Hands touching dog stomach

Key takeaway

Normally, a dog’s stomach should feel soft to the touch. If your dog’s stomach feels abnormally hard, that could be a sign that they’re dealing with a stomach issue. Common stomach issues that cause a hard stomach include gastric dilation volvulus, peritonitis, and Cushing’s disease. If your dog’s stomach is hard, you should take them to the vet right away.

A hard stomach can be caused by lots of different things, including numerous stomach issues, infection, and internal bleeding.

Keeping an eye out for stomach issues is an important part of being a pet parent. Stomach issues can lead to serious medical problems in dogs if left untreated, and you don’t want to leave your dog in discomfort. If your dog is showing symptoms of a stomach problem, such as vomiting or diarrhea, you should take them to the vet immediately.

So, why is my dog’s stomach harder than usual? In this article, we’ll talk about what causes a hard stomach in dogs and what you should do about it. If your dog’s stomach is abnormally hard, here’s what you need to know.

6 Potential Reasons Your Dog’s Stomach Is Hard

There are a handful of medical conditions that can cause a hard stomach in dogs. In the next section, we’ll talk about 6 potential reasons why your dog’s stomach is hard. Keeping an eye out for the symptoms that come with these conditions is vital.

Gastric Dilation Volvulus

1. Gastric Dilatation Volvulus

Gastric dilatation volvulus, also known as GDV, is a stomach issue that progresses rapidly and can be life-threatening for dogs. GDV is typically associated with eating large meals, which can cause the stomach to dilate as it fills with food and gas. If food and gas can’t make their way out of your dog’s stomach, it can lead to serious issues.1 The stomach twists on itself and becomes more swollen and bloated. The increase in stomach pressure caused by GDV can make your dog’s stomach feel hard to the touch, so this is one potential cause.

If your dog seems to be in a lot of pain and has a very hard stomach as a result of GDV, you’re dealing with a very serious medical emergency and you should seek treatment immediately. GDV is always fatal if not surgically corrected within a few hours.

Peritonitis

2. Peritonitis

Peritonitis is a condition characterized by inflammation of the peritoneum, which is the lining on the inside of the abdominal cavity. In many cases, peritonitis is a serious or even fatal medical condition in dogs, so getting to the vet is important. At the very least, you should call your vet for advice if your dog is showing symptoms of peritonitis.

Peritonitis can be caused by several things. In some cases, a foreign object ruptures the intestine or perforates the abdominal cavity, leading to contamination. This can also occur as a result of an abdominal tumor, abdominal surgery, pancreatitis, and several other conditions.2

Cushing’s Disease

3. Cushing’s Disease

Cushing’s disease is a medical condition that affects the pituitary gland, which in turn causes an increase in ACTH production. This increased hormone production can cause a wide range of medical issues including kidney damage and diabetes, and it may be the reason your dog’s stomach is hard. An increase in fat in the abdominal organs can cause a swollen belly in dogs.

If your dog has Cushing’s disease, medical intervention is key. Cushing’s disease can be managed with the help of a veterinary professional.

Ascites

4. Ascites

Ascites, or abdominal effusion, is a buildup of fluid in your dog’s abdomen. Unsurprisingly, this buildup of fluid can cause your dog’s stomach to become swollen and hard. You may notice a wide range of symptoms accompanying ascites in dogs, including lethargy, anorexia, vomiting, weight gain, and signs of discomfort when the abdomen is touched.

Because ascites in dogs has many potential causes, treatment depends on the cause. If your dog’s stomach feels hard, you should talk to your vet.

Infection

5. Infection

In some cases, severe roundworm infections can lead to abdominal swelling in dogs. You can prevent roundworm in dogs by keeping your dog away from wild animals, giving them medication to prevent heartworm, and talking to your vet about an occasional deworming treatment. Being proactive is important when it comes to worms, so talk to your vet about what you can do to prevent roundworm infections.

Internal bleeding

6. Internal Bleeding

Dogs may also experience abdominal bloating as a result of internal bleeding. This internal bleeding may be caused by trauma or something being ruptured within your dog’s abdomen, which can cause a buildup of blood and abdominal swelling.

What to Do When Your Dog’s Stomach Is Hard 

As a pet parent, it’s important to know what to do when your dog isn’t feeling well. Oftentimes, you can simply wait to see if your dog gets better or let them ride out the minor stomach problems they’re having. However, a hard stomach is a sign that your dog may have a serious abdominal problem that could even be life-threatening.

If your dog’s stomach is hard, take careful note of the symptoms they’re experiencing and get in touch with your vet. Schedule an appointment and get your dog to the vet as soon as possible to prevent any medical complications.

Dog’s Stomach Is Hard: FAQs

Should my dog’s belly feel hard?

Normally, your dog’s belly should feel soft to the touch. While it’s not healthy for dogs to have too much fat on their abdomen, their bellies shouldn’t feel hard either. If your dog’s stomach is hard, that could mean they have a serious stomach problem, such as GDV, peritonitis, or Cushing’s disease. If you notice your dog’s stomach is harder than normal, call your vet and have them take a look at your dog as soon as possible.

Why does my dog’s belly feel hard?

There are many potential reasons that a dog’s stomach is hard, so what does it mean when your dog’s stomach is hard? In most cases, a hard stomach is an indicator of a stomach-related medical issue, such as GDV or peritonitis. However, a hard stomach can also be caused by severe roundworm infections, internal bleeding, and other medical conditions. If your dog’s stomach feels especially hard, you should take them to the vet to figure out what’s causing it. Some stomach conditions are very serious and can even be life-threatening.

What causes bloating in dogs?

Bloating in dogs can be caused by several things, including some of the conditions we talked about in this article. The key thing to remember is that a bloated stomach isn’t normal. If your dog’s stomach is bloated, schedule an appointment with their vet and take note of any symptoms your dog is experiencing in addition to bloating.

What are the other signs of stomach issues in dogs?

In addition to bloating, you may notice several other signs and symptoms of stomach issues in dogs. For example, you might notice that your dog has lost their appetite, and they may even be losing weight as a result of their stomach issues. Vomiting and diarrhea are also common symptoms with many stomach issues, but your dog may experience constipation depending on their condition. Some pet parents may also notice an increase in gas when their dog has stomach issues.

Vet checking dog’s stomach

Final Notes

The bottom line is that there are several stomach issues that can cause your dog to have a hard stomach, but none of them should be taken lightly. Medical conditions such as GDV, Cushing’s disease, and ascites can be serious if left untreated, so you should always take your dog to the vet if they have a bloated stomach and other signs of stomach issues in dogs.

When you need help from an expert, Dutch makes being a pet parent simple. With Dutch, you can schedule an online video chat with a vet right from the comfort of your home. Try Dutch today and find out how telemedicine for pets can help you become a better pet parent.

References

  1. “Small Animal Topics.” ACVS, https://www.acvs.org/small-animal/gastric-dilatation-volvulus.

  2. Wittek, Thomas. “Peritonitis in Dogs - Dog Owners.” Merck Veterinary Manual, Merck Veterinary Manual, 18 Apr. 2022, https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/disorders-affecting-multiple-body-systems-of-dogs/peritonitis-in-dogs.