It is a common and even daily appointment presentation in veterinary hospitals: the pet with a swollen abdomen. Veterinary professionals know it as acute abdomen. Whatever you wish to call it, the symptoms are alarming and potentially life-threatening. Owners often note that their dog seemed fine until its belly suddenly seemed larger and swollen. Heavy breathing and panting usually accompany the abdominal swelling.

What is the cause? Your veterinarian will seek to answer this question as soon as possible during an initial exam. Bloodwork is helpful, but the use of imaging technology, such as radiographs (x-rays), ultrasound, and even cross-sectional imaging (CT), is key to obtaining an effective diagnosis.

The causes of a swollen abdomen can be quite long and can encompass the following:

  • Heart failure
  • Liver failure
  • Abdominal masses
  • Abdominal bleeding
  • Bloated and twisted stomach
  • Uterine infection (pyometra)

Some of these causes can be treated medically, but some require surgery. Ultimately, most of the causes for fast abdominal swelling or bloat in your pet will likely become an emergency, and you should seek veterinary care quickly. Regular exams by your veterinarian coupled with annual bloodwork and imaging can help detect some of these conditions before they progress to an emergent state.

Want to learn more? Call us at (512) 288-1040 or come see us at Austin Veterinary Diagnostic Hospital today!

~ Sarah Kneupper, DVM
Austin Veterinary Diagnostic Hospital