Tummy Pain

Tummy pain is relatively common in dogs and cats. To check whether your pet has tummy pain, it has its abdomen tucked up and refuses to move. Your pet is experiencing tummy pain when it also has low energy, not eating, and vomiting with or without diarrhea.

This type of pain is very easy to identify during palpation or the part of the checkup where your vet touches and feels your pet’s belly for hardness or softness. A tight tummy is usually painful or uncomfortable.


Unfortunately, despite the easy identification of tummy pain, tracing its origin is quite challenging. Sources of pain in this area include the organs for digesting food (stomach, intestine, pancreas), organs for peeing and making sex cells, spleen (lapay in Tagalog), mesentery (the plastic-like cover of the intestines), peritoneum (the plastic-like cover of the inside of the tummy), and hepatobiliary system (the liver and gallbladder which also help digestion).

Pain from this region can also originate from a bleeding tumor, trauma, blood clot, chemical ingestion, intestinal cramps and swelling from a sudden dietary change.

Puppies and kittens – worms, Amoeba-like parasites called protozoa, Parvovirus, Coronavirus

Young to middle aged pets – bloat (trapped gas in the stomach), volvulus (tangling of intestines), foreign body ingestion (pet toys, wood, slippers, bluetooth earbuds, rocks, mango seed and corn cob), pyometra in females, pancreatitis, liver and kidney pain

Middle aged to senior pets – enlarged prostate in males, masses or cancer, cystic ovaries and pyometra in females, blocked urinary system (stones or crystals)


Pets brought to the hospital with tummy pain may have life-threatening diseases that may lead to shock, bleeding, or serious injury to the organs inside it. Your pet may be in this condition if it has collapsed, become unresponsive, and have cold paws, ears and nose.

In stable pets (not yet in a life-threatening condition), they appear to be in a praying posture. Its back legs are standing but its front legs are in contact with the floor. If you do yoga, this is called downward dog. This position should be maintained for half an hour or more for you to say that your dog has tummy pain. It is said that this position helps alleviate the pain by reducing the pressure, on each other, of the internal organs inside.

Your vet may also require your pet to wear a muzzle because an animal in pain will always most certainly bite.  A series of questions to you, physical exam, fecalysis (examination of poop under the microscope), complete blood count (CBC), biochemistry profile, urinalysis, x-ray, and ultrasound may be required in order to identify what causes the pain. You need to be open to tell your vet if you recently changed your pet’s food.


Step 1

Remove food, water and medication. Allow pet to rest. If your pet vomits, do not immediately force feed with water or food. Feel your pet’s belly. A tummy pain should feel hard, tender and with tension. A gassy tummy should have rumbling vibrations. Observe for an hour.

Step 2

Repeat the belly test. If it still is tender, put warm (not boiling) water in a plastic bottle. Seal tightly. Wrap in a towel. Gently rub all over the belly for 15 to 30 minutes. Replace warm water as needed.

You may also apply Aceite de Manzanilla oil. Drop on your palms, rub together, then apply on your pet’s belly in gentle strokes. Use a soothing voice while gently massaging the tummy.

Step 3

After the massage, introduce very little amount of soft food and water. Soft food could either be boiled chicken meat without skin, bones and salt.

If your pet continues to get better, continue the small but frequent bland meal strategy every 4 to 6 hours for 24 hours.

If by the next day, all seems well, revert back to normal food. Try to think what caused the upset tummy. Was it new food? Spoiled food? A food ingredient that almost always certainly upsets your pet’s tummy? Stress? Use trial and error to refine your list. Once you've located the food ingredient, avoid it in the future.

Step 4

If the pain worsens in the next few hours or recurs in a few days, your pet must be seen immediately. No amount of first aid can remedy a veterinary emergency.


Dietary indiscretion or suddenly changing your pet’s food may cause tummy pain. This should be a self-limiting problem which should resolve given steps 1 to 3.

Puppies and kittens occasionally have worms which need to be controlled on a quarterly or every 3 months basis.

If your very young pet is still completing its vaccination, it is best if it stays indoors and away from parks with heavy animal traffic. Your young pet may easily get worms and viruses by a single trip because of its immature immune system.

For aging pets (7 years and up), a twice a year general checkup and routine lab tests should help to prune out problems at its early stage.

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