Peritonitis (Abdominal Cavity Inflammation) In Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatments

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Peritonitis in dogs is a condition where the peritoneum, which is the thin, watery membrane that lines the abdominal cavity, becomes inflamed. This happens when the abdominal cavity suffers injury, which can be caused by physical trauma, disease, a stomach ulcer, or other problems. The most common cause of peritonitis is bacterial infection that moves to the abdomen from an external wound or from perforation of an internal organ. A dog suffering from peritonitis may seem to be well, then suddenly become ill. The condition is usually painful, and most dogs will show signs of discomfort if they are touched on the abdomen. If you see the signs of peritonitis in your dog, get to your veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment, as it can be a life-threatening condition. Here is what you should know about the symptoms, causes, and treatments for peritonitis in dogs.

Symptoms Of Peritonitis In Dogs

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In most cases, the symptoms of peritonitis in dogs are easy to recognize. Dogs may seem fine, then suddenly become very ill. They will almost certainly show signs of pain when their abdomen is touched. If you see one or more of the following symptoms in your dog, consult your veterinarian immediately.

  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Black stools
  • Anorexia
  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Taking unusual positions to relieve pain
  • Low blood pressure
  • Increased heart rate
  • Increased respiration rate
  • Low body temperature
  • Pale gums
  • Jaundice
  • Swelling in the abdomen
  • Ascites
  • Arrhythmia

Causes Of Peritonitis In Dogs

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There are several possible causes of peritonitis in dogs. The most common is bacterial infection that moves to the abdomen from an external wound or perforated organ, but there are many other possible factors that may lead to peritonitis. Here are some of the possible causes of peritonitis in dogs.

  • Intestinal or stomach tumor that ruptures the bowel
  • Stomach or intestinal ulcer, which can be caused by anti-inflammatory medications
  • Liver abscess
  • Pancreatic inflammation
  • Ruptured gallbladder or bile duct
  • Ruptured bladder
  • Ruptured uterus
  • Ruptured appendix
  • Perforated colon
  • Diverticulitis
  • Liver, heart, or kidney disease
  • Chemical contamination
  • Prostate cysts
  • Wound or injury to the abdomen

Treatments For Peritonitis In Dogs

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Treatment for peritonitis in dogs may begin with hospitalization if the condition is serious. Dogs may be given intravenous fluids, and if nutritional support is needed, a feeding tube may be placed into the digestive tract, or feedings may be administered via injection.

Depending on the severity and cause of the condition, surgery may need to be performed. This is especially true in cases where a bacterial infection or chemical contamination is the cause of the peritonitis. Surgery for these conditions involve flushing the abdomen with saline. Many dogs don’t recover from this kind of peritonitis, as it is quite life-threatening.

A dietary change will likely be necessary to help with fluid retention. A low-sodium diet is often prescribed, especially for dogs that have been diagnosed with heart disease. Medications, including antibiotics or medicine to control pain, may also be prescribed. Follow-up vet visits will be necessary to make sure there are no recurring symptoms.