Stomach Pain in Dogs: Signs and Symptoms

January 22, 2020
Stomach pain in dogs be caused by overeating or more serious life-threatening conditions. Because of this, it's important to go to the vet straight away.

Stomach pain in dogs can be very worrying for owners until they find out what’s causing it. However, a painful stomach is quite a common problem.

The key thing is to spot the signs and symptoms. Typically, common signs can be shallow breathing, along with a lack of energy and a lack of appetite. In this article, we’ll discuss the signs and symptoms of stomach pain in dogs in detail.

What is stomach pain in dogs?

Stomach pain could encompass a whole range of possible conditions. Medically, repeated occurrences of stomach pain are known as acute abdomen.

In general, there are two types of acute abdomen: infectious or non-infectious. Then, within these groups, there are several different types of stomach pain: digestive, metabolic, musculoskeletal, peritoneal cavity, reproductive system, or urinary system.

All dog owners need to understand that acute abdominal pain is almost always secondary to an underlying condition that needs to be treated.

What to do if your dog is suffering

Although stomach pain in dogs can be difficult to recognize, you should pay close attention to any change in your pet’s behavior. If your dog starts behaving differently for any reason, take them straight to the vet. Stomach pain is often caused by an underlying condition that should be treated quickly in case there is an obstruction or tumor.

A dog suffering from stomach pain in dogs.

Symptoms of stomach pain in dogs

By watching your dog every day, you should be able to notice changes in their behavior patterns. Some of the possible warning signs include:

  • Swollen and tender abdomen
  • Vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Whining
  • Difficulty breathing or abnormal breathing
  • Changes in posture: raising the hips and bringing shoulders closer to the floor
  • Difficulty when getting up or restless when lying down, indicating that they can’t find a comfortable position
  • Diarrhea, blood or mucus in feces, dehydration
  • Depression or lack of energy
  • Fever

Causes of stomach pain in dogs

There are many reasons that your dog might be suffering from an acute abdomen. As we said before, there are fundamentally two types: infectious and non-infectious. Within these two categories, there are further causes:

  • Metabolic, such as kidney failure, liver disease, malabsorption, ischemia (not enough blood supply to an organ or body part), and cancer
  • Peritoneal cavity, such as urinary trauma, urethral obstruction, cystitis, peritonitis (inflammation of the abdominal lining)
  • Digestive, such as gastric torsion, pancreatitis, gastritis, gastrointestinal ulcer, intestinal inflammation, constipation or gastrointestinal obstruction
  • Reproductive, such as prostatitis
  • Musculoskeletal, such as trauma to the abdominal muscle
  • Neurological
  • Bacterial, parasitic and viral infections such as canine parvovirus or leptospirosis

A dog at the vet.

Appointment at the vet’s

When you go to the vet, it’s important to tell them everything that you’ve observed. What has their eating been like recently and has their diet changed at all?

You should also tell them if you’ve been to any new places recently or if there’s a chance that your dog has been exposed to any harmful chemicals or poisons. And don’t forget any possible injuries or traumas they might have suffered.

Then, your vet will decide whether or not to take blood or urine samples. They’ll also physically examine your dog and look for evidence of trauma such as bruising or wounds. They’ll also check the lungs and heart.

If necessary, they may choose to take an x-ray, fluoroscopy, or a smear test to further diagnose the possible cause. Then, they will be able to advise on the correct course of treatment.

  • Gagnon, D., & Brisson, B. (2013). Predisposing factors for colonic torsion/volvulus in dogs: a retrospective study of six cases (1992–2010). Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 49(3), 169-174.
  • Hellyer, P., Rodan, I., Brunt, J., Downing, R., Hagedorn, J. E., Robertson, S. A., & AAHA/AAFP Pain Management Guidelines Task Force Members. (2007). AAHA/AAFP pain management guidelines for dogs and cats. Journal of Feline Medicine & Surgery, 9(6), 466-480.