Is It Normal for a Puppy to Have a Big Belly?

Ollie the puppy sleeping soundly- why do dogs get hiccups when sleeping?
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Many people wonder- is it normal for a puppy to have a big belly? If your puppy has a big belly, there could be multiple causes. If your pooch’s stomach only swells up after eating or drinking but goes down soon afterwards, there’s no cause for concern.

Given the relatively small size of your puppy’s body, it is normal for them to bloat slightly after adding anything to their body. As long as your puppy is behaving normally, there’s no reason to worry.

However, if your puppy’s stomach has swollen up and does not deflate or if your puppy is showing signs of pain, it could be dealing with a severe condition that requires treatment.

Parasites

Most puppies are born with some form of intestinal worms. Hookworms and roundworms are the two most common types of worms found in puppies.

If left untreated, these worms can cause the intestines to fill with gas, creating a pot-bellied appearance. It is a very good idea to get your puppies regularly checked for worms.

Your vet can do a fecal test to determine if your puppy has worms, but these tests do not always detect the presence, especially if the condition has not gotten severe.

To be on the safe side, vets will recommend that you deworm your puppy, even if there hasn’t been a positive fecal test. Deworming should take place at 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks.

If you adopt a puppy, you will want to check with the breeder to find out if your puppy is up to date on his deworming medications. You may be responsible for the final dose or two, depending on the age of your puppy when you adopt.

Overfeeding

Many people wonder- is it normal for a puppy to have a big belly if they are being bottle-fed?

If you care for a neonate pup (one who was born too early or orphaned) and are bottle feeding with formula, you may notice your puppy having a swollen belly.

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In addition to a big stomach, your puppy may also be colicky and have green or yellow stools that are watery.

These symptoms are a sign that you are overfeeding your puppy. To fix the issue, try diluting your puppy’s formula by increasing the water amount by 25% for a few days.

This solution prevents overfeeding and can help reverse the diarrhea symptoms. It also helps prevent your puppy from getting dehydrated.

Click here for more puppy feeding tips and tricks!

Abdominal Hernia

If your puppy has an internal hernia, it can give the appearance of a swollen belly.

The most common cause is an umbilical hernia, which is when the umbilical ring does not close properly after birth. If this is the problem you’ll notice swelling in the abdomen, right below the rib cage.

Umbilical hernias are often most noticeable when your puppy strains, stands, or barks. In most cases, these are harmless enough that they won’t hurt your puppy, and it can clear up on its own as your puppy grows.

It could also be a protruding diaphragm or abdominal organs that have pushed through the abdominal wall. It’s best to take your puppy to the vet to get diagnosed.

Bloat

Bloat is a serious condition that can be quickly fatal if left untreated.

This condition, which is also known as gastric dilatation and volvulus syndrome (GDV), is more common in older dogs. However, some puppies can also have this life-threatening condition. It frequently affects large breeds.

Besides a swollen belly, your puppy may also have symptoms of retching, unproductive vomiting, or attempting to go to the bathroom, rapid heart rate, pacing, and not wanting to lay down. Your puppy may also whine uncontrollably or have irregular breathing.

It’s unclear what causes this condition, but one potential cause is if your puppy does a lot of strenuous exercise shortly after eating. If you think bloat could be the problem, it’s best to see a vet immediately to know the best way to cure your dog.

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Letting your puppy eat too fast can also cause bloat and is one of the biggest feeding mistakes that you can make.

For large breed puppies, some experts recommend a raised food and water bowl. Having them sit up off the ground keeps your puppy from swallowing air along with their food.

This air can cause your puppy’s stomach to twist on itself, trapping food particles in the intestine. When bloat is occurring, it can lead to death within hours. Underweight dogs have an even higher risk since they will generally eat as fast as they can.

Fluid Buildup

The final cause of a swollen belly can be fluid buildup. Some puppies have a condition called ‘ascites,’ which causes the abdomen to fill with fluid.

According to PetMD, the symptoms of ascites can include:

  • Difficulty breathing, since the swollen stomach is putting pressure on the chest
  • Groaning noises when moving
  • Anorexia or loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Vomiting

This buildup can be a sign of a problem with your puppy’s internal organs, including the heart or liver. If there’s a problem with the heart, your doctor may be able to diagnose it through a stethoscope.

It can also be caused by problems such as abdominal bleeding or a ruptured bladder. The general procedure is to evaluate abdominal fluid for the presence of bacteria or bleeding.

However, your vet may also recommend that your puppy undergo further tests, including an x-ray or ultrasound to figure out the problem. After the problem is found, treatment often consists of draining the fluid, antibiotic therapy and surgery, in some cases.

What Does A Normal Puppy Belly Look Like?

Olliver the puppy sleeping sound with his paws to the side
Olliver showing us (unintentionally) what a normal puppy belly looks like

Hopefully, by now, you should know whether it’s normal for a puppy to have a big belly. If your pet has just eaten, then yes, it’s normal for your puppy’s belly to swell up. But if they haven’t eaten, it could be a different problem.

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You can do regular checks of your puppy’s belly so you can stay on top of things. Doing frequent exams can help you detect problems as soon as they arise, which can help if it is a condition that will require treatment.

The underside of your puppy’s stomach should be smooth, with no visible masses. It should also be loose, with the ability to move when you touch it. A tight belly means there could be a problem such as worms or bloat.

During your puppy’s exam, first do a visual scan to see if you notice any lumps or masses protruding from the skin. Next, run your fingers over the belly to check for any bumps or knots that aren’t visible outwardly.

A typical puppy belly will feel soft and offer no resistance when you press. It will feel squishy. If you press on your puppy’s stomach and it feels hard, it could be bloat or inflammation.

An enlargement in the left side of the belly right under the ribs is normal if your pet just finished eating. Wait to do your exam until it’s been a few hours between meals and after your puppy has gone to the bathroom.

You should also watch for signs of discomfort or pain. If your puppy makes noises or has trouble breathing when you apply pressure, you may want to take your puppy for a checkup. Sudden swelling should always be an immediate concern and will require assistance from a vet.

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