My dog ​​has a swollen belly: what could be the causes? Is that bad ?

Sharing your life with a dog is a joy that is renewed every day. The sincere tenderness and affection he offers us, the complicity that develops are incomparable. Also, it is quite normal that we seek to return the favor to him. Taking care of his health, because he is not able to do it alone, is part of it.

Studying his attitude, being attentive to changes in behavior, watching his diet, caresses, palpations, generally allow us to know if he is sick.

Some indicative signs:

  • Unusual excitement;
  • Lethargy;
  • Refusal to eat for more than 24 hours;
  • Excessive salivation;
  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Subcutaneous masses;
  • Constipation;
  • Pain / complaints …

Among the wide range of visible symptoms, there is one that should particularly alert you: your dog has a swollen belly.

We will see how to spot it, the main causes and what to do.

Spotting a swollen belly in dogs

As with humans, a swollen belly in your dog is always a sign ofa dysfunction. It can be relatively mild or particularly serious, since it can lead to death. Either way, this is never to be taken lightly.

In its normal state, your dog’s belly should not be swollen, distended and / or hard. The caresses and palpations must not cause pain, complaints, moans and you must not feel its organs or any mass under its skin during -moderate- pressure. Your dog may also have trouble staying in place, sitting or lying down, adopting the “prior position” (the head between its front legs, posterior raised).

In all cases, the association of the swollen abdomen with one or more of the symptoms below should prompt you to consult your veterinarian urgently:

  • Complaints or moans (sign of pain);
  • Vomiting or inability to vomit;
  • Breathing difficulties;
  • Change in appearance or blood in the stool;
  • Difficulty urinating or abnormal color;
  • Intense salivation;
  • Constipation or diarrhea …

The main causes of a swollen belly in dogs

There are many possible causes for this condition and they are more or less serious. Bloating / flatulence, worms, intestinal obstruction, stomach dilation (SDTE), ascites, tumors… A brief overview of the main causes of a swollen belly in dogs.

Bloating – painless – and gas

The accumulation of gas in the digestive tract is a natural and most often benign phenomenon which manifests itself in bloating during digestion, swelling of the abdomen and smelly farts. These symptoms are sometimes a sign of an abnormal intestinal flora.

The cause : a sudden change in diet, unsuitable or excessive food should be considered. Gluttonous, stressed, obese, aging dogs and brachycephalic (squashed face) breeds are prone to aerophagia. The intestinal flora can also be disturbed.

The treatment : your dog should eat quietly, in small quantities several times a day and rather at fixed times. Taking probiotics can also be considered, on the advice of the veterinarian.

Worm infestation

Quiet at the start, the infestation by worms (flat – cestodes, round – nematodes) manifests itself, in a more advanced state, by one or more of these symptoms: abnormal appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, swollen belly, anal itching, hair rough and dull …

The cause : they are transmitted, usually as larvae, by ingestion of contaminated water, raw meat, feces, prey or fleas.

The treatment : as a preventive measure, the regular intake of dewormer should be adapted to the animal’s lifestyle. A dog that goes out little will be dewormed less often than a dog that lives outdoors. As a cure, several doses may be necessary. The vet can guide you, because there are different dewormers. They are specific to certain types of worms, depending on their composition.

To know : if they are often benign at the beginning of the infestation, at a more advanced stage, they sometimes cause irreversible lesions which can lead to the death of your dog. Some are transmissible to other animals, but also to humans.

Bowel obstruction

When the dog’s intestinal transit no longer takes place, in whole or in part, it is possible that the latter suffers from an obstruction. The main visible signs are a swollen stomach, worse palpation pain, anorexia, smelly vomiting, watery bloody stools or no stools and sometimes fever. The veterinary consultation is essential and urgent.

The cause : the absorption of a foreign body – bullet, rag, bone, plug, piece of plastic… – is the most frequent, but contamination by intestinal worms, a hernia, constipation or a tumor are also possible causes.

Processing : the radiological examination confirms the diagnosis and depending on whether it is partial or total, surgery will be considered.

Stomach dilation-torsion syndrome (SDTE)

Extremely painful, the dilation-torsion of the stomach – the stomach expands and twists on itself – is a vital emergency. The main clinical signs such as swollen stomach, restlessness, inability to vomit, hyper-salivation, complaints, high heart rate, loss of consciousness, should prompt you to consult immediately.

The cause : all dogs are potentially affected, but since the study of Glickman, it is known that large dogs are more exposed to it (24%) and in particular the Great Dane (40%). The quantity, the composition – exclusively dry -, the speed of ingestion of the meal, the food intake in a raised bowl and heredity, are the main factors identified.

The treatment : surgery is the only solution to reposition the stomach. Medication and monitoring then intervene for this pathology, the risk of recurrence of which exists. To prevent it, the veterinarian may perform a gastropexy which involves attaching the stomach to the abdominal wall. Fortunately, 90% of the dogs taken care of on time survive it.

To minimize the risk of SDTE, it is advisable to:

  • Divide the meals into several small portions;
  • Avoid strenuous physical activity 2 hours before and after meals;
  • Remove the raised bowls;
  • Vary the diet (dry / wet);
  • Do not moisten the croquettes;
  • Avoid stress…


The buildup of fluid in the dog’s abdomen, called abdominal effusion, is always a symptom of an underlying condition. It mainly causes swelling of the stomach, but also sometimes vomiting, lethargy, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, discomfort, pain and complaints. If the life of your dog is not necessarily in danger, these manifestations however require very fast support.

The cause : traumatic shock, heart failure, hemorrhage, cancer, liver or kidney problems, the causes are multiple and must be identified by a professional.

The treatment : abdominal palpation, radiography and / or ultrasound can diagnose ascites. Drainage can be done medically or by puncture followed by testing to determine if there is an infection. The subsequent treatment will depend on the cause that causes it.


Let’s start by de-dramatizing this point. Tumors are not always synonymous with cancer! The term “tumor” denotes any appearance of a mass or swelling. Begnine tumors are rarely dangerous, if their size or location is not a problem. Pre-malignant or malignant tumors, if left untreated, can potentially be life-threatening to the animal. But not all malignant tumors are fatal, and bowel or stomach tumors are not very common in dogs.

The main symptoms are loss of weight and / or appetite, swollen stomach, vomiting, diarrhea, anal bleeding, abdominal pain. In the slightest doubt, a veterinary consultation is required.

The cause : they are not clearly defined, but there is a consensus which tends to place a poor hygiene of life in the probable causes of tumors. Certain breeds of dogs are also more prone to developing tumors (Poodle, Cocker, German Shepherd, breed of large dogs, etc.).

The treatment : it is frequently necessary to take a sample and test to determine the nature of the tumor and the appropriate treatment. And depending on whether it is benign or malignant, depending on its location, ablation, radiotherapy or chemotherapy are the treatments considered. In all cases, tumors that are spotted and treated very early have the best chance of being cured.

In all cases

Other pathologies can also be the cause of the swollen belly of your life companion – hernia, gastritis, colitis, bacteria, stones, hemorrhage… -. We have just seen the most common. But what should be remembered is that a swollen belly is always symptomatic of a disorder, more or less serious, which always requires special attention. You must be able to determine the cause and in most cases, for the safety and well-being of your dog, a visit to the veterinarian is necessary.