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Can't find your pet's waistline? There may be times when you look at your pet and wonder if his large abdomen is normal in many cases, the answer is no.

Abdominal enlargement can indicate many conditions, some of which are normal. For instance, it's common for pets to overeat and gain weight. And like human babies, many puppies sport a potbelly they soon outgrow, but sometimes a potbelly in puppies can be a sign of intestinal parasites.

Female dogs experience abdominal enlargement from pregnancy and also from a serious infection called pyometra.

Emergency Situations
A rapidly enlarging abdomen is a medical emergency. In severe cases of bloat (gastric dilatation-volvulus), the stomach becomes distended and may twist, trapping food and air. This condition, which can cause shock and even death, is most common in large-breed dogs and requires surgery to save the pet.

Other causes of abdominal enlargement include heart or liver disease, cancer, low blood protein levels, abdominal bleeding, an enlarged liver or spleen, a ruptured bladder, and Cushings syndrome.

What You Can Do at Home
Monitor your pet's eating, drinking, and elimination habits, and make an appointment to see the veterinarian if you notice abdominal enlargement. Avoid feeding your pet table scraps, high-fat foods, and excessive amounts of food to prevent obesity. Watch your pet closely for any other signs of illness.

When to Call the Veterinarian
Call your veterinarian immediately if your pet's abdomen suddenly enlarges or if he develops other symptoms, such as lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea or breathing difficulty.

What Your Veterinarian Will Do
The doctor will examine and weigh your pet and ask about his symptoms and recent activities. Depending on the examination results, your veterinarian may recommend other diagnostic procedures, such as urine and blood tests, a fecal exam, X-rays, and even an ultrasound.

Many conditions cause abdominal enlargement, so be patient and give your veterinarian time to pinpoint a diagnosis. In most cases, your will regain his normal shape after the doctor identifies and treats the underlying medical problem.