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Ask the Vet: Why is My Dog's Stomach Gurgling?

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Dog's Stomach Gurgling

A dog's stomach gurgling may be cause for concern for many dog owners wondering whether their canine companions may be getting an upset stomach. However, not all stomach gurgling means trouble. For instance, stomach gurgling may simply be a normal sign of digestion. Since not all dog stomach gurgling is a sign of a problem, we asked veterinarian Dr. Ivana Crnec "why may be a dog's stomach gurgling?" Following is some information about this.

Normal Dog's Stomach Gurgling

The official, medical term for dog stomach gurgling is borborygmus. Often confused with the regular pupper growl, the borborygmus is defined as a rumbling or gurgling noise. Borborygmus occurs when gases and fluids travel throughout the intestines.

The travel of gasses and fluids throughout the intestines is completely normal and part of the proper food digestions. However, under normal circumstances, that travelling occurs quietly and unnoticed. If the borborygmi become obvious and too loud, it should not be ignored.

Loud borborygmi, in addition of being highly uncomfortable, are also indicative of certain conditions and issues. Namely, they can indicate something as harmless and benign as trapped wind or something as life-threatening and urgent as gastric dilatation and volvulus.

There may be various causes of normal stomach gurgling in dogs. Stomach gurgling can occur in otherwise healthy dogs due to three reasons: digestion, hunger and air.

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Digestion: the process of breaking down the food is followed by many movements. The digested food moves, the produced gasses move and the organs involved in the digestion process also move. These movements make sounds and when those sounds are combined the end result is known as stomach gurgling or borborygmi.

Sometimes the sounds can be louder than usual. For example, if a dog eats a really big meal after having an empty stomach for a longer period of time, the digestion process will likely be followed by louder-than-normal gurgling sounds.

 Hunger: when the stomach is empty, the sounds of the moving gases are echoing around the gastrointestinal system. The contractions of the muscle layers also echo. Consequently, the normally produced sounds, or better said their intensity is amplified.

 Air: dogs tend to scarf down food and they also tend to breathe heavily. In both cases, they ingest too much air. The ingested air leads to increased gurgling sounds and eventually to burping. Burping in dogs is normal and results from the passing of gas from the stomach through the mouth.

Abnormal Dog's Stomach Gurgling

The most common cause of loud borborygmi is an upset stomach in dogs. When something upsets or irritates the stomach, the stomach responds by producing more gas. Plus, to manage the situation better and get rid of the irritant as soon as possible, the intestines respond by increasing their movement pace. Ultimately, the increased gas production and fastened intestinal motility lead to clearly loud borborygmi.

More precisely speaking, stomach gurgling can occur as a result of:
• Dietary changes
• Feeding table scraps
• Dietary indiscretions
• Presence of intestinal parasites
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
• Hemorrhagic gastroenteritis
• Crohn’s disease
• Gastrointestinal perforation due to a foreign body
• Pancreatitis
• Certain toxicities
• Adverse reactions to drugs
• Some metabolic issues (liver and kidney problems)
• Glandular disorders
• Intestinal cancer.
Stomach gurgling also occurs in dogs that have recently received anesthesia. After the anesthesia’s effect wears off, the intestines gradually restore their mobility. The process of restoring the mobility is accompanied by gurgling sounds.

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At the Vet's Office

If you take your dog to the vet for a case of stomach gurgling, your vet will have to determine the cause of stomach gurgling. The presence, or better said, absence of other accompanying symptoms (such as lack of appetite, diarrhea, vomiting, fever, lethargy) are good indicators of whether you need to schedule an appointment at the vet’s office.

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For example, if your dog’s stomach gurgles, but the gurgling stops as soon as you offer a tasty meal, there is nothing to worry about. On the other hand, if the gurgling sounds are still present or your dog refuses to eat, you should definitely seek veterinary attention.

At the vet’s office, as in any other case, the diagnostic process begins with a full physical examination. Feeling the dog’s abdomen and listening to the intestinal sounds are the most important parts of the examination.

Based on them, the vet will decide which additional diagnostics are required. In most cases, abdominal x-rays and ultrasound, blood work, fecal exam and food allergy panels will be suggested.

Treatment for Stomach Gurgling in Dogs

The treatment for dog upset stomach noises such as gurgling depends on the underlying cause. For example intestinal parasites are treated with de-worming medications; foreign objects usually require surgical removal; IBD is managed with dietary changes, immune-suppressants, corticosteroids and antibiotics; pancreatitis is addressed with antibiotics, fluid therapy and supportive care.

Generally speaking, uncomplicated cases are self-limiting and resolve on their own without medications. However, on the long-run, dietary adjustments are recommended.

When dealing with more complicated cases, it is necessary to withhold food while offering supportive care (intravenous fluid therapy, anti-nausea drugs, antacids, anti-diarrhea drugs, antibiotics). When food is re-introduced it is advisable to offer easily digestible meals including boneless and skinless plain chicken meat with steamed rice.

Dog's Stomach Gurgling and Gas

Loud stomach gurgling is closely and directly linked with flatulence. The term flatulence indicates the passage of gas through the anus. Flatulence is particularly common in dogs fed highly-fermentable foods (such as tofu) or hardly-digestible carbohydrates (such as raw vegetables).

Flatulence can also occur with all forms of malabsorption (a condition in which the intestines either cannot digest food or cannot absorb the nutrients from it).

Several types of gas are produced in the intestinal tract, but the big stinker is hydrogen sulfide. Nuts and vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard, radishes and turnips can all increase he production of hydrogen sulfide in the intestines.

This chemical is also about as toxic as cyanide and there is some evidence that it may be a factor in ulcerative colitis (a serious intestinal inflammation common in both dogs and humans).

The treatment involves addressing the underlying condition that lead to malabsorption. For fast eaters, offer several small meals of easily digestible, low-fiber food daily. Adding some activated charcoal or the over-the-counter product simethicone, to your dog’s food may significantly reduce the smell of the produced gas.

If your dog is flatulent and produces some noxious smells, you might therefore think of adding activated charcoal to its diet. This will absorb some of the bad-smelling gasses produced in the intestines (such as hydrogen sulfide).

If you wish to give your dog charcoal, take the following steps: Ask your vet’s opinion first and do not give it for more than two or three days at a time. This is because as well as absorbing noxious gases, activated charcoal may also absorb nutrients thus robbing your dog of essential vitamins and minerals.

About the Author

Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia. She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.Ivana’s research has been published in international journals, and she regularly attends international veterinary conferences.

ivana crnec

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