What is Inflammation of the Abdomen?
The severity of the condition will depend on the cause of the inflammation. Peritonitis must be treated promptly as the condition can become septic, putting the cat's life at risk.
The peritoneum is a thin membrane that lines the abdominal, or peritoneal, cavity. When the peritoneum becomes inflamed due to injury or infection, peritonitis results. Peritonitis can be extremely painful and will make a cat sensitive to anything that touches its abdomen.
Symptoms of Inflammation of the Abdomen in Cats
Because peritonitis can lead to a systemic infection, symptoms may vary depending on what organs are involved. Common symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Reluctance to move
- Positioning itself in a "praying" position in order to relieve pain
- Loss of appetite (anorexia)
- Weight loss
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Increased heart rate
- Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
- Shock (septic)
There are two main types of peritonitis:
- Primary peritonitis
- Secondary peritonitis, which can be further classified into septic and non-septic peritonitis
Causes of Inflammation of the Abdomen in Cats
The different types of peritonitis also have differing causes, which include:
- Feline infectious peritonitis
- Injury or trauma to abdomen or other body organ
- Presence of foreign substances, such as glove powder or barium
- Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
- Introduction of foreign bodies or contaminants during surgery
- Liver abscesses
- Rupture of bile duct, gallbladder or urinary bladder
- Pus filling the abdominal cavity
Diagnosis of Inflammation of the Abdomen in Cats
The veterinarian will need to know the cat's health history, which will include any recent surgeries or injuries, when the symptoms first began, and a detailed list of all of the cat's symptoms. The veterinarian will examine the cat, listening to its heart and lungs with a stethoscope, gently feeling the abdomen for signs of sensitivity, and taking its blood pressure.
Various labs will need to be performed in order to determine what has caused the peritonitis to occur and what organ systems are involved. These labs include a biochemical profile, a complete blood count, an electrolyte panel and a urinalysis. Ultrasounds and X-rays will also be utilized in order to look for free gas in the abdomen due to bacteria or a perforation, organ abscesses, or free fluid in the abdominal cavity.
Free abdominal fluid may be collected for further lab analysis by abdominocentesis. During the abdominocentesis, the veterinarian will use an ultrasound to guide a thin needle into the abdominal cavity, where a sample of the fluid will be taken. This sample will be sent to an outside lab for further testing. Alternatively, a diagnostic peritoneal lavage can be done to test the fluid if an abdominocentesis isn't possible.
Treatment of Inflammation of the Abdomen in Cats
The cat will need to be hospitalized in order to receive intravenous fluid and electrolyte therapy. During the time, the veterinarian will monitor the kidneys and heart to ensure that the fluids aren't taxing the organ systems.
Broad spectrum antibiotics will be prescribed at first in order to stop the spread of infection. Blood culture and sensitivity labs will be performed in order to determine the right antibiotic for the infection.
Peritonitis due to chemicals, bacteria or trauma will need to be treated with surgery. Surgery poses a risk as it can cause bacteria to spread throughout the body. After surgery, peritoneal drainage will be maintained with either an open or closed drain implantation.
If an underlying heart condition was found, the cat will need to be placed on a low-sodium diet. Nutritional support may be given during hospitalization via a feeding tube or injection while the cat recovers from the abdominal inflammation.
Recovery of Inflammation of the Abdomen in Cats
Peritonitis is a serious condition that can cause death even with surgical intervention. The veterinarian will need to do frequent bloodwork in order to monitor the inflammation and its effect on the organs during recovery in the hospital. Once the cat is released, follow up appointments with the veterinarian will be necessary in order to monitor the cat's progress.
Follow any dietary restrictions that were recommended by the veterinarian in order to help the cat get the nutrients it needs without taxing its heart or kidneys. The cat should be allowed to recover in a quiet, stress-free environment. Keeping other animals and young children away from the cat while it recovers is essential. The cat may need to wear an Elizabethan collar as recommended by the veterinarian in order to keep it from biting or licking its sutures. The prognosis for peritonitis is guarded as a full recovery depends on the cause and extent of the inflammation and the promptness of treatment.