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My dog’s stomach is gurgling! Causes, concerns and when to see a vet

Sept. 16, 2019

At its most severe, it can sound like a freight train moving through your living room. When it’s mild, it chugs more like a small model train.

We’re referring to that gurgling noise coming from your dog’s tummy, and, just FYI, it actually has a name. It’s called borborygmi, and it occurs when gas moves normally through your dog’s gastrointestinal tract.

At what point do you need to be concerned about that train going into overdrive? Thankfully, as eye-widening as those sounds may be, most are typically nothing to worry about, says Dr. Carly Fox, staff doctor at the Animal Medical Center in Manhattan.

We asked experts some key questions about stomach gurgling — causes, when gurgling is concerning and when to see a vet — and here’s what every doggy parent should know.

Is stomach gurgling normal?

Yes! Just as your own tummy growls at unpredictable points throughout the day, so will your dog’s.

“Borborygmi occur when gas moves throughout the gastrointestinal tract during normal peristalsis (movement) and is typically not concerning,” says Fox.

Adds Dr. Rachel Barrack, a veterinarian in New York City, “These are often sounds associated with digestion, the process of breaking food down."

What typically causes gurgling noises in a dog’s stomach?

“[It’s] probably more distressing to you than to your pet,” Fox says. “The most common causes of borborygmi include normal gas movement through the GI tract, hunger or excessive gas ingestion (from panting or exercising).”

If your dog eats too quickly, he or she may ingest excess air, and this may cause his stomach to gurgle, Barrack explains.

If you think this might be the case for your dog, Barrack recommends you "encourage your dog to eat slowly and try smaller, more frequent meals and/or raised feeding bowls."

What can you do if you think your dog's stomach is mildly upset?

If you sense your dog has an upset stomach, there are things a pet parent can do to help. If your pup has mild diarrhea without the presence of any blood, Fox suggests trying a bland diet.

“This includes boiled chicken and rice with no additives,” she says. “The diarrhea should improve over 24 to 48 hours. If it worsens, is accompanied by vomiting or you note blood in the stool, it’s likely time to see your veterinarian.”

If your dog vomits once or twice because of a stomach upset “try [withholding] food for 12 hours and then introduce a small meal of a bland diet (as described above),” Fox says. “If vomiting continues after that or if your pet vomits many times throughout the day, veterinary care is indicated.”

When is stomach gurgling of high concern?

Stomach gurgling is only concerning if it is accompanied by other clinical signs. If your pet is exhibiting any of these signs, Fox says, he or she should be examined by a veterinarian:

  • Vomiting

  • Diarrhea

  • Lack of appetite

  • Drooling

  • Regurgitation

Once there, your vet will examine your dog and likely recommend tests.

“This includes full blood work, urinalysis, fecal evaluation, abdominal radiographs or abdominal ultrasound, a pLI to rule out pancreatitis and possibly more specific testing to rule out underlying endocrine disease,” says Fox.  

Most commonly, gastroenteritis, a.k.a. inflammation of the intestines, is secondary to a dietary indiscretion (meaning, your dog ate something they shouldn’t have), Fox says, and stress or infectious causes are the most likely culprits.  

The signs mentioned above could be caused by:

  • Gastrointestinal obstruction. There could be a blockage in the stomach or in the intestines. “In some cases, your dog may have a gastrointestinal obstruction, which is a surgical emergency,” Fox says.

  • Inflammatory bowel disease. This is inflammation of the dog’s intestines which interferes with digestion. “Some dogs have underlying gastrointestinal disease like inflammatory bowel disease or infiltrative neoplasia that can cause severe gastrointestinal signs,” Fox. says.  

  • Pancreatitis. Inflammation of the pancreas causes digestive enzymes to make their way to other organs, causing damage. “[This] can lead to severe GI signs, as well,” says Fox.   

  • Liver disease. When your dog’s liver — which removes toxins from the body — isn’t working properly, it’s a serious health issue. Signs include lethargy, vomiting and more. “It’s also possible that disease elsewhere in the body, like renal or liver disease, can present with gastrointestinal signs,” she says.

Your dog’s severe upset stomach could be caused by any number of things, which is why it’s so important to look out for signs and consult with your veterinarian.

“Since there are so many causes of gastrointestinal upset, it is important to perform diagnostics at your veterinarian’s office to better differentiate between them all in order to get your pet the best and most effective treatment,” says Fox.

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