Stomach noises, like everything in medicine, have a fancy name. The name is borborygmi. These gurgling sounds are produced when gas moves from one portion of the intestines to another.
It is normal for there to be some gas in the intestines. It is also normal for the intestines to engage in motility or activity that moves intestinal contents around. Thus, it is normal for gas to move around in the intestines, and soft borborygmi are therefore normal phenomena.
Some dogs, however, experience episodes of abnormally loud intestinal gurgling. During these episodes, the borborygmi might be audible from across the room. These sounds are not exactly normal, but they don’t always represent a crisis. Sometimes they indicate something is wrong in the intestinal tract. In other instances, they are caused by nothing more serious than hunger.
What if your dog’s stomach is making loud noises?
Normal, quiet borborygmi occur when normal quantities of gas are moved through the intestines in a normal fashion. Abnormally loud intestinal noises occur when the intestines contain abnormally large quantities of gas, or when the intestines experience abnormally increased activity. Both of these phenomena often occur simultaneously.
Hunger might cause dog stomach noises.
One of the most common causes of audible intestinal gurgling is hunger. Intestines of hungry animals do not contain significant quantities of ingesta. (Remember how doctors have fancy words for everything? Ingesta, in most cases, means food.) Therefore they have a higher ratio of gas to solids. And the empty intestines might start to exhibit activity in response to anticipated feeding. The result will be audible intestinal noises, or “tummy grumbling.” Breakfast is the treatment for this type of intestinal gurgling.
Dog stomach gurgling may happen if your dog eats something strange.
Unfortunately, hunger is not the only thing that can cause loud intestinal gurgling. Anything that can cause a gastrointestinal upset of any kind also can cause audible borborygmi.
Dietary indiscretion, such as occurs when dogs break into the trash or feast on novel food items, is a common cause of abnormally loud intestinal noises. This type of gastrointestinal upset often is mild (it can be compared to what might happen when a person who doesn’t usually eat spicy food goes to a Thai restaurant). However, be aware that dietary indiscretion in some cases can lead to very severe vomiting or diarrhea, or to other complications such as pancreatitis.
Other causes of dog stomach noises:
Other potentially serious causes of increased dog stomach gurgling include intestinal parasites, inflammatory bowel disease, gastrointestinal foreign bodies, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, certain toxicities, adverse reactions to medications, metabolic problems such as liver or kidney disease, glandular disorders, and even cancer of the intestines.
What to do about your dog’s stomach making noises.
So, how worried should you be if your dog’s stomach is making noises, and what should you do? It depends on the circumstances. If it’s the morning, and your dog appears to be feeling fine but has not yet been fed, consider offering breakfast. If he eats with his normal enthusiasm and the noises stop, there probably isn’t a problem.
On the other hand, if your dog is producing borborygmi in combination with symptoms such as mild lethargy or slightly poor appetite, a problem could be brewing. You should brace yourself for possible diarrhea or vomitting (although these are not guaranteed to develop), and consider offering an easily digestible diet such as boiled boneless, skinless chicken breast with steamed white rice.
If your dog is producing loud intestinal noises and he seems sick, then you should seek veterinary care immediately. Symptoms that should signal alarm include significant lethargy, significantly depressed appetite or thirst, diarrhea and especially vomiting.
If you are in doubt about whether your dog needs to see the vet, the safest option is always to take him in. It is better to err on the side of caution in these types of circumstances.