Fluid in Abdomen in Dogs

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Ascites in Dogs

Ascites, also known as abdominal effusion, is the medical term referring to the buildup of fluid in the abdomen of a dog. This may cause symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and loss of appetite. A wide variety of causes may be responsible for ascites, thus treatments vary accordingly.

The condition or disease described in this medical article can affect both dogs and cats. If you would like to learn more about how this disease affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms and Types

  • Lethargy
  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting
  • Weight gain
  • Weakness at times
  • Signs of discomfort when the abdomen is felt
  • Groaning noises when lying down

Difficulty breathing (or dyspnea) may also occur due to abdominal swelling putting pressure on the chest, or due to a related buildup of fluid in the space between the chest wall and lungs (referred to as pleural effusion). Male animals sometimes show a buildup of fluid in the scrotum or penis.


There are many causes for the occurrence of fluid buildup (or edema) in the abdomen. Some of these include abdominal bleeding, abdominal cancer, an inflammation of the lining of the abdomen, a ruptured bladder, liver damage, low levels of protein in the blood (or hypoproteinemia), and right-sided congestive heart failure, in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs.

A medical condition known as nephritic syndrome -- where the dog has protein in its urine and high cholesterol in its blood -- may also be responsible for fluid buildup in the abdomen.


To diagnose ascites, an ascetic fluid evaluation is general procedure. This involves the removal of abdominal fluid to analyze for characteristics such as bacterial presence, protein makeup, and bleeding. The veterinarian may also analyze the urine, or perform X-rays and ultrasounds on the dog, to determine the cause of abdominal fluid buildup.

Diagnoses of the cause for fluid buildup in the abdomen may range from liver damage, to ruptured bladder, to right-sided congenital heart failure. Additional symptoms will help determine further diagnostic procedures.

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