Dogs’ stomachs make noises just like ours. Whether it’s growling, rumbling, or gurgling, a noisy dog stomach can mean a number of things.
Often, it simply means your dog is hungry and their stomach is empty. Occasionally, the rumbling means they’ve just had a big meal and their stomach is working hard to digest all that food. Other times, they make a lot of noise because of indigestion or an upset stomach.
So how do you know if dog stomach noises are signs of a problem? Here’s what the noises could mean and when to seek veterinary help.
Is It Normal for a Dog’s Stomach to Make Noises?
While stomach grumbling and rumbling can be noisy, it’s often a normal part of digestion. Stomach noises, also called borborygmi, are the result of food and water moving through the digestive tract in a process called peristalsis.
The gastrointestinal (GI) tract includes the stomach, small intestines, and large intestines. Each of these organs contain smooth muscle to aid in moving food and water through the body.
Peristalsis occurs when these muscles contract in rhythmic waves to move food through the GI tract. This peristaltic movement can result in normal stomach noises. You might hear your dog’s stomach noises immediately after they’ve eaten.
When the stomach and intestines are empty, there is nothing to muffle the sound. Imagine water moving through a hollow pipe. That’s why we often hear our dogs' stomachs grumblings more when it’s been a while since they’ve eaten.
While stomach noises can be very normal, a dog’s stomach may make more noise when it’s upset or experiencing a gastrointestinal disturbance.
What Does It Mean When a Dog’s Stomach Is Making a Lot of Noise?
Although stomach noises usually mean the stomach and intestines are doing their job of moving food and drink through the digestive tract, there are several factors that can lead to increased or abnormal stomach noises in dogs.
While some of these problems are self-limiting and may go away on their own, others can be potentially serious, such as:
Diarrhea may cause an increase in stomach noises as food and water move more rapidly through the digestive tract. Dogs may have lots of stomach noise right before they experience a bout of diarrhea.
Eating Something Bad or Different
Dietary indiscretions are another common cause of increased stomach noises. When a dog sneaks into the garbage or gets an unusual treat that doesn’t agree with them, they may have difficulty with digestion that leads to more stomach noises.
A bowel obstruction can lead to lots of stomach noises. In the vet world, this is commonly referred to as a foreign body.
Sometimes dogs will eat things that are not digestible food items (e.g., socks, bones, and corn cobs are common offenders). These things can get stuck in their stomach or intestines, causing an increase in gas as their body attempts to dilate the region to move the object forward. This can lead to more audible noises, and it’s a very serious condition that should be addressed immediately.
Underlying gastrointestinal disorders or syndromes like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), caused by chronic irritation of the intestinal tracts, or exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI), where digestive enzymes are lacking, may lead to increased stomach noises, along with other gastrointestinal problems.
Parasites and Bacterial Infections
Parasites and bacterial infections (like coccidia, salmonella, E. coli, or giardia) can all play a role in increased dog stomach noises. They may reduce the absorption of nutrients and/or produce gas on their own as they colonize the GI tract.
Increased stomach noises can simply be the result of increased gas. Gas can be normal; it occurs when intestinal bacteria process less digestible food or ingredients in your pet’s diet. While carbohydrates are an important source of energy, they can also be a source of gas. When carbohydrates are broken down, their fiber is fermented, producing gas.
Swallowing air can also be a source of gas. A panting dog may swallow more air, leading to increased gas and increased stomach noises.
The amount of gas a dog has in their gastrointestinal tract can change from day to day. Some dogs have sensitivities to certain ingredients that, when given as a treat, lead to an increased production in gas.
You may notice that your dog has more gas, and consequently more stomach noises, after they’re given a particular treat, like a pup cup, as they have more difficulty digesting the lactose in dairy products.
When Should You Call the Vet for Dog Stomach Noises?
While stomach noises in dogs are often normal, they can sometimes indicate a problem with digestion. If your dog’s stomach noises are accompanied by any of the following signs, call the vet:
Vomiting or retching
Severe diarrhea or persistent diarrhea lasting more than 24-48 hours
Not eating or lack of appetite
If you’re hearing an abnormal amount of stomach noise, watch your pet closely for any signs of abdominal pain or hunching, and don’t hesitate to call your veterinarian right away if the stomach noises come with other clinical signs.
How to Reduce Your Dog’s Stomach Noises
Remember, stomach noises are usually harmless and mean that your dog's stomach and intestines are doing what they’re supposed to do. If your dog has a normal energy level, appetite, and stools, but their stomach noises seem excessive, here are a few things you can try at home to decrease their borborygmi:
Try splitting their meals into smaller, more frequent portions. Avoid the temptation to simply add an afternoon or late-night snack, as that can result in excessive weight gain and extra calories your dog doesn’t need if they’re already being fed the right portions of food. Instead, split the amount you're already feeding into smaller portions. For example, instead of feeding 2 cups twice daily, try feeding 1 and ⅓ cup three times a day. This will reduce the amount of time your dog’s stomach is empty, making the borborygmi less noisy.
Make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh water. Water facilitates peristalsis (the transit system in the gut) and is essential for regular bowel movements.
Try a slow-feeder bowl. When a dog eats too quickly, they swallow more air. This air leads to gas and more stomach noises. Slow-feeder bowls may have plastic knobs or grooves that the kibble falls into, forcing your dog to slow down as they use their tongue to carefully remove each piece of kibble.
Avoid letting your dog overeat. Free feeding can lead to overeating in a bored dog. While smaller, more frequent meals can reduce borborygmi, overeating can increase stomach noise and make it more difficult for your dog’s digestive system to do its job. That’s why you may have noticed more stomach rumbling after a large holiday meal.
Take your dog for a relaxing walk after eating. Walking after a meal can actually improve digestion by speeding up the process and reducing the amount of time that food sits around in their stomach. Remember, this only applies for walking. Absolutely avoid intense exercise or running right after feeding a meal, as it can increase your dog's risk for dangerous conditions like bloat.
Consider a calming treat. In some dogs, anxiety leads to increased panting and swallowing of air, which leads to more gas and borborygmi. Additionally, high levels of stress can slow the process of their stomach emptying and sending food to the intestines, which increases gastrointestinal noise.
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