Ascites In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

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Ascites in dogs is an abnormal build up of fluid in the abdomen. It is also called abdominal effusion. There are many possible medical conditions in dogs that would cause such a build up, and even though ascites can be treated, it is likely to return if the underlying condition remains. Though ascites is usually a secondary symptom of another potentially serious issue, it can bring symptoms of its own. Signs of ascites in dogs include vomiting, pain, or a distended abdomen among other things. If you see the symptoms of ascites in your dog, you should consult your veterinarian so they can diagnose the underlying cause and begin treatment. Here is what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for ascites in dogs.

Symptoms Of Ascites In Dogs

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There are several possible symptoms of ascites in dogs that result from the accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity and the pressure it puts on organs. One of the most notable is abdominal distension. If you see any of the following symptoms in your dog, consult your veterinarian immediately, as ascites is often, itself, a secondary symptom of a serious medical issue.

  • Abdominal distension
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Fever

Causes Of Ascites In Dogs

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There are many possible causes of ascites in dogs, and many of them are serious, life-threatening conditions. Diseases of the organs, parasites, heart problems, or blood and blood vessel issues can all cause blood and fluid to leak into the abdominal cavity. Here are a few possible medical problems that are known to cause ascites.

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Liver failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Nephrotic syndrome
  • Malnutrition
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Lymphoma
  • Low protein levels in the blood
  • Lymphatic disease
  • Hypoalbuminemia
  • Hookworm
  • Abdominal inflammation
  • Abdominal masses
  • Injury
  • Bleeding disorders
  • Vein obstuction
  • Ruptured bladder

Treatments For Ascites In Dogs

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Treatment of ascites in dogs may provide relief from the symptoms of fluid build up, but treatment for the underlying cause is necessary, or ascites is likely to return. Abdominocentesis is a possible therapy a veterinarian might use to manually remove some fluid by tapping the abdomen to provide relief from pain. Generally, a restricted sodium diet will be prescribed along with diuretics to help flush sodium out through the urine. Oxygen may be provided to dogs that are having difficulty breathing, and intravenous fluids may be given if there are signs of dehydration.

Sometimes the ascites can be due to a bacterial infection, a condition called septic ascites. If this is the case, antibiotics can be prescribed to help fight the infection. However, because there are so many possible causes for ascites, it is important for a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause and provide treatment accordingly. Some conditions may improve with dietary changes and medications, while others may require surgery, chemotherapy, or other extensive treatments. These will be provided according to your dog’s specific medical condition.

Has your dog ever suffered from ascites? What was the underlying cause? Let us know in the comments below!