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Dr.Fiona, Dog Veterinarian
Category: Dog
Satisfied Customers: 6273
Experience:  16 years experience as a companion animal veterinarian in British Columbia, California and Ontario
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Why is my dogs stomach bloated and also hard?

Resolved Question:

My dogs stomach is hard!!! He walks very slow and his body seems to be shaking. I can also tell that he is having trouble breathing. It has happend before but its gone away. Today I came home and the same thing happend only this time it looked worse. Currently he  is less bloated than one hour ago and he finally went to sleep laying down.... earlier you could tell he wouldn't lay down because he had trouble breathing. I can tell that he still not normal and his stomach is still hard. What is wrong with him? Should I take him to the emergency room? Can this wait till tomorrow? What can I give him in the mean time to help him get better? PLEASE ADVISE!!!

Submitted: 7 years ago.
Category: Dog
Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 7 years ago.

Hi there,

I would like to help you and your dog with this question, but need a bit more information in order to better assist you.

What breed of dog is he?
Could you please go and check a few things:

1. Count how many breaths he takes in one minute when he is resting.

2. Lift his lip above his canine teeth – so you can see his canines and the teeth behind them. Are his gums sticky and tacky, or are they wet and slimy when you touch them with a finger?
3. Are his gums and tongue:
- dark red
- dark pink
- bubble gum pink
- light pink
- white

- yellowish
Are they lighter or darker than your own?

Customer: replied 7 years ago.

Hi Dr. Fiona,

My dog is a rescue pet. His breed is a long hair Chihuahu or could be a Chihuahua mix. He is approximately 8-10 years old. I took a count, he takes approximately 21 breaths a minute. His gums feel more like sticky and tacky and the color is hard to say because he is really fussy and I feel like it bothers him when I open his mouth.... his gums are like a brownish color and his tongue is a bubble gum pink (however I have always felt like this was the natural color of his mouth). Also I can tell that from time to time he tries sleeping with his head raised in an upwards positions as if to get a better breathing pattern. Also he has a persistent cough that has become more acute and comes and goes from time to time as if he was trying to take something out of his throat. I sometimes just feel like he has his own hair from liking himself but like I said it has become more acute in the past 6 months.

I love my dog and I am a junior going full time to my university and I really don't have money to take him to the emergency room. Any information and advise that you can give is greatly appreciated.

Best Regards,

Debora Zelada

Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 7 years ago.


Thanks for that additional information.

I'm quite worried about your little dog and feel that his symptoms of coughing, difficulty breathing, raised head when breathing, distended belly and lethargy can all be explained by heart disease and congestive heart failure.

Here is a video about coughing in dogs, explaining that coughing can be a symptom of many different underlying problems – some quite trivial and some very serious.

There are a number of things that could be going on - but his symptoms really worry me! Any time an animal has difficulty breathing, he should be seen by a veterinarian immediately! The slow walking could well be because he is not getting enough oxygen to his tissues.

A common reason for laboured breathing is congestive heart failure.

In an older dog, this could be caused by a few different things, but mitral valve disease would be the most common.

Basically, when the heart beats, not all of the blood inside it is pushed forward as the mitral valve often becomes "leaky" in older small breed dogs.

So, now you have more blood coming in, PLUS that leaked blood that didn't go out, so the pressure builds up inside the heart. This then backs up so there is increased pressure in the blood vessels in the lungs. Because of the increased pressure, fluid gets squeezed out of the blood vessels and into the lungs. With water in the lungs, it is very difficult to get oxygen across the lungs into the blood stream.

Heart failure can also cause fluid to build up in the abdomen. This fluid is called "ascites" and is another symptom of heart problems. It sounds like your little guy has this.

Here are some links to more information about congestive heart failure (CHF):

And a great video explaining it:

This disease is something which needs prompt veterinary attention.

Your dog may need injections of a diuretic (such as Lasix/furosemide) to quickly move the fluid out of his lungs so he can breathe more easily. The vet would likely get x-rays of the chest to see how much fluid is there, and what size his heart is.

Once he is stabilized, he would likely go home with Lasix in pill form so that the fluid doesn't build up again, as well as something called an "ace inhibitor" to help the heart function more effectively.

It sounds as though your little dog is having a rough time right now, and it must be distressing to him to have trouble breathing. Please get him to a veterinarian as soon as possible! I would strongly recommend a visit to an emergency veterinarian tonight.

If that is absolutely impossible, please know that there is some danger of sudden death with this disease. At home, all you can do to help is to prop your little guy up so that he can rest with his head and chest higher than his belly and back legs. Having him on a wedge made for babies with colic, or on some other type of wedge to elevate his front end might help him to survive the night.

He really does need to see a vet as soon as possible. I hope he feels better soon!

Customer: replied 7 years ago.

I totally forgot to add that I took him to the vet two years ago and they told me he had an enlarged heart... they did a cardio gram and gave him medicine that made him loopy and he was not the same pet so I stopped giving him the meds after a couple of weeks and I haven't had a problem since.

Like I said before he had these same symptoms one month ago and it just went away... I understand your concern and the urgency of prompt medical care...I will try to get him to the vet first thing in the morning (3 more hrs in my time... thankfully he seems to be sleeping peacefully and his body has softened significantly).... My question now this some thing that he can live with and I can give him something to monitor his condition from worsening and he will have decent quality of life... for many more years or will his condition worsen with time?

Please advise....

Thanks again Dr. your insight is greatly appreciated!!!

Expert:  Dr.Fiona replied 7 years ago.

I am happy to help!

It sounds like his previously diagnosed heart disease is worsening.

Generally, this would be treated with diuretics (which will make him urinate more to get the excess fluid out) and with medications to help the heart work better.

It is really hard to know without seeing him but from what you are describing, without treatment I think he will unfortunately die from this very soon (days to weeks).

With treatment, he may live months to years, but it depends on how far advanced this is now...

What I can tell you for certain is that he is now at the point where you need to treat him aggressively for this, or prepare to say goodbye. This has now progressed to an all-or-nothing severity from the sound of his symptoms.

I hope that he responds well to medications and that you have his company and charm to delight you for many months/years to come!

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