastropathy, which causes gastric obstruction due to pyloric stenosis (narrowing of the junction between the stomach and small intestine), or ileus (decreased intestinal activity, following surgery, obstruction, or disease).

Foreign bodies: In stomach, small intestine, colon, or rectum.

Tumors: In stomach, small intestine, colon, rectum, liver, or kidney.

Endocrine disorders: Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s disease) or pyometra (uterine infection).

Nutritional/Metabolic disorder: Malabsorption syndrome, which causes hypoproteinemia (protein deficiency) leading to ascites.

Infectious diseases: Histoplasmosis or coccidioidomycosis (both fungal).

Congenital diseases: Chronic hepatitis (commonly in Dobermans, Labrador Retrievers, American and English Cocker Spaniels, Bedlington Terriers, West Highland White Terriers).

What to do: Some types of abdominal distension may or may not be an emergency, depending on the severity, cause, other signs of illness and the dog’s overall status (getting worse, improving, stable). Contact your veterinarian or emergency clinic immediately for specific advice about your dog’s situation.

Other: Obesity or pregnancy.

What to do: If your dog’s distended abdomen is due to obesity, consult your veterinarian about a weight-loss plan. If your dog is pregnant, contact your veterinarian about prenatal care.

Disclaimer: DogChannel.com’s Dog Medical Conditions are intended for educational purposes only. They are not meant to replace the expertise and experience of a professional veterinarian. Do not use the information presented here to make decisions about your dog’s ailment. If you notice changes in your dog’s health or behavior, please take your pet to the nearest veterinarian or an emergency pet clinic as soon as possible.

Have a health question about your dog? Ask our 
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Eileen - 249708   Port Perry, ON

11/13/2012 4:10:01 AM

Good article, things dog owners should be away of. thanks!

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dog lover 73   good life, NE

10/7/2011 7:54:50 AM

good article very informative

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janet   bethlehem, PA

3/23/2011 4:51:53 AM

good to know, thanks very much

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Jacqueline Schmitt   Boonville, IN

3/7/2011 9:12:25 PM

In your possibilities you totally neglected CHF in cannines. My English Mastiff, neutered at an early age, at age 8 presented with a distended abdomen, rapid breathing, off of feed. Diagnosis: CHF Treatment: Lasix and a Heart pill to increase the ability of her heart to pump the blood. We started at 40mg am/pm within 6 months we were up to 240mg am/pm and still the heart pill. At the 6 month mark she presented with the distended abdomen still but at all but quit her feed, lost 51 lbs, could only go about 10ft without resting. On July 29, 2010 we had our beloved Gracey put out of her misery. Never have I had a more totally awesome cannine. Her sense of your feelings, your health, your general well being overall she reacted to. Gentleness with the smallest of my grandchildren cannot even be put into words. Dispit her grander of weighting 210lbs, being close to 3ft at her shoulders and needing the whole 3 cushion couch to be completely comfortable laid out I would have trusted her with the smallest of toddler or baby. Or even the other end of the life spam, my elderly parents. She was on constant safety guard when they were around. Please, please give everyone more information of CHF in the cannine area.

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