Why Do Puppies Have Bloated Bellies?


puppy bloated bellyWhy do puppies have bloated bellies? If you ever whelped a litter of puppies or recently got a young puppy, you may have noticed their bloated Buddha-style bellies, why is that? In many cases, a potty-belly appearance in puppies is mostly noticeable after the puppy has eaten, but a bloated belly that doesn’t decrease in size is something that warrants veterinary attention, especially when accompanied by other symptoms. Swelling of a puppy’s belly may be indicative of some neonatal illnesses that require treatment.

Pot-full of parasites?
Pot-full of parasites?

Presence of Parasites

About 95 percent of puppies are born with intestinal worms, with roundworms and hookworms being the most commonly seen, according to Vet Help. In particular, a heavy infestation of roundworms may cause  puppies to be pot bellied because their presence causes the intestinal tract to fill with gas and become distended. While fecal tests can help identify the presence of roundworms, proof of parasites are not always found as eggs aren’t always shed, so a puppy can still have parasites even if the fecal test came back negative. Generally, young puppies require a series of  de-worming doses to get rid of these pesky parasites. Some vets recommend de-worming puppies at 2, 4, 6 and 8 weeks of age, so if you got your puppy at a breeder at 8 weeks, your puppy may still need another dose. Consult with your breeder and vet.

Eating and Drinking

Young puppies tend to become particularly bloated after eating or drinking lots of water at once. This bloating tends to happen because puppies grow so quickly and consume lots of food in proportion to their weight, explains Jane Lefler, a breeder of over 16 years. In this case though, the swelling is only temporary. The distended belly in the puppy should decrease in size within a few hours, but then it will get again big, round and firm at the next scheduled feeding.  In a normal healthy puppy, despite the distended abdomen, the puppy is still a happy camper, playing, acting bright and alert and defecating normally. See your vet though if your puppy has a bloated belly and starts acting lethargic or develops other symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and loss of appetite.

Overfeeding Neonate Pupspuppy swollen abdomen

As many thing in life, too much of a good thing can do more harm than good. Novice breeders or people who find an orphaned puppy who needs to be hand fed puppy formula, may some times inadvertently feed too much. In such a case, the affected puppies may become bloated, colicky and they may develop green or yellow watery stools. Diluting the formula by adding 25 percent more water for a few days will reduce the temptation to overfeed and can help minimize the diarrhea associated with abrupt dietary changes, explains veterinarian William D. Fortney.

An Abdominal Hernia

In some cases, what looks like a distended abdomen, is actually the presence of a hernia. The outward bulging may be caused by abdominal organs that have managed to push through some opening in the abdominal wall or it could be the diaphragm may have protruded out. Umbilical hernias are quite common in puppies, and they’re commonly soft swellings seen in the abdomen, right after the end of the rib cage.  They are particularly noticeable when the puppy is barking, standing or straining.  Fortunately, most umbilical hernias do not pose any particular health dangers to the affected puppies, explains Ernest Ward, in an article for VCA Animal Hospitals.

Puppy bloatA Case of Bloat

Bloat, also known as gastric dilation and volvulus syndrome (GDV) is a serious, life-threatening condition that mostly affects large breed dogs. Although there have been some reported cases in puppies, its mostly seen in older dogs. Veterinarian Dr. Bruce, claims having  seen a case of bloat in a 14-week old Labrador puppy. Symptoms of bloat include retching, non-productive vomiting, pacing and a reluctance to lie down to rest. Bloat is often seen in dogs who have eaten a large meal and were exercised heavily thereafter, explains veterinarian Wendy C. Brooks. However, sometimes an exact cause in individual dogs cannot be pinpointed. If you suspect bloat in your puppy, see your vet immediately as every second counts.

Build Up of Fluid

In some cases, puppies with serious medical problems may develop a distended abdomen. The abdomen may be filled up with fluid, a condition known as “ascites.” The fluid buildup may come from a problem with the puppy’s heart or liver, suggests veterinarian Dr. B. In this case, an x-ray or ultrasound would be helpful for diagnostic purposes. Any heart abnormalities can sometimes be detected when the vet uses the stethoscope upon physical examination.

Did you know?  Puppies just like babies, need to be burped after being bottle-fed. If they are allowed to suck the bottle dry, they may ingest too much air which can make them colicky,  explains Beth J. Finder in the book: “Breeding a Litter, The Complete Book of Prenatal and Postnatal Care.”