You have described to me a 8 yr old female Basset hound who has suddenly developed a distended abdomen. She has an increased respiratory rate.
There are a number of things that could be causing this sudden abdominal distension. If she were on her way to see me, the things that I would be considering are as follows:
1. Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus (GDV, bloat)
With this problem, a dog's stomach fills with gas which can happen after eating a meal, but then the stomach twists over on itself.
The food that is trapped in there continues to ferment, more gas is produced, and it expands like a balloon. The twist in the stomach cuts off blood supply to the stomach, and to other internal organs.
This is a true medical emergency!
It is fatal without aggressive treatment.
Here is more about it:
GDV happens most often in deep-chested dogs like Danes, and Dobermans, and Shepherds. It is a true medical emergency! With this problem, dogs often have distended, hard, drum-like bellies from the swelling of the stomach as it fills with gas that cannot get out. Without immediate treatment it is almost always fatal.
I am worried about this because it is so serious. Also, you described her belly as being hard, and said she growls if you touch it. On the other hand, if her stomach were twisted, she would not have been able to swallow the bread, so that makes it less likely. It is certainly the first thing I would be wanting to check her for! It is easily diagnosed on x-ray.
The belly swelling could be due to ascites. This is a build up of fluid in the abdominal cavity. There are a number of things that can cause this, from liver disease to cancer, to heart disease. Some of these things are treatable (such as liver infection) and some are not as treatable (such as cancer).
Here is more about ascites: http://www.petplace.com/dogs/ascites-in-dogs/page1.aspx
One liver problem is hepatitis (chronic active hepatitis, CAH). This can cause vomiting, loss of appetite, drinking more and urinating more, jaundice (very yellow urine, yellow in sclera and mucous membranes), and lethargy.
Dogs with this may need hospitalization if it is severe. Intravenous fluids may be needed for rehydration. Dogs often need antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and liver specific drugs to help it to function better.
Here is more about it:
It is possible that your Basset's belly is filled with blood. I would expect very pale gums with this, however. This type of internal blood loss can happen with something called a Hemangiosarcoma (HSA).
HSA tends to grow on the spleen and/or on the heart. When it grows on the spleen, it can cause internal bleeding into the belly if it ruptures. So, you can't see the bleeding, but they are still losing blood.
If there is a sudden, profound blood loss the symptoms are lethargy and thirst, pale gums, sudden collapse and fluid in the belly. If it is more gradual, you might see just weakness and wobbliness, with an increase in drinking.
Here is more about splenic masses:
It is possible that someone threw garbage into your back yard and your dog got into it and gorged. With this, we often see distended bellies, and then the dog can become dehydrated.
What can happen is that a large amount of food in the stomach draws water into it from the blood stream. The stomach can also be so stretched and distended that it cannot contract to vomit. Thus, the dog becomes more and more dehydrated, and the food *cannot* move!
Without treatment, this can be fatal as the dog becomes so shocky from dehydration and cannot take in any water by mouth to help.
So... there are a number of different possibilities. I am worried about your dog. In a perfect world, where money was not part of the equation, I would certainly urge you to seek immediate veterinary care as many of these things are very serious. For her belly to swell up so quickly suggests something that is happening quickly inside her, and I am worried about what may happen over the next 10 hours or so until your vet opens.
I realize that your emergency clinic is asking a lot of money. Unfortunately, that is about the average price around here too. And I am almost certain that they would want to take an x-ray, which would likely be about $100. Without that, it would be hard to know what was going on in her belly.
I can give you some suggestions for where to turn for financial aid. I'd start with the local animal shelters to see if they know of any low cost or subsidized vet care in your area.
Nationally here are some groups that might help you afford the vet bills:
American Animal Hospital Association
" Through the AAHA Helping Pets Fund, veterinary care is possible for sick or injured pets even if they have been abandoned or if their owner is experiencing financial hardship."
Angels 4 Animals
"Our services range from financial aid to complete treatment
to those pets and pet owners in need."
A credit card company for health care, including veterinary care.
"With a comprehensive range of plan options, for
treatment or procedure fees from $1 to over $25,000, we offer a plan
and a low monthly payment to fit comfortably into almost every
God's Creatures Ministry
"This fund helps pay for veterinarian bills for those who need help."
"Our efforts focus on serving the elderly, the disabled, and the
"We are dedicated to insure that no
companion animal has to be euthanized simply because their caretaker
is financially challenged."
The Pet Fund
"The Pet Fund is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit association that
provides financial assistance to owners of domestic animals who need
urgent veterinary care."
United Animal Nations
"The m ission of LifeLine is to help homeless or recently rescued
animals suffering from life-threatening conditions that require
specific and immediate emergency veterinary care. We strive to serve
Good Samaritans and rescue groups who take in sick or injured
animals. In certain cases, LifeLine can also assist senior citizens
and low-income families pay for immediate emergency veterinary care."
They also keep a list of local and national help resources here
Of these, the most reliable one in terms of providing assistance is www.carecredit.com
. I have heard very good reports about them!
If you feel my answer has been helpful, please hit the "Accept" button and leave feedback.
I will still be here to provide more information if you need it!
Good luck, and best wishes for your baby! Please let me know how she does.
The above is given for information only. Although I am a licensed veterinarian, I cannot legally prescribe medicines or diagnose your pet's condition without performing a physical exam. If you have concerns about your pet I would strongly advise contacting your regular veterinarian.