Why Does My Puppy Have A Big Belly? (It Can Be Fatal)

I have a confession to make.

I’ve never been that big of a dog lover. All my life, cats were mostly the only pets I ever had until one fine day, I had a gut feeling to just stop by my local shelter to take a look.

That was when I first laid eyes on my dog, a puppy back then, all curled up and fast asleep amidst all the barking and yelping.

There and then, I just knew I had to adopt him.

If your dog is still a puppy, it is like looking after a baby. They have yet to develop a strong immune system and do fall sick rather easily.

One common question that I get from dog owners is “Why does it seem that my puppy has a swollen stomach?”

Some puppies have a swollen belly due to a stomach problem that produces excess gas. It could also be due to an obstruction somewhere in their digestive system. Most of the time the issue can resolve itself unless it is a serious condition.

In this article, we will take a deeper look at what are the possible reasons that can cause your puppy’s belly to swell up and what needs to be done.

What Does A Normal Puppy Belly Look Like?

normal looking puppy belly

The best way to spot any swelling or bloatedness in your puppy’s belly is to check it visually and physically.

When looking at your puppy from the side and front, there should not be any visible masses or bumps.

When you run your hands over its belly, it should feel soft and smooth to the touch. Even if you were to lightly it, your puppy should not react in pain.

There should not be any inflammation or purplish spots on your dog’s tummy as well.

What Can Cause A Swollen Belly In My Puppy?

If you do notice that your puppy has a pot-bellied appearance, there are certain factors that can cause it.

You will need to take your puppy to the vet immediately for serious causes. However, there are some causes that are easier to resolve.

Let’s take a look at the possible reason.

Feeding The Wrong Diet

What you feed your puppy in accordance with its age also matters. If you have rescued a newborn puppy, you need to be feeding it a specialized milk formula instead of solid food.

Puppies that have already been weaned off milk should not be fed dairy products as it can lead to bloating and diarrhea.

Consult your vet if you are not sure about the correct diet for your puppy.

Overfeeding Your Puppy

Puppies need all the nutrition that they can get and can have ravenous appetites.

If your puppy is still on milk formula or has transitioned to solid food, make sure that you are feeding it the correct amount.

As much as it is important to give the puppy a good diet, you should not be overfeeding your puppy.

Dogs in general are greedy creatures and can tend to overeat if not supervised.

A puppy that overeats frequently will end up with a pot belly which can make it feel uncomfortable.

Dog breeds like the greyhound are built for speed and are not structurally designed to carry excess body fat.

Have a word with your vet on the correct amount of food that is required based on its age, weight and breed.

Drinking Too Much Water

Puppies tend to drink more water than older dogs which is common for younger dogs. A rule of thumb is about 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight.

Water is essential for the proper functioning of our bodies and is used to excrete bodily waste and toxins from the body.

The kidneys of a puppy get more effective as they get older.

Before the age of 12-15 months old, a puppy’s kidney isn’t able to concentrate its urine.

This means that what they drink will most likely be peed out.

This makes them thirsty more often since they can’t retain fluids well enough yet.

Factors like a warm day and excessive playing can make the puppy more thirsty than usual, making it drink more water and resulting in a bloated-looking stomach.

Abdominal Hernia

A puppy that is having an abdominal hernia can show signs of a bloated belly. This is usually caused by the umbilical ring not closing properly after the puppy is born.

It can be seen as a swelling below the rib cage area when the puppy barks or stains itself.

Most of the time, this condition will go away as the puppy grows up.

However, if the hernia is caused by one of the abdominal organs, your puppy needs to be taken to the vet immediately for treatment.

Gastric Dilation And Volvulus (GDV)

Gastric dilation and volvulus is a condition whereby gas gets trapped in the dog’s stomach causing bloating.

This can be due to eating too fast, playing right away after a big meal or from your dog eating something hard and undigestable like pine cones.

These are things that you can expect a puppy to do.

Another term for this disorder is also called canine bloat.

In non-serious cases, it only causes bloating and a distended abdomen. It can become a life-threatening condition when the stomach twists onto itself, blocking off the entrance and exit.

Although GDV is more common in older dogs, there are some breeds of dogs that are more prone to having canine bloat.

These are dog breeds that are larger in size like St Bernards, Dalmatians, Great Danes, German Shepherds, etc.

Larger dogs have deeper and wider stomachs that can hold more food, water and air which can result in bloating more easily.

Puppies that eat too fast or play too intensely after eating can get GDV.

Making your puppy hold in its waste for too long can cause tummy bloat as well.

Not many dog owners realize that puppies need to defecate more often than older dogs due to the constant eating.

Dogs that suffer from GDV tend to exhibit symptoms like:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bloated stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Excess drooling
  • Pale gums

GDV is a painful and uncomfortable condition for any dog. Some dogs will even stretch their necks and look up to try and extend their abdominal area and relieve the pressure.

If you notice that your puppy has trouble breathing and has a bloated stomach, immediately take it to the vet for emergency surgery before it becomes fatal.

The earlier and faster your puppy gets medical treatment, the better its chances of a full recovery.

If left untreated, GDV can be fatal to your dog within hours.

That’s how deadly this condition is for dogs.

Build Up Of Fluid In The Stomach

This condition isn’t the same as your puppy drinking too much water. The build-up of fluid in your puppy’s stomach is called ascites and it happens internally.

Ascites can cause your puppy to vomit, lose its appetite, have difficulty breathing and become lethargic.

There are many causes that can lead to ascites which include:

  • Abdominal bleeding
  • Tight belly
  • Abdominal cancer
  • Inflammation of the abdomen
  • Liver failure
  • Ruptured bladder

None of the above causes is to be taken lightly which means that your little puppy needs medical attention and treatment as soon as possible.

Parasitic Infection

Most dogs will get some form of parasitic infection at some point in their lives. Puppies are more susceptible to hookworms, tapeworms and roundworms.

These intestinal parasites reside in your puppy’s stomach and can cause excessive gas which leads to a distended stomach.

Dogs and cats can also get heartworm if bitten by an infected mosquito.

Make sure to try and keep your home as mosquito-free as possible to prevent your puppy from getting bitten.

It is a good idea to get your puppy treated for parasites. If left untreated, these intestinal worms can have an adverse effect on your puppy’s health.

The best way to get rid of these worms is through the use of dewormers.

Puppies can be dewormed once they reach two weeks old. Many puppies can get infected by their mothers via the mother’s milk.

Dewormers work by paralyzing these parasites which are then excreted via the puppy’s poo.

The vet will always ask for a stool sample to ascertain if there are any more parasites in your dog’s tummy.

One thing to note is that dewormers contain very potent active ingredients.

Make sure you give your dog the right dosage and consult with the vet first before feeding your dog such medications bought from the pet store.

Home Remedies For Bloated Puppy

Many of the above causes require that your puppy sees the vet for an examination and treatment.

The few things that you can do as a puppy parent is to make sure that your puppy is being fed the correct amount of food without compromising on its nutritional requirements.

If you have a dog breed that is prone to gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV), you have to be more cautious about its food intake portions.

Feed smaller serving sizes and more frequently to prevent your dog from consuming too much food in one go.

By feeding your puppy a good diet like a raw meat diet or canned food, it makes it easier for the stomach to digest and absorb the food.

Is It Normal For A Puppy To Have A Big Belly?

It is definitely more common than you might think. Like babies, puppies are at a higher risk of having health issues that can cause them to have a big belly.

It could be due to something as simple as overeating or overdrinking. Or in more serious cases, the puppy is experiencing GDV.

In any case, if the bloating does not go away after a few days or if the puppy exhibits more serious symptoms, please do not hesitate to see the vet right away before your puppy starts to fade beyond the point of no return.

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