cat sleeping

What Causes a Dog’s Stomach to Swell?

Have you noticed swelling or bloating in your dog’s stomach? Stomach swelling in dogs can be a lethal emergency, or it could be caused by something simple, like overeating. One way you can make sure your dog stays in good health is by paying attention to any signs of stomach problems, so you can catch any larger issues before they advance.

At the same time, stomach swelling in dogs can be incredibly dangerous. Therefore, you should never attempt to diagnose your dog’s stomach issues yourself. As soon as you notice that your dog’s stomach is abnormally swollen or bloated, you should schedule an appointment with our vet. A prompt diagnosis and treatment of abdominal problems could save your pet’s life.

Common Causes of Stomach Swelling in Dogs

There are many causes of stomach swelling in dogs. We will discuss some of the more popular causes, as well as ways to ease discomforts, while waiting for the vet.

Gastric Dilation and Volvulus or Bloat

One of the biggest emergencies for dogs is gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV). If left untreated, GDV can be deadly within hours. Bloat occurs when gas and food cause your dog’s stomach to stretch. Gastric dilation and volvulus occurs when your dog’s bloated stomach rotates with gas trapped inside, causing the stomach to lose blood flow.

GDV is incredibly painful, and there is no singular cause of GDV. However, it is thought to mostly be caused by swallowing excessive air and intense exercising after a meal. Other risk-factors of gastric dilation and volvulus in dogs, include:

  • Only feeding your dog one meal a day

  • Using elevated food and water bowls

  • Genetic history of bloat

  • Consuming food too fast

  • Deep-chested breeds, like Great Danes, St. Bernards, and Weimaraners. Most dogs over 99 pounds have a 20% higher risk of developing bloat.

  • Dogs between the ages 7-12 years

Dogs suffering from GDV often exhibit whining, having a hard time defecating, having a weak pulse, or using abnormal posture, like curling in a ball or crouching position.

If your dog is suffering from bloat, it requires prompt attention. Treating bloat may require decompressing the stomach to relieve excess gas, managing shock, and steadying the heart rate. Once your dog’s heart rate is stable, we will be able to perform surgery. If you notice that your dog’s stomach looks distended, or if she seems uncomfortable, don’t delay on getting to the vet, because it could be a veterinary emergency.

As we mentioned earlier, the exact cause of bloat is not known, which can make it difficult to prevent. However, there are some things you can do to minimize the risk, including:

  • Feeding your dog two or more meals a day

  • Feeding your dog canned food

  • Allowing your dog to rest after a full meal by avoiding exercise with a full stomach

Peritonitis Causes Stomach Swelling

Another common condition that causes stomach swelling in dog is an infection called peritonitis. This is a serious infection that occurs when the dog’s stomach or intestine becomes punctured, generally due to bone splinters, tumors, ulcers, or other causes. Gallbladder and urinary bladder ruptures can also cause peritonitis.

Peritonitis is extremely painful for dogs, which can make it easier to detect than bloat. Your dog might appear reluctant to move, have a swollen stomach, vomit, or appear lethargic. Emergency veterinary treatment of peritonitis is imperative, since it will most likely lead to shock. Treatment of this condition will include IV therapy, antibiotics, and medication for pain relief. We will also need to perform surgery to repair any ruptures, remove infected fluid, and flush out the abdomen.

Cushing’s Syndrome and Stomach Bloat

Does you dog have a pot belly? This could be caused by a condition called Cushing’s syndrome, which is caused by an overabundance of the cortisol hormone, also known as the “stress hormone.” Cushing’s syndrome is more common in dogs over the age of 6, and it is generally accompanied with eating, drinking, and urinating more frequently, as well as excess panting and hair loss.


Fluid can accumulate in your dog’s stomach, leading to a condition called ascites. Fluid accumulation can occur from intestinal diseases, heart failure, tumors, liver failure, or kidney disorders. Sometimes stomach swelling can occur in puppies with severe roundworm infections.

Tips for Preventing Stomach Problems in Dogs

One way to prevent stomach problems in your dog is by making sure that you take her for regular vet checkups, so we can catch any lung, stomach, bowel, or heart problems before they get out of hand and lead to something more severe. You can also perform routine assessments to try to detect any symptoms of stomach problems. When feeling your dog’s abdomen, search for lumps, heat, stickiness, swelling, or tenderness to touch. If you recognize any abnormalities in your dog’s abdomen, schedule an appointment with the vet immediately.

Are you worried that your dog might be suffering from abdominal swelling? Schedule an appointment at Care Animal Hospital in Temecula today at 951-370-1200.

Best Flea Prevention Options

Author:Care Animal HospitalDate:2019-03-25
Fleas are annoying for both you and your pets. Learn our recommendations for Flea and Seasonal Pet Pest Protection. Call our vets in Temecula with questions.

Can Pets Get Cavities?

Categories:Dogs, DentalAuthor:Care Animal HospitalDate:2019-02-27
Although cavities are rare, pet dental disease is very common. Call Care Animal Hospital at 951-370-1200 to schedule a wellness visit or dental exam.

Is It Normal For My Pet To Have Eye Discharge?

Categories:GeneralAuthor:Care Animal HospitalDate:2019-01-28
Eye discharge in pets is fairly common. Some eye symptoms might be a bigger concern. Learn more about types of eye discharge in pets and when to call a veterinarian.

How to Treat Ear Mites

Categories:DogsAuthor:Care Animal HospitalDate:2018-12-31
Ear mites are common in pets and can cause a great deal of discomfort. Learn our vet approved approach for treating ear mites in pets.

The Dangers of High Protein Dog Foods

Categories:DogsAuthor:Care Animal HospitalDate:2018-11-30
There is a common misconception that dogs are carnivores and need a high protein diet. Learn the dangers of high protein dog foods here.

Pet Diets for Better Oral Health

Categories:DentalAuthor:Care Animal HospitalDate:2018-10-30
Like humans, a pets' diet can improve or hinder their oral health. Learn the best pet diets for better oral health for your dog or cat.

How to Care for Dogs After Spaying Surgery

Categories:DogsAuthor:Care Animal HospitalDate:2018-09-30
After spay surgery, dogs will need to rest, recovery, and have their wounds looked after. Learn more on how to care for dogs after spaying surgery.

Dental treats you can make this summer

Author:Care Animal HospitalDate:2018-08-31
Want to save money on pet dental treats? Learn about these easy dental treats you can make for your pet this summer that will improve their dental health.

Is microchipping safe for dogs?

Many dog owners are concerned with the safety of microchipping. Learn about pet microchipping, how it works, and how it can help keep your pet safe.

How to Get Rid of Fleas in Your Home and On Your Pet

Author:Care Animal HospitalDate:2018-06-30
Flea infestations can be difficult to eradicate, especially in warmer months in Temecula. Learn these tips for ridding fleas from your home and your pet.

What are common veterinary emergencies for pets?

Categories:GeneralAuthor:Care Animal HospitalDate:2018-05-31
Keep your pet safe by staying prepared for emergencies by knowing the most common veterinary emergencies for pets and when to seek treatment. Learn more here.

Tips for Treating Hairballs in Cats

Author:Care Animal HospitalDate:2018-04-26
As self-cleaners, hairballs are a common issue in cats. Learn the symptoms of blocked hairballs, and tips for treating hairballs in cats.

How to Choose an Animal Hospital

Categories:GeneralAuthor:Care Animal HospitalDate:2018-03-31
Choosing the right animal hospital for your pet can be a nerve-wracking process. Learn these tips on how to choose the best animal hospital for your needs.

Signs Your Dog is Constipated and How to Treat It

Author:Care Animal HospitalDate:2018-02-28
Constipation in dogs can often a sign of a bigger health problem. Learn how to tell if your dog is constipated, and how to treat constipation in dogs.

Parasite Prevention and Control for Pets

Categories:GeneralAuthor:Care Animal HospitalDate:2018-01-26
An important part of being a pet owner is making sure your pet stays safe from internal and external parasites. Learn more about parasite prevention here.

Importance of antioxidants in dog food

Categories:DogsAuthor:Care Animal HospitalDate:2017-12-29
One way to keep your dog in good health is by feeding it dog food that is rich in antioxidants. Learn more about the importance of antioxidants in your dog's diet.

What to Do If Your Pet is Vomiting

Categories:GeneralAuthor:Care Animal HospitalDate:2017-11-28
Are you dealing with a sick pet? Learn what to do if your pet is vomiting, and how to keep your pet healthy at Care Animal Hospital in Temecula, CA.

What Causes a Dog’s Stomach to Swell?

Categories:DogsAuthor:Dr. Joe AlcornDate:2017-10-26
A dogs stomach might swell from overeating, sickness, or more. Learn about what causes a dogs stomach to swell, & how to treat stomach swelling.

Pet Skin And Allergy Care

Categories:GeneralAuthor:Dr. AlcornDate:2017-09-12
Pet allergies are often caused by the same things that cause allergies in humans. Learn more about pet skin and allergy care here!

How to Know When your Cat is Sick

Author:Dr. AlcornDate:2017-08-25
Read more if your cat is sick or not and how to provide enough care for your loved pet. Give us a call and schedule an appointment today.

How to Make Your Dog and Cat Get Along

Categories:Dogs, CatsAuthor:Dr. AlcornDate:2017-07-11
Do your cat and dog hate each other? Learn why cat and dog behaviors don't mesh well, and tips to help your dog and cat get along,

How Much Should You Feed Your Dog?

Knowing how much and when you should feed your dog can be a hard routine to follow. Learn the healthiest eating habits for your dog.

Leia M. (Read More)

Categories:Success StoriesAuthor:Date:2017-05-25

Abigail (Read More)

Categories:Success StoriesAuthor:Date:2017-05-25

Why your dog is throwing up

Categories:DogsAuthor:Dr. AlcornDate:2017-05-25

What is the Best Diet For Pets with Dental Problems

Categories:DentalAuthor:Dr. AlcornDate:2017-05-25

Dental Sticks and Bad Breath in Dogs

Categories:DogsAuthor:Dr. AlcornDate:2017-04-26

Is Spaying and Neutering Safe?

Categories:GeneralAuthor:Dr. AlcornDate:2017-02-25

Why is My Pet Scratching

Categories:Cats, DogsAuthor:Dr. AlcornDate:2017-02-01

Exercising Your Pet More Often

Categories:Cats, DogsAuthor:Dr. AlcornDate:2017-01-17

Is Your Pet Not Eating Their Dry Food?

Categories:GeneralAuthor:Dr. AlcornDate:2016-11-29

Saving Your Pet from an Itchy Problem: Fleas

Categories:Cats, DogsAuthor:Dr. AlcornDate:2016-07-15