Swollen Abdomen in a Puppy: Tilly’s Story

Of the top of your head, can you list three or more potential causes of a swollen abdomen in dogs? How about if the dog is a puppy?

Tilly was a happy, active puppy. Nothing was obviously wrong with her except her pot belly. Maybe she was eating a bit too much? Maybe that’s how a puppy ought to look? Because Tilly seemed perfectly healthy, her mom decided to wait and ask about it at Tilly’s vaccination appointment.

Swollen Abdomen in a Puppy: Tilly's Story

Tilly did not vomit, she didn’t have diarrhea and had a healthy appetite. In the absence of any other signs of illness, Tilly’s mom didn’t see a reason to rush to a clinic right away.

A puppy that is acting sick is always an emergency. But what about a normal puppy with a big belly?

At the veterinarian

The most common cause of a swollen belly in puppies are roundworms. Puppies can acquire the infection from their mother. If the mother has been infected as a puppy, some of the worm larvae can make their way into the blood. From there they travel into body tissues where they settle in the form of cysts.

If the female later becomes pregnant, it activates the larvae. They leave the cysts and move back into the bloodstream. They can then infect the unborn puppies.

That’s why puppies are routinely dewormed several times until they are twelve weeks old.

Symptoms of a roundworm infection

Potbellied appearance is the most common sign of roundworms. The sooner you pick up on that and take your puppy to a vet, the better.

The most obvious problem with a roundworm infection is that they steal the food as it passes through the intestine. Puppies need nutrients. A roundworm infection can lead to signs such as:

  • reduced growth
  • weight loss
  • weakness
  • lethargy
  • dull coat
  • diarrhea
  • mucus in the stool
  • vomiting

Unlike some other intestinal parasites, roundworms are visible to a plain eye and you can observe the spaghetti-like worms in your dog’s poop.

Roundworm infection complications

A massive infestation can become life-threatening. It can also lead to intestinal damage, obstruction, and even rupture.

How did Tilly do?

Tilly’s infestation was caught early. She was deformed and a week later her belly looked the way it should.

Original story:
Tilly, a 12 week old Jack Russell Terrier puppy had a swollen belly

Related articles:
Abdominal Distention in Dogs: Why Is My Dog’s Stomach Swollen?
Polka Dot Stools in Dogs: Did My Dog Eat Party Confetti?

Further reading:
Testing for Abdominal Enlargement in Dogs

Categories: ConditionsDistended abdomenDog health advocacyIntestinal parasitesReal-life StoriesSwollen abdomenSymptoms

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Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

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