The other night I woke when my dog became restless. Zorro rarely wakes in the night so I was a bit concerned, although he seemed fine. He had some water and got back in bed. Then I heard my dog’s stomach gurgling. It was quite loud. He was having trouble sleeping so I thought maybe he had to go out. I let him out in the yard, but after several minutes he still hadn’t done anything and was happy to go back inside. After returning to bed, his stomach was still rumbling quite loudly. I massaged his tummy for a while and he fell asleep. Unfortunately, I did not. I was very concerned as to what was causing the discomfort and what I could do to help. Because I was concerned that this could be something serious I decided to get up and do some research.
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What is gurgling?
Gurgling, also known as Borborygmi or Borborygmus, occurs when the dog’s digestive system is processing food. It occurs in animals just as it does in humans. The food is chewed and swallowed and then begins its journey through the stomach and intestines. It’s during this process that gurgling happens. Quiet noises coming from the abdomen are normal. Louder noises can be normal as well, or they can be a symptom of something more serious.
I am neither a veterinarian nor medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post. All medical issues or questions regarding your pet’s health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of your veterinarian for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.
When is gurgling considered normal?
There are a number of circumstances which cause gurgling that are not a cause for serious concern. These include:
- Regular Digestion
- Air passing through the system
- Eating something that didn’t agree with your dog
- General hunger
If your dog has recently eaten, she may have swallowed some air while eating. This air may be moving around in the digestive tract and causing the sounds. If she has lapped up water very quickly, there may be excessive air, which would create larger air pockets, thus causing louder noises as it moves its way through. This generally does not cause pain or distress.
If she has eaten something that doesn’t agree with her, such as something she found on the street, she may be having a mild reaction to it. If her food has changed and she hasn’t adjusted yet, it can create some discomfort, just as it could in a human. Either of these situations can also cause gas. Usually, this will pass through and she will feel better soon.
It may simply be that your dog is hungry. The body continues to process anything remaining in the digestive tract, but if there are little or no contents in the intestines, the system is only processing air and liquids. This is when the louder gurgling begins. Once she eats, the body should adjust to the normal routine.
When you should be concerned:
If you see any of these symptoms in your dog, you should take her to a vet immediately. There may be something more serious going on:
- Reduced appetite
- Swollen stomach
Sometimes these symptoms can indicate a blockage or partial blockage in the intestines. Your dog may have swallowed something around the house, outside in the yard or even on a walk with you. If the object doesn’t move, food cannot pass through normally. Because some or all of the food that your dog has eaten remains in the digestive system, she feels full and will not eat. The small amount that does pass through will be mostly liquid, resulting in diarrhea. Depending on where the blockage is located, any food that has been consumed may be regurgitated (vomited). A lack of food and nutrition will cause lethargy. Vomiting and diarrhea will rapidly cause dehydration and should be treated as quickly as possible. Intestinal blockage is very serious and requires immediate medical attention.
If you notice that your dog’s tummy is swollen (blown up like a balloon) and that she seems to be having trouble settling down, this could indicate a condition called Bloat. This is very serious and requires immediate medical attention.
Gurgling, on its own, can be caused by a number of circumstances, most of which are harmless and will go away within 24 to 48 hours. If the gurgling is accompanied by any other symptoms, you should have your dog examined by a vet. There may be a more serious underlying condition that needs to be addressed with medication or even surgery. It is important not to wait if your dog is in any discomfort or distress as time may be of the essence.
Follow up on my dog’s condition:
Two days after the gurgling incident, Zorro woke several times in the night and eventually he vomited. A few hours later he had an episode of extreme diarrhea. I made a vet appointment immediately. He was put on a special diet for three days and has been given some medicine to coat his stomach in case of irritation. The vet wants me to collect stool samples over the next few days to be analyzed.
There has been no more vomiting. We are keeping a close eye on him to be sure there are no further issues. So far Zorro is eating, sleeping and playing well and is almost back to his old self.
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