Fluid in Dogs Abdomen: Cause and Treatment

icon April 2, 2024

Fluid accumulation in a dog's abdomen, also known as ascites, can be a distressing condition for both the pet and its owner. Dog owners must be aware of the potential causes, symptoms, and treatment options for this condition to ensure the well-being of their furry companions.

What Does Fluid in a Dog's Abdomen Mean?

Fluid in a dog's abdomen is a chronic secondary disease, which refers to the accumulation of large amounts of non-physiological fluid in the abdominal cavity. It is also called ascites. It is more common in puppies and elderly dogs. Hepatic ascites is not an independent disease but is often a symptom caused by certain diseases. Such as ascites caused by liver cirrhosis, ascites caused by cardiopulmonary problems, ascites caused by low protein, etc. Sick dogs usually have symptoms such as abdominal enlargement and sunken back and waist. 

Symptoms of Fluid in Abdomen in Dogs

1. Swollen or Distended Abdomen

The most noticeable symptom is a visibly swollen belly that feels tight to the touch. The swelling can develop gradually or appear suddenly, depending on the underlying cause of the fluid accumulation.

2. Weight Increase

Rapid weight gain without a corresponding increase in food intake can be a sign of fluid buildup in the abdomen.

3. Uncomfortable or Pain

Dogs with ascites may show signs of uncomfortable or pain when their abdomen is touched. They might also become more irritable or aggressive due to the discomfort.

4. Dyspnea

The accumulation of fluid can put pressure on the diaphragm, making it hard for the dog to breathe normally. You may notice increased effort in breathing, shortness of breath, or rapid breathing.

5. Lethargy

Affected dogs often exhibit decreased energy levels. They may seem unusually tired, unwilling to move, or less responsive to stimuli that would normally excite them.

6. Vomiting and Diarrhea

Some dogs with ascites may experience gastrointestinal upset, including vomiting and diarrhea, which can contribute to a further decline in their overall condition.

7. Changes in Gait

The extra weight and bulk of the fluid can affect how a dog walks or moves. You might notice a wider stance, difficulty in lying down or getting up, or a reluctance to jump or climb stairs. Generalized weakness is common, and it may be more pronounced in the hind legs.

8. Collapse or Fainting

In severe cases, especially if ascites is related to heart disease or severe circulatory problems, dogs may collapse or faint due to inadequate blood flow to the brain.

Recognizing these symptoms early and consulting a veterinarian can lead to a timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment, improving the chances of a favorable outcome for dogs with ascites.

Fluid in Dogs Abdomen

Diagnosis of Fluid in Abdomen in Dogs

1. Physical Exam

The veterinarian will start with a thorough physical examination, which includes palpating (feeling) the abdomen to assess for fluid accumulation, swelling, and any discomfort in the dog.

2. Different Causes of Ascites

Ascites triggered by cirrhosis:

this is the most common cause of ascites in dogs. After liver cirrhosis, on the one hand, the blood flow in the liver is blocked and caused by the portal vein pressure increases, so that the water and lymphatic fluid in the blood vessels seep into the abdominal cavity; on the other hand, the function of the liver to synthesize proteins is weakened, and the protein content of the blood decreases, i.e., the blood becomes thinner, and it is easy to make the water seep into the abdominal cavity and the tissues of the whole body.

Ascites caused by cardiopulmonary problems:

caused by cardiopulmonary reasons, such as heart valve disease, heart filariasis, chronic emphysema, interstitial pneumonia, etc. All these diseases can cause heart failure, and the systemic venous intravascular pressure increases, as a result of which the water in the blood seeps into the abdominal cavity and tissues of the whole body.

Ascites caused by low protein:

chronic anemia, malnutrition, severe parasitic diseases, etc., can lead to low protein content in the blood, resulting in the so-called thinner blood; and nephritis, kidney disease, blood protein will also be lost from the urine, which can also cause thinner blood. The result can be conditions such as generalized swelling and accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity.

3. Medical History

Gathering a detailed medical history from the pet owner is crucial. This includes any previous health issues, recent injuries, changes in behavior or appetite, and exposure to toxins or infectious diseases.

4. Diagnostic Tests

Blood Tests:

Comprehensive blood tests, including a complete blood count (CBC) and biochemistry profile, help evaluate the dog's overall health, organ functions, and identify signs of infection or inflammation.


To check kidney function and identify urinary tract issues.

Imaging Tests:

  • X-rays:

To visualize the abdominal area, identify fluid accumulation, and look for possible causes like tumors or organ enlargement.

  • Ultrasound:

Offers a more detailed view of the abdominal organs and can help detect fluid, masses, and other abnormalities not visible on X-rays.

Fluid Analysis:

If fluid is present, a sample may be withdrawn (abdominocentesis) and analyzed to determine its nature (e.g., blood, pus, lymph, or transudate). This can help pinpoint specific causes like bleeding, infection, or cancer.

Additional Tests:

Depending on initial findings, further tests like heartworm tests, coagulation profiles, or specific imaging (CT scan, MRI) may be recommended to explore certain diagnoses.

Can a Dog Recover with Fluid in Abdomen?

Yes, a dog can recover from having fluid in the abdomen (ascites), but the prognosis and recovery depend heavily on the underlying cause of the fluid accumulation, the dog's overall health, and how quickly treatment is initiated. Successful recovery often involves a combination of treating the immediate symptom of fluid accumulation and addressing the root cause of the condition. Here are some key points regarding recovery:

Effective Management

Conditions such as heart failure, liver disease, or kidney failure can be managed with medication, dietary changes, and regular monitoring, allowing many dogs to live with a good quality of life.

Surgical Intervention

If the ascites are due to a treatable condition requiring surgery (e.g., a tumor), successful removal can lead to recovery.
Infection Control: Ascites caused by infections can be treated with antibiotics or antifungal medications, leading to recovery if administered promptly.

Fluid Removal

In severe cases, veterinarians may need to remove excess fluid from the abdomen to relieve discomfort and respiratory distress. This procedure, known as abdominocentesis, provides temporary relief.


Diuretics may be prescribed to help the body remove excess fluid, while other medications will target specific symptoms or conditions identified as the underlying cause. For these categories: 

1. Heart Failure

In cases of congestive heart failure, fluid can accumulate in the abdominal cavity as a result of decreased circulation and increased pressure on the veins that carry blood to the heart. More specifically, right-sided heart failure is known to cause ascites in dogs as the blood backs up in the veins of the abdomen, which results in free fluid in the dog's abdomen (ascites).In this situation, we suggest trying to use some meds to provide heart energy: Puainta Enalapril Maleate -Heart Medications Heart Supplements for Dogs.

Puainta® Cardiac Therapy Tablets Heart Supplement Enalapril Maleate is a white tablet that is used in dogs and cats with heart and/or kidney problems. Enalapril causes small blood vessels to relax (vasodilation). This makes it easier for blood to circulate, which then decreases blood pressure and decreases the work load on the heart.

2. Liver Disease

Changes in blood proteins and blood pressure due to conditions like cirrhosis or liver disease can result in fluid buildup in the abdomen. When there is significant liver disease, the liver cannot make a particular protein called albumin. Hypoalbuminemia (low albumin in the blood) causes a decrease in oncotic pressure which can lead to fluid accumulation in the abdomen. Furthermore, elevated blood pressure in and around the liver called portal hypertension contributes to ascites. In this situation, we can try Turmeric and Milk Thistle Liver Supplement for Dogs.

Puainta® Turmeric and Milk Thistle Liver Supplement for Cats/ Dogs - Tablets

Used as a general tonic to protect against disease, turmeric and milk thistle supplements for dogs are also very effective during convalescence. This natural remedy promotes and speeds up healing to improve recovery after an illness. Immunity & Liver Support will help to keep your pet in peak health and is very effective as a companion remedy along with a range of our other natural remedies.


Meat, milk thistle, turmeric

3. Hemorrhage

Ascites can be caused by trauma to the abdomen or internal bleeding resulting from conditions such as coagulopathy, which impairs the blood's clotting ability. Additionally, a bleeding splenic mass can also result in abdominal distension and ascites in dogs.

4. Nephrotic Syndrome

This is a kidney disorder characterized by protein loss in the urine, low levels of proteins in the blood, and high cholesterol. It can lead to fluid accumulation in the abdomen of dogs, resulting in ascites. Nephrotic syndrome signifies damage to the filtering part of the kidney called the glomerulus. Damage to the glomeruli via infection, inflammation, or other causes can lead to the loss of proteins in the urine and the resulting low oncotic pressure, which can cause ascites.

Dietary Management

Diet plays a crucial role, especially in cases related to liver or kidney disease. A diet low in sodium may be recommended to help manage fluid retention.


Regular follow-ups are necessary to monitor the dog's condition, adjust treatments as needed, and manage any complications that arise.

What Is The Prognosis for Patients with Ascites?

The outlook for dogs with ascites heavily relies on the root cause of the condition. Ascites is not a disease but a symptom, so its prognosis is closely linked to the treatment and control of the condition responsible for it.

Treatable conditions:

For ascites caused by conditions that can be treated or managed effectively, such as certain infections or manageable chronic diseases, the prognosis can be good with appropriate treatment.
Chronic or advanced diseases:

For ascites resulting from advanced stages of chronic diseases like heart failure, liver cirrhosis, or cancer, the prognosis tends to be more guarded or poor. The prognosis can vary widely with liver disease, from fair to poor. Early-stage liver diseases that are promptly treated can have a more favorable outcome, but advanced liver disease or cirrhosis has a more guarded prognosis.


Fluid accumulation in a dog's abdomen can be a concerning symptom indicating an underlying health issue. Early detection and prompt veterinary intervention are crucial for diagnosing the underlying cause and initiating appropriate treatment. Dog owners should monitor their pets for any signs of abdominal swelling or discomfort and seek veterinary care if any concerning symptoms arise. With proper diagnosis and treatment, many dogs with ascites can experience improved quality of life and better long-term outcomes.


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