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What Causes a Dog's Stomach to Swell Up?

What Causes a Dog's Stomach to Swell Up?

What Causes a Dog's Stomach to Swell Up?


What Causes a Dog's Stomach to Swell Up?

When it comes to significant emergencies that can be fatal, stomach bloat is a major cause for concern. If you’re wondering what causes a dog’s stomach to swell up, there are a few things you need to know. Understanding what to look for can mean the knowing difference between belly full of food or a deadly condition requiring immediate emergency assistance.


Stomach Swelling in Dogs – The Four Most Common Causes

The most common causes for stomach swelling in dogs are all serious signs of a potentially fatal internal problem. Let’s take a look.


Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV)

This is one of the most deadly situations your dog can be in if left untreated. GDV is a condition wherein the stomach becomes twisted – trapping gas, food, and preventing blood flow to the area. This can be fatal within only a period of hours if left untreated. The bloat occurs due to gas being trapped in the stomach area and thus begins to expand painfully, restricting blood flow and preventing digestion.


There is no agreed-upon single cause for GDV. Even so, it is generally thought to be caused by swallowing excessive air and heavy exercise after a large meal. More factors include:


●        Large and extra large deep-chested breeds are at greater risk.

●        Eating a meal too fast.

●        Eating and drinking from an elevated food or water bowl.

●        Feeding your dog only once per day.

●        Dogs older than seven years are at greater risk.


If your dog begins exhibiting symptoms of GDV, make sure to visit the local emergency animal clinic immediately. A few things to look for are:


●        Unusual whining or whimpering.

●        Unusual pacing.

●        A distended abdomen.

●        Difficulty vomiting that is producing only a foamy substance.

●        Pawing or looking at the stomach.

●        Distress or panic.


You can help to prevent this issue by feeding your dog at least twice daily, and not allowing exercise immediately after eating.


Cushing’s Syndrome

Your pet’s potbelly may be caused by a condition called Cushing’s syndrome. This is caused by an overabundance of the cortisol hormone – the hormone related to stress. Most often found in dogs over the age of six, Cushing’s syndrome causes bloat. Symptoms your pup may be experiencing this can include excess eating, drinking, and urinating, as well as unusual pacing and hair loss.



Peritonitis is a serious infection caused by a punctured stomach or intestinal wall. This is most commonly caused by the ingestion of sharp objects such as wood splinters, bone fragments, various edgy environmental materials, tumors, and ulcers. This is a very painful condition and must be treated immediately at your local animal emergency clinic. It is very likely that an immediate surgical procedure must be undergone to fix this condition.



Various internal diseases can cause fluid build-up in the abdominal area. This build-up can cause a condition called ascites. Heart failure, liver disease, kidney failure, intestinal problems, and tumors can all cause this condition. Parasites can also be the culprit. One of the symptoms of late-stage severe heartworm infection is ascites.


Final Thoughts

When it comes to determining what causes a dog’s stomach to swell up, the most common problems are well-known. This can help you rest assured that your canine companion is going to be okay with the help of our veterinarian. Even so, these conditions can be fatal in only a matter of hours and require immediate attention at the earliest signs. Contact our vet and speak to them about what you can do to develop a prevention plan. This will help ensure your dog is not only free of stomach swelling but also the various other health challenges that can arise.