Possible Reasons Why Your Cat Has a Swollen Abdomen or Belly
If your cat has a swollen abdomen, also known as Ascitis, it is important to get them to a vet as soon as possible for an examination and a diagnosis.
Cats are very good at hiding an illness and will try to keep any sickness a secret.
There are several reasons that a cat's belly could be swollen. These reasons include but are not limited to:
- Being overweight in general
- Internal Organ Failure
Any of these conditions are potentially deadly for your cat. In order to get the correct treatment plan, you will need to work with your vet on a course of action.
Is the Swollen Belly Due To Weight?
If the large belly has appeared over time, it may be due to your cat being overweight. If your cat is older, if it likes to eat a lot and if it does not exercise, it may end up becoming overweight.
In order to decide if your cat is overweight the vet will look at the overall signs of health in your cat.
Is the weight evenly distributed all over the body?
Is it obvious that it is fat and not swelling?
An overweight cat can face many health issues that can lead to a shortened life. Overweight cats are more at risk of developing diabetes. They may also face joint issues or bone fractures due to the excess weight.
They will have trouble jumping up on beds or chairs and generally feel more lethargic.
In order to reduce your cat's weight, you will need to work on a weight loss plan with your vet.
Your vet will also want to measure your cat's blood sugar level in order to insure that it is not facing diabetes and will need insulin.
Helping a cat lose weight usually follows some of the same guidelines as a human: reduce calorie intake and exercise.
There are many reduced calorie foods out there including some excellent prescription diets. Encouraging your cat to exercise can be a bit trickier. Finding toys that stimulate the cat or even "treat balls" that make them work for a piece of a treat are great ways to get your cat moving again.
Is The Swollen Belly Due to Heart or Liver or Kidney Failure?
Sometimes your cat's internal organs may fail completely or work at a reduced rate. When this happens the excess fluid may accumulate in the abdomen.
The heart, liver and kidneys all take part in the circulatory system and the removal of excess fluids and waste. If one of these are not functioning properly, the distended abdomen may be a sign of that issue.
Other symptoms can include weight loss, lack of appetite and lethargy.
Once your vet figures out which organ is failing, a treatment plan can be made. While there is usually no cure for any of these issues, with heart and kidney, there are treatment options and medications that might prolong the life of your cat.
Kidney failure in cats can be treated with subcutaneous fluids and electrolytes. Your vet may also prescribe a medication to help remove phosphorus from its system.
With heart failure there are diuretics and heart medications that may help your cat to function better and feel better.
Neither of these treatments are a cure, but rather a way to give you and your cat a little more time with each other.
Is the Swollen Belly Due to Infection?
Another reason that your cat may experience a swollen abdomen is from a virus known as Feline Infectious Peritonitis.
In this disease, swelling of the abdomen is a symptom of the virus which infects internal organs.
According to Pet Health Network cats that are at risk for this type of infection include those in a multi cat shelter or household and those who are regularly outdoors.
Other symptoms, along with the swelling can be lethargy, a fever, and a lack of appetite.
FIP is a very serious disease. If your cat is showing a swollen abdomen due to this virus, it most likely has the most serious form of the disease.
Since it is viral there is no cure. Once diagnosed, you will work with your vet on a plan for comfort measures such as fluids, pain medications and antibiotics if there are secondary infections.
Unfortunately, due to the severity of the disease, there is not a known cure and many cats are unable to get better.
Is the Swollen Abdomen Due to Cancer?
In the worst-case scenario, the swollen abdomen may be a sign of cancer in your cat.
If the swelling is sudden and is not all over and if your cat is older, it may have developed some kind of internal organ cancer.
I have faced this type of cancer with my own cat and the only sign that he was facing cancer was the tight, and swollen abdomen. He had no lethargy or lack of appetite.
If you suspect that your cat has cancer, your vet will most likely do an ultrasound to make a diagnosis.
With feline cancer, there is not a very good prognosis. Although there are treatment plans and even chemo for cats, most cats do not actually respond very well to the treatments. The cancer treatment for cats is also very expensive.
Once your vet has determined that your cat is facing cancer, he or she will likely give you a time estimate and what to watch for.
With my own cat I needed to watch for signs of lethargy and loss of appetite. These would be signs of the cancer spreading. The fluid in the abdomen can also cause breathing difficulties.
I asked my vet about diuretics and she informed me that they don't actually work very well on cats with cancer. She did indicate that they can drain the fluid from the abdomen if and when it causes too much uncomfortableness or if he has trouble breathing. Often, though, the fluid can return very quickly.
This symptom of cancer is very hard to watch. My own cat was given several more weeks. While his belly has been very swollen and distended, he has still been eating and moving around although he is more sluggish.
At the time of this writing it has been 4 weeks since his diagnosis and I do notice a loss in appetite and he continues to sport a round abdomen. While he is an older cat (almost 16) it is hard to have an animal you have loved and taken care of for most of its life go through this.
Remember that each cat is unique and each treatment plan should be developed with your vet based on what is right for you, your budget and your cat.
Anytime you suspect a swollen abdomen, it is important to seek a vet's advice to figure out what is going on with your pet.