Ascites In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

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Ascites in dogs is an abnormal buildup of fluid in the abdomen. It is also called abdominal effusion. There are many possible medical conditions in dogs that would cause such a buildup, and even though it can be treated, it’s likely to return if the underlying condition remains.

Though ascites is usually a secondary symptom of another possibly serious issue, it can bring symptoms of its own. Signs include vomiting, pain, or a distended abdomen among other things.

If you see the symptoms in your dog, you must consult your veterinarian so they can diagnose the underlying cause and begin treatment. Here’s 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 buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity and the pressure it puts on organs. One of the most obvious is abdominal distension.

If you see any of the following symptoms in your dog, consult your vet right away because ascites, itself, is often 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 several are serious, life-threatening conditions. In fact, 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 in dogs:

  • 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 buildup, but vets also need to treat the underlying cause, or else ascites is likely to return.

Abdominocentesis is one possible therapy a vet might use. It involves manually removing some fluid by tapping the abdomen, which provides relief from pain.

Generally, vets will prescribe a restricted sodium diet along with diuretics to help flush sodium out through the urine. Vets will provide oxygen to dogs who have difficulty breathing, and they may also give intravenous fluids if there are signs of dehydration.

Sometimes ascites can be due to a bacterial infection, a condition called septic ascites. In these cases, vets can prescribe antibiotics to help fight the infection.

However, because there are so many possible causes for ascites, it’s important for a vet 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. Your vet will provide treatment 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!