By:  Dr Jennifer Merry

When you see your dog’s abdomen (or stomach) getting larger it is easy to brush it off as too many cookies and too little exercise -then promise yourself to do better in the future. But there are medical conditions that can make the abdomen appear larger that should not be ignored.

  • Hypothyroidism – or low thyroid hormone production. This decreases the dog’s metabolic rate and makes them prone to weight gain. This is usually a disease of middle age and older dogs. Some breeds are more prone to this like Golden and Labrador Retrievers. A blood test will be needed to diagnose.
  • Hyperadrenocorticism – or Cushing’s disease is an overproduction of hormone from the adrenal glands. The dog will often have a pendulous or “potty” abdomen although they may be losing weight elsewhere. Most dogs will have an increase in drinking and urination. A blood test will be needed to diagnose.
  • Abdominal Tumour – the abdomen holds many different organs all of which can enlarge with disease processes. Dogs can also get independent abdominal tumours not associated with an organ. A blood test and radiographs will be needed to diagnose.
  • Ascites – or build up of fluid in the abdomen. This can be due to organ failure eg liver or heart or imbalances in the blood proteins. A blood test and radiographs will be needed to diagnose.
  • Bloat/GDV – this happens quickly and is a life threatening condition. Usually it is seen in deep chested breeds like German Shepherds or Grey hounds but it can happen to any dog. Gastric dilatation (enlargement) and volvulus (twisting) can happen when a dog is fed and then exercised. Luckily there appears to be a genetic component so not all dogs are equally at risk.

Maybe your dog’s thickening waist is obesity – after all 50% of all pet dogs are overweight but it is a good idea to put it in context. Have you been feeding your dog more and exercising less? Is the general energy of the dog the same? Is the whole dog fatter or just the abdomen? Did it happen gradually or in a few hours or days? Asking yourself these questions could save your dog’s life.