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Abdominal Distension in Dogs

By: Dr. Leah Cohn

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Diagnosis

Veterinary care should include diagnostic tests to determine the cause of the abdominal distension and provide information on which to base recommendations for treatment. Diagnostic tests that your veterinarian may wish to perform include:

  • A complete medical history and physical examination

  • Abdominal radiographs (X-rays)

  • Abdominal ultrasonography

  • Abdominocentesis (the removal of fluid from the abdomen using a needle)

  • Thoracic radiographs (chest X-rays)

  • Blood tests such as biochemistry analysis, a complete blood count (CBC), a PCV (packed cell volume) and TP (total protein)

  • Urinalysis

  • Biopsy

  • Other specific tests, like liver function, evaluation for feline coronavirus exposure or biopsy of affected tissues or organs

    Treatment

    Treatment for abdominal distension is dependent upon the underlying cause (diagnosis). Treatment may include:

  • Abdominocentesis or drainage of fluid from the abdomen. If fluid distension causes pressure on the diaphragm (the muscular membrane separating the chest and abdomen) and impairs breathing, fluid may be drained from the abdomen with a needle. Fluid accumulation that does not interfere with breathing is not routinely removed.

  • Diuretic administration. Certain types of fluid accumulation can be lessened with diuretic administration, which increases urination.

  • Surgery. Some causes of abdominal enlargement, including ruptured abdominal organs, must be treated surgically.

    Home Care

    If you notice abdominal distension and your dog is acting sick, call your veterinarian. If abdominal distension is associated with vomiting, wretching or collapse, call your veterinarian immediately. These symptoms can be life-threatening.

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