Have you ever thought your dog was growling only to realize the sound wasn’t coming from your dog’s mouth but from his stomach instead? If you have ever mistaken dog stomach gurgling for a regular pupper growl, you’re not alone.
While dog stomach growling isn’t uncommon, you shouldn’t ignore it. Like most symptoms (or weird noises for that matter), dog stomach gurgling can be completely normal — or it can indicate a real medical issue.
Dog stomach gurgling is known officially as borborygmus (pronounced bor-bor-rig-mus). As Nicole LaForest, LVT, explains, “Borborygmus is a gurgling or rumbling noise that occurs when fluid or gas passes throughout the intestines.
Gas is supposed to travel through different parts of the intestines (that’s how it gets out, after all!). But when borborygmi is exceptionally loud or obvious, it might indicate discomfort.
“It is one of those symptoms that can mean anything from trapped wind — totally harmless — to a twisted stomach (GDV) — totally deadly,” says Dr. Dave Nicol, BVMS Cert MGMT of Roundwood Vets. “But usually it is a sign that something has upset the stomach and is leading to more gas being produced or the intestines moving food along more quickly to get it out as fast as possible.”
Dog stomach gurgling can signify several different things. These can range from the harmless and totally normal to a severe illness or complication.
LaForest says, “The presence of stomach gurgling may occur from simply feeding table scraps, dietary changes, intestinal parasites, toxicity, immune-mediated conditions such as hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, IBS or Crohn’s, fluid in the abdominal cavity and potentially from ingestion of a foreign body such as a rock, stick or toy that may have potentially perforated through the intestines.”
“If your pet has recently had surgery or received anesthesia, stomach gurgling may be indicative of his intestines becoming mobile and responsive to the (lack thereof) drugs,” LaForest continues.
Can you hear your dog’s stomach gurgling? The sound you are hearing might signify an upset stomach. Luckily, if it’s all that is, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate the discomfort.
“If your dog is otherwise normal, then just keep a close watch and take an extra poo bag or two,” Dr. Nicol advises. “But if there is any other symptom happening like sleepiness, not eating or vomiting, then get it checked by your vet.”
If your dog isn’t exhibiting any other symptoms, diet can play a role.
“Try hard to stop your dog from scavenging,” advises Dr. Nicol. “Feed [your dog] a quality food and try to be consistent in your choice. Picking and mixing dog food based on cost — or what’s on special offer — is rarely a good idea and is going to cause more gurgly tummies.”
While the above advice is applicable to innocuous cases, there’s more to consider if you notice additional symptoms alongside that dog stomach gurgling.
“Get a diagnosis from your veterinarian before initiating at-home care as many over-the-counter medications can be harmful if used inappropriately or frequently,” says LaForest.
“While waiting for your dog’s appointment, you could consider withholding food and water to allow their stomach to settle,” she adds. “If your dog is exhibiting other signs of intestinal upset, feeding a bland diet of unseasoned boiled poultry or fish and white rice may suffice.”
Dog stomach gurgling can also indicate the ingestion of a foreign body. “Try to rule out toxicities within your household such as chocolate, raisins, rat bait or sugar-free gum that may be the cause of your dog’s stomach gurgling,” LaForest advises.
A physical examination will begin with feeling the dog’s abdomen and listening to his heart, lungs and intestinal sounds.
“Depending on what specifically your dog’s symptoms are, your veterinarian may recommend further diagnostics typically starting with X-rays and blood work and may discuss further testings such as a food allergy panel, ultrasound or fluid therapy if indicated to rule out a more serious or underlying condition,” LaForest adds.
Oftentimes, dog stomach gurgling does not require professional treatment. However, in some cases, treatment may include deworming meds, adjusting of diet, fluid therapy or even surgery.
“In uncomplicated cases we mostly don’t need to treat; time is our healer,” explains Dr. Nicol.
According to LaForest, dog stomach gurgling can be resolved by withholding food, a bland diet or drugs that slow the production of gas, stomach acid or diarrhea.
LaForest adds, “If your pet is rapidly losing water, intravenous or subcutaneous fluid therapy along with an anti-nausea, antacid, anti-diarrhea or antibiotic may be necessary. If parasites are what is plaguing your pet, a dewormer or monthly preventative for worms and other parasites may be necessary.”
Top photograph: michellegibson | E+ / Getty Images.
This piece was originally published in 2018.