You may have heard of colic in babies, which causes them to cry and fuss for hours at a time without any obvious reason. But did you know that dogs can experience colic too? The main difference, however, is that canine colic usually has an identifiable cause.
In pets, colic usually refers to abdominal pain or discomfort in the stomach or intestines. Colic is quite common in horses, but it can affect our domestic house animals, as well. Much like with babies, colic most often affects puppies and can cause them to whine, cry or fuss to let you know something is wrong.
Unfortunately for us, both pets and babies lack the ability to communicate what hurts and where, so it’s up to us to identify it and find a solution for them. If your puppy appears to be in pain, it could be colic. Here’s what you should know.
Not all cases of colic are the same. In fact, the abdominal pain presented in colic could be caused by a number of different underlying problems, ranging from mild to severe.
Colic could be caused by a natural buildup of gas, or it could be related to a more serious problem like pancreatitis. Underlying problems might include eating spoiled food, a bacterial infection, intestinal parasites, stomach ulcers or organ failure.
The varied causes of colic can lead to varied symptoms, with one dog presenting mild discomfort and sluggishness and another crying out in pain or thrashing about.
Symptoms of colic
Regardless of the underlying cause, colic is often painful for dogs, which can lead to changes in behavior. As soon as colic symptoms are noticed, your dog should be seen by a vet to prevent the problem from worsening. Some causes of colic can be life-threatening if they are not addressed.
Here are five major signs to look out for:
- Vocalizing: Dogs dealing with colic are usually uncomfortable or in significant pain, and they might vocalize to communicate that with you. Many dogs will whine, bark or cry constantly, especially when you are near. Persistent vocalization like this is not normal and should raise some red flags for your pet’s health.
- Bloated stomach: If you look or press on your dog’s belly, it might appear swollen or bloated if they are dealing with colic. Because many of the underlying causes of colic have to do with gas buildup or inflammation, the stomach may be hard to the touch and look much more swollen than usual. Typically, a dog with a bloated stomach won’t want you to touch it and might cry out in pain if you do.
- Lethargy: Colic can make dogs appear weak and sluggish, resulting in them lounging on the floor or couch for hours at a time. Any sudden change in activity level should be a warning sign for your pup’s health.
- Loss of appetite: When pets are in pain, they are less likely to maintain their appetites and will turn away from food. This is especially true with colic, since it causes pain in the stomach or intestines. If your dog sniffs their food but refuses to eat or won’t even approach the bowl, something is probably wrong.
- Loss of consciousness: In very severe cases of colic, dogs might pass out from the pain in their abdomen or as a side effect of a dangerous health problem like pancreatitis. If your dog loses consciousness at any point, you should rush them to the emergency vet for treatment because the underlying problem could be life-threatening.
Helping your pup overcome colic
Because colic is not necessarily caused by one problem in particular, it’s very important to book a visit with your vet—or rush your pet to an emergency clinic—once symptoms are noticeable. Your vet will need to run a range of tests to discover what is truly giving your pup stomach troubles.
In most cases, colic is simply due to a buildup of gas caused by eating rotten food or eating normal food too quickly. Being mindful of your pet’s access to the garbage or finding a slow-feeding alternative might help reduce the abdominal pain they experience. Putting your dog on a probiotic supplement might also help curb intestinal inflammation and food sensitivities.
In the end, curing your dog’s colic will be determined by what’s causing it to begin with. Paying attention to the symptoms can clue you in to your dog’s abdominal pain and get them the help they need right away.