Dog’s Stomach Making Noises: What it Means
The familiar gurgling, growling, and rumbling stomach sounds we humans experience are also common in dogs. Dog stomach gurgling may be a normal process. However, frequent (and loud) occurrences can indicate a health problem, sometimes even a life-threatening one.
If you’re not sure what your dog’s stomach gurgling means, we’re here to walk you through the essentials. We’ve also rounded up some safe options to give a dog with a gurgling stomach. Always contact your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet, adding supplements, or if the gurgling becomes louder or increases in frequency.
Dog Stomach Gurgling: What Is It and What Does It Sound Like?
A dog’s stomach gurgling and growling noises (called borborygmi in medical terminology) sound much like a human’s. “There can be both high- and low-pitched sounds and if you feel the abdomen, you can sometimes feel intestinal contractions and movement associated with the sounds,” says Dr. Kristopher Sharpe, a board-certified veterinary internist with BluePearl Specialty + Emergency Pet Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Dog stomach gurgling is a normal, physiological process, says Dr. Julie Sanders, director of operations at Heart + Paw, based in Berwyn, Pennsylvania. It’s essentially the sound of gas moving through the digestive tract. “As gas moves through the bowel through normal peristalsis (the term for normal front to back motion of the gut), that movement creates some gurgling noise, which is normal. It is always present to a small degree,” Sanders explains.
Most of the time, dog stomach rumbling is relatively quiet, so we’re less likely to notice it, Sanders says. “What should not happen is very loud, very frequent stomach noise. In excess, this may be a sign of a problem or illness.”
If you’re unable to tell the difference between a benign sound and one that can indicate an underlying health problem, speak with your veterinarian.
Causes of a Dog’s Stomach Making Noises
Borborygmi occurs for many of the same reasons it does in humans – and it’s largely tied to excessive gas. Underlying conditions can change the amount of gas produced or the speed in which food moves through the gastrointestinal system. Both of these can mean an increase in dog belly rumbling, says Sanders.
“Think of it this way. If you have a partially full water bottle and tip it over so the water starts to pour out, gas bubbles occasionally move through the liquid creating gurgling or bubbling sounds,” she says. “If you change the angle of the bottle, the size and frequency of the bubbles change, so does the sound. It’s very similar in the gut. More gas production creates a change in sound.”
Most often, these changes are associated with hunger and digestion. Increased gurgling shortly after a meal usually means the intestinal muscles are relaxing and constricting. This happens as they propel food through the digestive system.
An empty dog belly means there’s nothing left in the digestive tract except for gas. It’s why you might notice increased dog stomach gurgling at night, early in the morning, or between meals. Additionally, dogs who eat too quickly can swallow too much air, which produces a large amount of intestinal gas, and in turn prompts gurgling.
If the dog’s stomach is gurgling very loudly or it happens more than occasionally, something may be amiss. “Frequent loud noise can be a sign of anything that could upset the gut, both systemic disease and localized gastrointestinal issues,” Sanders says.
Causes of Serious Dog Stomach Gurgling
Intestinal parasites. These include parasites like roundworms, hookworms, and tapeworms. “Bad bacteria” like campylobacter, clostridia, and salmonella can also cause bacterial infections. When parasites or bacteria overpopulate the gut, they block nutrients and can produce their own gas, veterinarians say.
Gastroenteritis. It’s a broad term encompassing diseases that affect the stomach and/or the small intestines in dogs. Diarrhea and vomiting are common symptoms, but may also include others like loss of appetite, weight loss, fever, and inactivity.
Intestinal blockage. Eating something inappropriate, like toys, food wrappers, and large bones can block the passage of food, causing an increase in gas.
Endocrine disorders. Disorders such as hypoadrenocorticism (AKA Addison’s Disease) and thyroid disease. The thyroid helps regulate many processes in the body, including digestion. A sluggish thyroid, for example, can cause food to move more slowly through the digestive tract, giving it more time to accumulate gas.
Food allergies and dietary intolerance. Though food allergies in pets are relatively uncommon, the most commonly-reported sources in dogs are beef, chicken, egg, and dairy products.
Inflammatory bowel disease. It occurs when the dog’s digestive tract becomes chronically inflamed. Veterinarians believe it may be caused by things like changes in diet, infections, stress, and genetics.
When to Call the Vet if Your Dog’s Stomach is Making Noises
Dog stomach rumbling that’s occasional and quiet is usually not problematic. “Here it’s about the degree of volume and frequency,” says Sanders. If the gurgling becomes louder or becomes more frequent, you should probably reach out to your veterinarian.
“All of the underlying causes of excessive gas are serious. While it may take a long time to die of intestinal parasites they can cause death if left untreated long enough,” Sanders says. “And some of them are zoonotic (they can spread between animals and people).”
Gas is a very non-specific symptom, she adds, “So it is impossible to tell just by the noise, volume, and frequency what the cause is.”
An increase in dog stomach gurgling sounds in combination with other signs are a clear indication that something is off. So, for example, if your dog has bad gas and a gurgling stomach, it’s time to call your veterinarian.
Some other signs to watch for, our veterinarians say, include the following:
- Evidence of discomfort, like a tensed belly
- Decreased appetite
- Diarrhea or soft stool
- Blood in the stool
- Decreased activity
- A sudden ballooning of the abdomen
What Can I Give My Dog a Noisy Stomach?
If a serious illness has been ruled out, your veterinarian may recommend some alternatives to try at home. Some of these, says Sharpe, include:
- Trying a different diet. “Different diet options include a highly-digestible diet, or possibly a diet with a novel or hydrolyzed protein source if inflammation of the intestinal tract is suspected.”
- Adding fiber to the diet
- Feeding more frequent, small meals during the day vs. one or two feedings
- Adding prebiotic and probiotic supplements to the diet
- Medications to decrease gastrointestinal tract inflammation
It’s always a good idea to talk to your veterinarian before trying any at-home remedy, says Sanders. “I often see pets whose initial symptoms were misinterpreted by the pet parents. Unfortunately, when we delay appropriate treatment, it can make the eventual diagnosis more invasive, stressful to the pet, and more expensive.”
Maintaining regular veterinary examinations can help facilitate at-home care. “One of the many benefits of having routine care and establishing a regular relationship is that we can often guide home care and track results without seeing your pet,” adds Sander. “We can’t do this safely or effectively if we don’t see your pet regularly. With advances in telehealth, your vet (depending on the state) may be able to help without an in-person office visit.”