A bloated puppy is terrifying, especially for new dog owners. As a vet tech, many, many puppies rolled through our office every year with big, drum bellies.
That being said, let’s look at some of the reasons that your puppy might have a barrel belly.
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How a Puppy Becomes a Bloated Puppy
I want to start off by saying that if you get a puppy, you should always take him to the vet right away for an exam.
This holds true even if you bought your puppy from a breeder. It’s especially true if he’s bloated or has any other symptoms or if something seems off.
It’s important to know exactly what’s happening inside your new little buddy.
A bloated puppy can have that big, round belly for any number of reasons, some of which may be harmful (such as gastric dilation-volvulus or GDV), so as always, see a vet.
In some cases, a bloated belly looks just like a normal puppy belly, so even if you suspect that something is off, give your veterinarian a call.
Now let’s take a look at what can cause a bloated abdomen in a puppy.
1. Your Puppy is Too Young
Sometimes breeders will send home puppies with new owners too early. Disreputable breeders will do this if they can tell that you’re a first-time owner with little dog experience.
For example, we had a client come in with a bloated puppy who was only 7 weeks old. That’s way too young, as 8 weeks is the minimum.
It turned out that the puppy was bloated because he was too young to digest the puppy kibble he’d been given. Our client softened his food, and everything was fine.
2. Your Puppy is Bloated with Belly Worms
The majority of puppies end up with roundworms. That’s why all vets include proactive deworming whenever anyone brings a new puppy in to see them.
Roundworms are tough critters.
Even when a mother has been properly dewormed, roundworm eggs can burrow themselves into her body tissue (painlessly) to avoid the medication.
They can remain dormant in muscle tissue for long periods of time.
When the mom’s system is under strain from being pregnant, the eggs pop open and the little buggers make their way to the intestines to live.
They give off eggs that are transmitted via the uterus during pregnancy or nursing while the baby is young.
If you have a bloated newborn puppy, this could very likely be the culprit, but again, only your vet can give you a definitive diagnosis.
3. Your puppy is overeating or eating too fast
Is your puppy’s stomach bloated after eating? It could be a sign that he’s either eating too much or too fast.
Overeating, especially dry food, may cause temporary bloating in the sense that we usually think of it. Basically, if your puppy is bloated but acting normal, it could just be a too-full tummy.
However, bloat itself (which, remember, can be fatal) is caused by too much air entering their tummies, which can happen when they’re chowing down at a lightning pace.
Again, err on the side of caution. Even if your puppy is acting totally fine, call your vet. Bloat can kill very fast.
If you find out that the problem is related to having a fast eater on your hands, I’d also recommend getting a slow feeding bowl to keep your puppy from gobbling food down too fast, especially if they’re one of the breeds already prone to bloat.
However, steer clear of elevated food bowls. While there’s much debate over whether or not they actually contribute to bloat, I prefer to take a “better safe than sorry” stance on them.
4. Your Puppy Has Something Else
And that something else could be pretty much anything. But none of it will be good.
A bloated puppy who is old enough to be away from his mom and has no worms could have some really bad things going on.
Puppies are not immune to severe illness, especially congenital defects.
A bloated puppy could have fluid in his belly from a heart condition or heart failure, an enlarged organ (kidneys or liver, for example) in distress, or any number of other nasty problems.
Is there a bloated puppy home remedy?
Let me make this super clear because your pup’s survival depends on it: there are NO home remedies for bloat.
Even sites that exist solely to promote home remedies for people and pets will tell you that it is a dire emergency and shouldn’t be messed with.
Your vet will need to release the pressure in the belly, either through a tube down your dog’s throat or through surgery in which he inserts a needle in the belly.
Obviously, these are NOT things that you can do at home. The best “home remedy” for bloat is prevention, plain and simple.
How to prevent bloat in puppies
We’ve touched on prevention methods a bit throughout this article, but let’s recap and add a few extra ideas.
- Skip the raised bowls unless otherwise directed to use one by your vet.
- Keep your pup calm after eating. Too much running and playing can contribute to bloat.
- Feed your puppy several small meals instead of one big meal.
- Talk to your vet about whether a slow feeder would be beneficial for your pup.
- Make sure your dog stays hydrated
For some giant breed dogs (like Great Danes) and other dogs prone to bloat, like the Irish Wolfhound or Weimaraner, vets may even recommend tacking your dog’s stomach up, in a surgical procedure called a gastropexy.
Frequently Asked Questions about Bloat in Puppies
Before we close out, let’s go over some of the most common questions about bloat. We’ve discussed a few of these above, but they’re worth mentioning again (especially for all of you skimmers out there).
How do I know if my puppy is bloated?
The most obvious sign of bloat is a full and distended belly. However, other signs include severe salivation, retching or vomiting, restless behavior, and salivating.
How do you get rid of bloat in a puppy?
While it depends on the cause and severity, typically your vet will decompress your pup’s belly by placing a tube down the throat and into the stomach, followed by intravenous fluids to restore hydration. In some cases, curing bloat may require surgery and pain medications. Remember, you can’t get rid of bloat in a puppy on your own. Only your vet can determine the best course of action.
Does puppy bloat go away on its own?
No, true bloat does not resolve on its own. It’s a life-threatening urgent condition that requires veterinarian emergency care.
Can bloat kill a puppy?
Yes, bloat absolutely can kill a puppy. That’s why it’s not something you want to mess with or try to resolve on your own.
Why is my puppies belly swollen and hard? Is it bloat?
It may be, but a swollen and hard puppy belly isn’t always caused by bloat. Other potential causes range from mild issues like gas or constipation to more serious conditions, such as heart failure, kidney disease, or Cushing’s syndrome.
Does bloat always cause stomach twisting?
Anyone who has ever read or watched Marley and Me knows all about stomach twisting. What you may not know, though, is that “twisting” is NOT a synonym for “bloat” or vice-versa. Your dog can have one without the other.
Bloated Puppy? See Your Vet ASAP
It is always of utmost importance that you see your vet if anything ever seems off. That is especially true with a bloated puppy.
It might be as simple as softening his food or investing in a slow feeder, or it might be something dire.
The only way to know is by taking him in to see your vet. Remember, bloat can be a life-threatening condition. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!