It happens without warning – one second you’re enjoying some peace and quiet and the next, your dog’s abdomen shares a sound that can be compared to a volcano erupting.
What causes these gastrointestinal noises and when is it something that you should be concerned about?
What Causes Tummy Rumbling Sounds?
As the great Winnie The Pooh once said, “I have a rumbly in my tumbly.” For Pooh, this meant his stomach was growling because he wanted some honey to eat. But outside of cartoon life, what does this noise really mean?
The scientific name for gastrointestinal noises is Borborygmi. These noises are most commonly described as a gurgling, rumbling, or growling.
Borborygmi can be produced by both the stomach and the intestines. The GI tract is lined with smooth muscle that contracts to help mix and push food and fluids through the entire tract. This is called peristalsis. It’s this movement of food, fluids, and gas that creates noise.
Typically these noises are normal and shouldn’t be concerning. However, if other symptoms accompany the borborygmi, it might be time to take your dog to the veterinarian.
Additional symptoms to be aware of include:
- Bloody Stools
- Excess Gas
- Unintentional Weight Loss
When combined with borborygmi, these symptoms could be an indication that your dog is suffering from a serious GI medical condition.
Common GI Issues In Dogs
Every year, thousands of dogs are treated for the following GI issues.
Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDV) more commonly known as bloat, occurs when gas, fluids, and food cause extreme pressure in the stomach. This pressure builds up and reaches a point when the stomach can’t expel the contents or the gas. This results in the stomach twisting. If left untreated, bloat will result in:
- rupture of the stomach wall
- inadequate return of blood to the heart from the abdomen
- loss of blood flow to the stomach
- difficulty breathing because of increased pressure on the lungs
Ultimately, without timely intervention, bloat is fatal. Veterinarians can save a dog’s life by performing surgery to untwist the stomach and relieve the pressure.
The most common food allergies diagnosed in dogs include:
Food allergies can cause both GI upset and skin issues in dogs. Diet change and medications can help to prevent these uncomfortable symptoms.
Dogs can get a wide variety of internal parasites that can cause GI issues. Internal parasites include:
Internal parasites can be treated with deworming medications.
Colitis means that the colon is inflamed. This inflammation causes diarrhea and can be either acute or chronic. Colitis can be caused by a number of things such as a viral infection, internal parasite, bacterial infection, or a foreign body. Depending on the circumstances, your veterinarian might recommend bloodwork, ultrasound, fecal cytology, or another test. The results will indicate what the treatment should be.
Gastroenteritis is the inflammation of the stomach and intestines. Dogs with gastroenteritis typically present with vomiting and diarrhea. Abdominal pain also can cause anorexia. Your dog might require fluids to treat dehydration and GI medications to calm their GI tract.
Obstructions prevent fluids, food, and gas from passing through the GI tract. Pressure builds up and can cause tissue death. Surgery is typically required to remove the obstruction which could be a foreign body or a growth, such as a polyp or a tumor.
There are many different types of cancer, some benign and some malignant. These cancers cause tumors to grow in any part of the GI tract. A biopsy will be needed to determine what type of cancer is present and what treatment will be best.
When the pancreas becomes inflamed a dog will present with anorexia, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and lethargy. Dogs with pancreatitis are treated with fluids, supportive medication, and, in some cases, a diet change to a low-fat diet.
Ulcers are caused by stomach acid that breaks down the stomach lining. Ulcers can be very painful and can cause GI upset. Typically, ulcers can be treated with oral medications. Diet changes may also be recommended.
Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)
IBD causes persistent inflammation throughout the GI tract with no clear cause. IBD can be very difficult to diagnose and often is only diagnosed after a biopsy is taken of the inflamed portion of the GI tract.
Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency
When the pancreas fails to produce enzymes, the body fails to properly digest fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. When these nutrients aren’t absorbed by the intestines, the dog experiences diarrhea and weight loss. Treatments include diet change, the introduction of small-intestinal bacteria, pancreatic enzymes, and medications.
In addition to making sure that your dog gets the right medical care, you can take steps at home to treat and prevent these medical conditions.
Helping Your Dog Maintain A Healthy GI Tract
Here are steps you can take to help your dog stay happy and healthy.
Stay Consistent With Medications
Be sure to follow all of your veterinarian’s instructions and to give your dog’s medications accordingly. Even one missed dose could result in a setback.
Ensure Your Dog Feeds Slowly
When a dog eats a large amount too quickly this can place stress on the GI tract. You can help your pup by feeding them small amounts over time. You can also purchase bowls that are designed to force your dog to eat slower. Eating slower can limit the amount of air that a dog swallows when they eat.
Don’t Feed Your Dog People Food
While there are exceptions to this rule, such as giving your dog boiled chicken and rice when they have an upset stomach, in general, you should never give your dog “people” food. This could shock their system and cause an upset stomach.
Transition To New Foods Slowly
If you’ve been instructed to try new dog food or would like to try a new dog food, make sure that you change your dog’s food slowly. A sudden change can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Encourage Your Dog To Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can worsen a dog’s overall condition. Always provide clean water in a clean bowl.
Take A Walk After Eating
Heavy exercise isn’t encouraged but a leisurely walk has been shown to increase gastric emptying.
This might sound silly, after all, what does a beloved canine companion have to be stressed about? The answer is that some dogs are happy-go-lucky while others are nervous. If your dog has anxiety this can trigger their GI issues. By helping them with their anxiety you can also help them to stay healthy.
Prevent Your Dog From Scavaging
Dogs naturally explore the world with their mouths and often eat the things they find. Even if a foreign body doesn’t cause an obstruction, it can cause irritation that could result in a flair up of a GI disorder. Additionally, if a dog eats feces, this could cause a new internal parasite infection.
Consider supervising your dog at all times when they are outside so that you can prevent scavaging.
With the right treatment and preventative measures, your dog will thrive and you might even notice that there is a reduction in the noise coming from their abdomen!