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What are Ascites?

If you notice swelling or tenderness in your cat’s abdomen, this could be a sign of fluid build up, which is indicative of an underlying health condition.

The buildup of fluids in the body is known as edema unless it occurs in the abdomen, in which case it is called ascites. Fluid buildup can put pressure on the cat’s stomach and chest, causing difficulty with eating or breathing. Ascites can be caused by a wide variety of health conditions ranging in severity, so although the fluid can be easily removed by a vet, treatment will focus on the cause of the fluid accumulation.

Ascites Average Cost

From 569 quotes ranging from $500 - $6,000

Average Cost

$1,500

Symptoms of Ascites in Cats

Symptoms of ascites in cats may begin slowly, but then build up over time as more fluid collects in the abdomen. The symptoms your cat exhibits will depend on the underlying cause of  the fluid build-up. Some of the symptoms you may notice include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weakness
  • Fever
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Causes of Ascites in Cats

A number of different health conditions can cause fluid to start building up in the abdomen, most of which are very serious and require the immediate attention of a vet. Some of the conditions that may cause ascites include:

  • Abdominal organ failure
  • Trauma
  • Right-sided heart failure
  • Cancer
  • Nephritic syndrome (an inflammatory kidney condition)
  • Peritonitis, or inflammation of the abdominal lining
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Diagnosis of Ascites in Cats

Take your cat to a veterinarian as soon as you notice any symptoms of ascites. Discuss what symptoms you have noticed with the vet, and if your cat has experienced any physical trauma recently, be sure to mention this as well.

Although the vet should be able to identify excessive fluid in the abdomen just by feeling the area, more tests will need to be run to determine the cause. First, a urinalysis and chemistry profile will be performed to see how the liver and kidneys are functioning. An ultrasound of the abdomen may also be performed to take a closer look at the organs.

The vet may also need to remove a small sample of the fluid to look for the presence of bacteria or blood. This procedure is known as a peritoneal fluid analysis, and will help the vet get to the bottom of what is causing the buildup. 

X-rays of the chest and abdomen may also be performed to look for signs of trauma or tumors. If the vet sees any masses, a biopsy may be required to determine if the tumor is cancerous. 

Because partial heart failure could cause fluid build up, the vet may also suggest an EKG to determine if the heart is functioning properly.

The results of all of these tests will help the vet pinpoint the exact cause of the fluid buildup so he can create an effective treatment plan.

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Treatment of Ascites in Cats

Treatment will first focus on making the cat more comfortable, and then will shift to treat the underlying cause of the fluid buildup. If the cat is struggling to breathe, a catheter will be placed into his abdomen to drain the fluid and allow him to breathe easier. The cat may be fitted with an oxygen mask during this time to help him breathe while the procedure takes place. 

Diuretics may also be administered to help with the fluid removal, however, these drugs can cause potassium levels in the blood to drop, which can lead to serious side effects.

After the fluid has been removed, the vet will need to treat the underlying cause to prevent it from building up again. Treatment will vary greatly depending on the cause. For example, peritonitis can be treated with antibiotics, however, a cancerous tumor may need to be removed via surgery. Surgery may also be required if the cause is a ruptured organ due to injury. Unfortunately, some causes of ascites are untreatable or very difficult to treat, including heart and liver failure. 

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Recovery of Ascites in Cats

Fluid can easily be removed from the cat’s abdomen, but the cat’s recovery will depend on the underlying cause of ascites. To increase your cat’s chances of recovering fully, follow the vet’s orders closely and schedule a follow-up appointment with the vet so he can assess how your cat is healing. 

The vet may ask you to change your cat’s diet to help prevent the accumulation of fluid. One of the most important changes is lowering your cat’s salt intake, which will reduce bloating and water retention.

If ascites was caused by trauma, it may be wise to keep your cat indoors so you can keep a closer eye on him and prevent further injuries. You will also need to keep other pets away from your cat while he recovers if trauma is the underlying cause.

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Ascites Average Cost

From 569 quotes ranging from $500 - $6,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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Ascites Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Mia

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domestic short hair

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10 Weeks

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Fluid In Abdomen

We have a 10 week old kitten with fluid build up in her abdomen. We had it drained but it looks like it might be swelling again. What should I do to help her? Does she have a chance to survive this?

Aug. 22, 2018

Mia's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I"m not sure what is causing the fluid buildup, but common things that make that happen include heart failure, liver failure, and FIP. None of these is very positive for Mia as a 10 week old kitten. I can't examine her, so can't say for sure, but it would be best to discuss the possible outcome for her with your veterinarian.

Aug. 22, 2018

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Poot

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tortoise shell shorthair

dog-age-icon

7 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Bloated Stomach-Ascites,

My cat was diagnosed with hepatic encephalopathy as a kitten. She has been on lactulose,amoxicillin and for the last year flagyl. She is now in liver failure and has ascites. She is still eating and seems energetic etc. I'm just worried about the pressure from the ascites on her lungs. Can she take a diuretic to help her? My vet is out due to an injury

Aug. 20, 2018

Poot's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

I'm sorry that is happening with Poot. Sadly, diuretics don't typically help with abdominal fluid buildup, especially if the cause is liver failure. She may benefit from an abdominocentesis in the short term to remove some of that fluid, but that would be a short term fix and your veterinarian would need to perform that procedure. If your veterinarian is out due to an injury, there should be someone that they are referring patients to that can help you.

Aug. 20, 2018

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Bakouzy

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shiraz

dog-age-icon

8 Years

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Critical severity

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0 found helpful

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Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Fluid In Abdomen

My cat is 8 years old male. The condition started a month ago before that he was fine. The condition started by poisoning due to insect repellent then severe soft tissue inflammation and vertebral column stenosis due to wrong movement during injection. The condition was treated by metronidazole, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory and vitamin B. He was getting perfectly well. Then 2 days after that I noticed him breathing with difficulty and having tender, bloated abdomen filled with fluids and having diarrhea twice which is black in color. The vet said that he is having bad stage liver impairment and gave him silymarin and ursodeoxycholic acid but nothing to get rid of the excessive fluids. I’m asking what can be done more

July 14, 2018

Bakouzy's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

Without examining Bakouzy it is difficult to say what specific symptomatic and supportive care would be needed, however if there is fluid accumulating in the abdomen a diuretic may be indicated but it is also important to determine the specific cause of the liver disease. The liver support (silymarin and ursodeoxycholic acid) should help to bring the liver enzymes down but the rest is down to your Veterinarian’s judgement to get Bakouzy stable. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 15, 2018

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Koda

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domestic short hair

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7 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy

My cat Koda's stomach recently balooned up and the vet told us it was ascites. The vet took a fluid sample and blood sample and couldn't figure out what was the cause and the animal hospital we took him to, did a sonogram and couldn't figure out the cause either. We haven't had any other tests done for him because we don't have the money to get all tests done. They took a liter of fluid out but we think it's building up again. In terms of symptoms, he's eating his soft food fine, but he's not eating his hard food and he's less active but other then that and looking like a pear from above, he seems fine. Is there anything you'd suggest us try?

July 1, 2018

Koda's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

The problem is that it is important to determine the cause of the ascites as any treatment is dependent on the underlying cause; however possible causes may include liver disease, hypoalbuminemia, heart failure among other causes. But as I mentioned, without an underlying cause it is difficult to give any guidance for treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 1, 2018

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May

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Unsure

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11 Weeks

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Fluid In Abdomen

My 11 week old kitten has build up a large accumulation of fluid between her 9th and 10th week. We took her to the vet. He analyzed some fluid from her and said it was some type of liver issue, with compression of the organ causing its dysfunction. He drained the fluid yesterday but it seems her belly is already filling a bit today. He ruled out FIP. There is a lack of diagonistic technology where I live, and he isn't able to determine the exact cause. Are there any suggestions for possible causes or treatments? She seems totally healthy other wise, eating and drinking well, no toliet issues-going regulary, etc, playful, curious, generally happy. I hate to think of putting her down, but not sure if there is much to be done. He put her on steriods. Would it make sense to drain one more time to let the steriods work?

June 8, 2018

May's Owner

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recommendation-ribbon

3320 Recommendations

There are many different causes for ascites (abdominal fluid) which may include liver disease, low blood albumin, infections (like FIP), cancer (unlikely in a cat this age) among other causes. Without examining May and having some basic blood tests, it is difficult to make a specific diagnosis; however diuretics may help in the meantime to increase renal clearance of fluid. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

June 9, 2018

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Shawdow

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Persian

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7 Months

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Ascites

Hi all. So my 7 month kitten started getting a big belly, I assumed he was just gaining weight as he ate a lot. About a month later he started getting less active and always moped around. He was always so playful so I knew something wasn’t right. I thought he was depressed because he didn’t show any signs of being sick. Took him to the vets few days ago and they said he had ascites and drained the fluids from his stomach and took a blood test for coronvirus which came back negative. Vet gave us some medicine for 3 days and asked to come back within 3 days to retake the coronvirus and thankfully came back negative again but still had so fluids that the drained out again. Now the vet hasn’t given me any answers to what is causing this but doing some research I came across the fip virus which made me so heartbroken but the symptoms does not match what my kitten is going through however the doctor still ruled it out. Can anyone tell me what could be cause this fluids? His active, eating and drinking very well. Thanks all

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No name

dog-breed-icon

American Bob mix

dog-age-icon

12 Days

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Abdomen Fluid

I have 3(12 days old) foster kittens because Mom was in an industrial accident and these 3 survive. My white kitten about 3 days ago develop a fluid fill abdomen. He has no fever, very active,great appetite.Vet did an FNA and no fluid came out. He seems to be growing. He so little that it's hard to do any other testing. We are at a loss. I have had kittens with both wet and dry FIP and this guy seems different. Heart and lungs seems fine upon examination all clear. At a loss.

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Jen

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Local india

dog-age-icon

6 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Ascites And Creative
Ascites And Creatine

My cat has been examined with ascites and blood cloth around heart with enlargement and fluid buildup in abdomen and lungs. Loss of appetite is seen and cat wants to eat but won’t eat. Liquid intake is ok and urine is passing. Creating is 2.34 hemi is 220. Am struggling to make it eat. Only licks whiskas jelly a little.

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Gus

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Bengal

dog-age-icon

12 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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1 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Ascites

As hard as it is for me to write this, I feel that by sharing my experience, and my mistakes, I may help someone out there facing similar illness in their beloved cat-friend-child. My ~12years old Bengal friend, Gus, has always been a high energy and very affectionate cat - like a little boy. (We got him from a cats foster-home in 2012) He had a little bloody diarrhea episode on 26th Dec 2018, which made us take him to a VCA specialty clinic for a checkup (doctors at this clinic referred to as 'A' in below) They did a complete blood-work/ultrasound which was unremarkable for most part. His ultrasound showed some thickening in intestinal walls, and a possibility of a hypoehoic mass (darkened region on ultrasound) between his pancreas and spleen. They didn't find it to be too concerning at that point, and sent him home with some antibiotics. The meds helped and he was back to his normal solid-poop self. However starting 2nd week of Feb, we started noticing a little bulge in his abdomen, which I ignorantly attributed to him possibly eating more and gaining weight. (Mistake #1: Knowing how athletic a cat he was, I should have not imagined him gaining belly-fat, and taken him in for a check-up right away). Over next week, I changed his diet a little (he was always fed canned wet food, Wellness for most part) to use high-protein/less-fat, but his abdomen kept getting bigger over next week. I finally took him to a vet (this doctor referred to as 'B' in below) for a checkup on 21st Feb. Gus had gained about 3 pounds since Dec, and Dr. 'B' confirmed that he had fluid in his abdomen. Dr B drained about 3/4 pounds of fluid out and sent it for cytology, as well as, did a complete blood work (CBC, and renal profile). The blood work was good, except for the WBC being slightly higher than upper range). Dr. 'B' suspected FIV, but since the drained fluid was more pink in color and not milky, he wasn't sure. The cytology report two days later confirmed that it was not FIV. There was no clear diagnosis in the cytology report except for a possibility of some kind of neoplasia (cancerous growth) due to uneven RBC sizes observed in cytology test. At this point, looking at Gus' previous ultrasound report from Dec, Dr. B suspected that the hypoechoic mass noticed behind his pancreas back then could have been some kind of cyst, and if that was the case, he'd recommend taking it out surgically. We took Gus back to clinic 'A' on Mon 25th Feb for another echo/ultrasound. The echo was excellent, no issues in the heart. The ultrasound turned out to be better than before - no signs of hypoechoic mass behind his pancreas, but there was still some thickening noticed in his intestinal walls, and the radiologist at 'A' also noticed some nodules like formations in there. Based on these findings, the vet at 'A' suspected a possibility of some kind of neoplasia/lymphoma, and recommended doing a needle-biopsy on live for further evaluation, followed by starting Gus on Predinsole steroid tablets. They also recommended not to drain all of fluid in Gus' abdomen out, as that might have put pressure on his heart. I consulted with Dr. 'B' about this, and Dr. 'B' stressed that doing an exploratory biopsy surgery on Gus would be a better option than the needle biopsy as that may not get the affected tissue sample. I was so paralyzed in my mind that evening that I agreed to Dr. B's recommendation of invasive biopsy surgery (Mistake# 2 !), without making him discuss the pros/cons of the invasive surgery, vs. starting with steroid/anti-biotics treatment, and impact on Gus's remaining quality of life. Dr. B claimed that the biopsy surgery was not a big deal, and was as simple surgical procedure as neutering a cat. In hindsight, if I had known that the surgery could make it harder for Gus's immune system to fight on two fronts (the possible lymphoma, and healing surgical wounds), and that the prognosis would be no better than simply starting him on steroid treatment advised by 'A', I would have said no to the invasive procedure. But I just wasn't thinking clearly at that fated Monday evening. The Dr. 'B' arranged the surgery on Tue the 26th Feb, and asked me to not feed Gus after midnight. I dropped Gus off at ‘B’ around noon. However, the surgery didn’t start until around 4pm that evening. Originally Dr. B was planning to keep him overnight at his clinic for observation of his recovery, but then he changed his mind around 7pm and asked us to take Gus home as he wasn’t willing to eat. I picked Gus up around 7:30pm and took him home with only instructions to give him Entyce syringes if needed. Dr. ‘B’ seemed to have just assume that Gus would start eating at home, and didn’t give us any guidelines on force-feeding him. Gus was extremely weak and wobbly that night, and just laid on his side with eyes open all night. It seemed that he was in pain, and still not willing to eat. I did not try to force-feed him worrying that he might vomit, imagining that his symptoms must be effects of the anesthesia. (* Mistake# 3!). Gus did drink lots of water next morning, but still no willingness to eat. I took him back to ‘B’ for a follow-up checkup, and ‘B’ simply sent him home with another buprenorphine, and cerenia injection. Gus had not eaten for more than 36hrs at this point, but ‘B’ did not have any concerns. We trusted ‘B’ and did not still try to force-feed Gus all day. Gus did lick about 0.5oz of wet food from my fingers, but that was it all Wed the 27th. Gus remained very weak and laid on his side with eyes open for most part all day/night again. Worried that he had eaten so very little in almost 50hours, I took him to ‘B’ again on Thu 28th morning. Dr. ‘B’ still did not say anything about force-feeding him, did not bother to do any follow-up blood work on Gus, and sent us home again with another higher dose buprenorphine injection, claiming it’d help him sleep. He also gave us a buprenorphine syringe to give to Gus after 12 hours. Gus condition did not improve much all day. We got him to lick more food off our fingers, but still not much – maybe another 4 oz or so all day. Gus kept drinking lots of water throughout the day. I gave buprenorphine syringe to Gus around midnight, and it seemed that oral dose helped him a bit, and he did sleep that night. Gus seemed just a little better on Friday morning. I decided to force-feed him with a syringe, and he did not seem to mind too much. He was walking around a little, and went to lay by our another cat (a 14yrs old tabby), and got a tongue-bath from her as well. We started feeling better that he was recovering a bit, and that his weakness/no-appetite was probably just surgery after-effects. But that evening Gus had a urinary incontinence episode on the bed. We consulted with. Dr. B that evening, but Dr. B ignored the urinary incontinence episode. He focused on the fact that the biopsy report had indicated strong possibility of spreading Carcinoma in Gus’ intestines. Dr. B said that he had already consulted with his oncologist vet friend, and recommended starting chemo, Carboplatin infusion directly into Gus’ abdomen, starting Monday. I said yes – again without forcing Dr. B to give me pros/cons of the treatment, or asking to consult with the oncologist ourselves for any alternate options. (Mistake# 4!). Dr. B also suggested to start Gus on ¼ of ‘Mirtazapine’ tablet to help with his appetite next morning. So, on Sat morning, I force-fed about 2.5oz of Hill’s prescription diet A/D food to Gus, and mixed 1/4th Mirtazapine tablet in that food. A few minutes after eating, Gus started having some light tremors in his body, and his head was shaking visibly. In panic, I had the after-hours/weekend service page Dr. B. Dr. B called me back an hour later, and suggested to wait-and-watch, unless the tremors got worse. At this point Dr. B wasn’t still too concerned about our observations that Gus’ weakness had increased, and he was visibly having hard time walking to the water and/or litter box to pee. Still no advice on checking Gus’ blood-work to make sure that the biopsy surgery hadn’t deteriorated his condition, and no concerns about our mention of Gus’ progressing weakness. The after-effects of Mirtazapine sub-sided after a couple of hours, but it still hadn’t helped Gus with the appetite. I continued to force-feed Gus on Sat/Sunday (about 4oz of a/d food each day). What I was unware of at that point was that we should have been feeding a lot more quantity of a/d food to Gus. The online published guidelines (I found later) are about 2000 calories a day for ~12 lb cat, which would have been almost two cans of a/d food every day. On Sunday, Gus’s weakness had worsened, but trusting Dr. B’s feedback so far, I, once again did not rush Gus to emergency clinic for a check-up (Big Mistake# 5!). On Monday, the 4th March morning, Gus had lost weight, muscle mass, and was wobbling in getting to the litter-box. I was very worried at this point, but was hoping that Dr. B would check on him before the chemo appointment that afternoon. I took Gus in around noon to Dr. B. I was informed by his staff that he was running behind due to some urgent calls that morning, and he might not have time for a consultation before the chemo procedure on Gus. Once again, trusting Dr. B judgement, I agreed to whatever Dr. B suggested, and they took Gus in. As I was worried about Gus not eating, and had just found out about esophagus feeding tube from online browsing, I asked Dr. B’s staff to ask Dr. B about possibility of feeding tube for Gus. Three hours later. Dr. B asked me to his consultation room, and said that the carboplatin chemo/fluid-drainage/feeding-tube was all done, and Gus was recovering from anesthesia. He then mentioned that the fluid-drainage indicated lot more blood in the fluid than a week before, and that Gus’ CBC blood-work (that was done by him during past three hours) indicated severe regenerative anemia, with Hemocrit being only about 11%. The CBC Idexx report indicated lots of new immature RBCs being generated, and strong possibility of Hemolytic anemia, possibly due to his intestinal carcinoma spreading all this while in last week. He said that at this point Gus needed immediate blood transfusion to get to the point where any other treatment could be undertaken. While Dr. B was discussing all of this, he was also wrapping a bandage around Gus’ neck, and then he taped the hanging feed-tube folded-upward on that bandage. I went out for a few minutes to call work for time-off, and inquire clinic ‘A’ about blood-transfusions (was quoted $3300 with no guarantee of Gus surviving the transfusion process). I made up my mind to take the chance anyway, and went back in. At this point Gus had started vocalizing and becoming agitated, trying to jump off the kennel. His jaws were chattering and he was exhibiting chocking like symptoms. Dr. B was just standing there discussing how it might be too late for blood-transfusion, ignoring Gus’ loud vocalizing. In panic, I asked Dr. B technician if anything could be done to alleviate Gus choking condition, and he finally put an oxygen mask to Gus’ mouth, which seemed to calm him a bit. But his body was still convulsing. Dr. B started to check on his pulse, and said that his pulse was sinking. I told him that Gus seemed okay before the neck bandage was put on, and asked him to loosen it, He did that, but it didn’t help Gus. In my panicked state, I forgot to ask Dr. B to also loosen the feeding-tube that was taped upward tightly to that bandage… To this time, I have a lingering feeling that the feeding-tube’s getting taped up was what was Choking Gus, because my later browsing the Internet indicated that the death due to not enough red blood-cells carrying oxygen (hypoxia) is supposed to be relatively painless – like fading away in sleep!! I’d never know for sure! Seeing how Gus’ body was convulsing on the table, his hind legs frantically kicking, I desperately wanted to ease it, and asked Dr. B (who was just standing by, not suggesting anything – I guess, vets, having seen many deaths, get hardened enough to not be bothered by vocalizing/pain/suffering in pets on death-bed) about if we could give him any anesthesia. Dr. B then shaved Gus’s neck and gave him euthanasia injection, all this while Gus’s body suffering, fighting, struggling! I watched him pass way over next minute – that seemed like an eternity to my in-shock mind! I had never wanted Gus’s last time to be so full of suffering – When there was time for Gus to go, I wanted the vet to come to our home for euthanasia, and I had hoped, based on Dr. B’s feedback the last week after biopsy, that we should have at least two weeks, and more likely two months with Gus, after chemo treatment started. I was so in denial about Gus’s condition all last week – and seems like that every decision I took was the wrong one for Gus. Should have listened to the vet at ‘A’ and started Gus on steroids, rather than accepting Dr. B’s recommendation of biopsy surgery, that Gus never recovered from. I still don’t understand how Dr. B could have gone ahead with Chemo/fluid-drainage that fateful Monday morning, when he say how weak/fragile condition Gus was in. Why didn’t he wait for the CBC results before putting Gus under anaesthesia for chemo? Was it purely for the thousands of dollars that those procedures generated that day, or was it because he was rushed that morning, or maybe he truly believed it to be the best course of treatment at that point. I’d never know – I should give benefit of doubt to Dr. B. After all, me being responsible for Gus, I am the one who should have been more through about evaluating pros/cons of invasive procedures on Gus’ quality of life. I should have gotten a second opinion before agreeing to biopsy. I should have rushed Gus to emergency clinic after noticing his weakening condition last weekend. If I had done that, possibly the blood-transfusion would have saved him for now. In the end, it was the sequence of my decisions that not only ended up shortening remaining time Gus had, but also made it a horrific painful last moments for that little magnificent friend. Sorry about the lengthy paragraphs. I sincerely hope that no one out there has to go through something like this – and that this would help someone in evaluating the invasive options more thoroughly.

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Ruby

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Bengal

dog-age-icon

25 Days

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

No Symptoms ,. But Tender Abdo

My cat is 25 old days she has a tender abdomen when she stands the abdomen kinda looks bagy so I searched google which said ascites but there is no symptoms she eats correct , sleeps and even plays well she urinates well these is no foul smell or discharge in eye nose and vagina but I am scared I don't know what it is I don't have any vet near or even distance in the place I live pls reply

Ascites Average Cost

From 569 quotes ranging from $500 - $6,000

Average Cost

$1,500

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