Any pet with a visibly swollen stomach should be seen by a vet. Best case scenario, the pet is obese. Worst case scenario, the pet is in organ failure and needs help.
A swollen stomach can be from many causes. It may be from:
Internal Organ Enlargement
The most pressing of these would be stomach enlargement, called bloat.These dogs are extremely uncomfortable, are trying to burp or vomit, and cannot. If your dog is doing this,
***************** GO TO THE VET NOW ******************
The liver or spleen can get larger than normal. These organs seldom get bigger for any good reason. Cancer and organ failure are the two most likely causes.
Sometimes a kidney will get larger than normal. This is not usually visible to an owner though, and is more often found by the veterinarian when doing their physical exam. Kidney enlargement can be from cancer, or can be from a blockage of the tube (called a ureter) that carries urine from the kidney down to the bladder. A swollen kidney can also be from acute kidney failure - a common cause of this situation would be anti-freeze ingestion, or lilly ingestion. Both of these are toxic to pets, and cats are more sensitive than dogs.
A Mass growing inside the abdomen, like with cancer.
Fluid within the Abdomen
Many things can lead to fluid in the abdomen, and none are good. Heart failure, liver failure, urinary bladder rupture, cancer, bleeding into the abdomen, FIP (feline infectious peritonitis), and very low blood protein levels all come quickly to mind as potential causes.
Yes, many pets today are horribly obese. These pets can have a really
large stomach, but be otherwise healthy. You should know though, that
overweight and obese dogs
and cats are more prone to developing problems like diabetes, degenerative joint disease in both
, skin disease, and respiratory problems.
Can I tell what's going on myself? I think you should go to your vet.... Here are some x-rays of the different situations - think you can do this at home?
This is an x-ray of a normal abdomen and chest. The black to the left is air in the lungs - the abdomen is to the right.
This is a cat with FIP. Notice that you can't tell what the fluid is based on an x-ray. The fluid could be blood, it could be from heart or liver failure, it could be because of an infection as with FIP.
This abdomen is full of excess fat.
This is an x-ray of a very large spleen. A cancer called hemangiosarcoma is the most common cause.
If your pet, dog or cat, has a visibly swollen abdomen, then it may just be worth the peace of mind to get them checked out! If something is truly wrong, then early intervention is better in most cases...
Page last updated 12/15/13.