Canine Ascites

Excessive panting and ascites can be a sign of congestive heart failure. Images

Ascites refers to the buildup of fluid in the abdomen. While this fluid buildup contributes to symptoms such as increased abdomen size, abdominal tenderness, lethargy, anorexia, vomiting and weakness, the fluid is actually a symptom of other underlying medical conditions. Before your veterinarian can reduce the ascites, he must diagnosis its cause. If you notice irregular swelling in your dog’s abdomen, seek veterinary care immediately as it can be a sign of a serious condition.


To begin with, a veterinarian will examine the fluid in the abdomen for bacteria, protein and blood. Urine samples, X-rays and ultrasounds are other diagnostic options. Once the fluid has been examined, the veterinarian will look for other symptoms associated with other possible medical conditions. If the swelling is causing breathing difficulty, your veterinarian can administer diuretics to reduce the fluid buildup. However, this can lead to low levels of potassium in the blood and your dog will require monitoring.

Underlying Causes

Common causes of ascites in dogs include abdominal bleeding, abdominal cancer, a ruptured bladder, nephrotic syndrome, low protein levels in the blood, liver damage and congestive heart failure. Septic ascites is a symptom of a bacterial infection treated with antibiotics.

Nephrotic Syndrome

Ascites is the most common symptom in nephrotic syndrome. Nephrotic syndrome occurs when your dog’s kidneys improperly filter waste and release high levels of protein into the urine. This protein loss causes low blood pressure, decreased cholesterol breakdown and muscle wasting. In addition to ascites, other symptoms of nephrotic syndrome include limb and optic nerve swelling, heart rhythm disturbances, difficulty breathing and a bluish-purple skin tone. Treatment includes regular care, and hospitalization is often necessary to stabilize your dog. Low-protein, low-sodium diets are often necessary.

Right-Sided Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure refers to the hearts inability to pump blood effectively throughout the body. Right-sided congestive heart failure occurs when leaking occurs as the right ventricle pumps blood through to the lungs. This blood leaks back into the right atrium of the heart, eventually causing a backup in blood circulation. Ascites is a common symptom of right-sided congestive heart failure. Other symptoms include persistent coughing, difficulty breathing, panting, weight loss and bluish gums.