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What is Bloated?

Bloating is defined as becoming swollen with gas or fluid, and when it occurs in the gastrointestinal system of a cat it may be noticeable either visually or tactilely. This symptom can be an indicator of several serious disorders ranging from overeating to liver and kidney dysfunction. Common reasons for bloating may include:

  • Constipation
  • Fluid accumulation in the abdomen
  • Intestinal blockage
  • Intestinal worms
  • Overeating and obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Pyometra

Why Bloated Occurs in Cats

This condition can be caused by a number of circumstances and most of these circumstances require medical attention to correct. If your cat is showing signs of a bloated abdomen, a call or visit to the animal’s regular veterinarian is recommended. 

Constipation

Felines who are afflicted with constipation may have a bloated abdomen and may also vocalize when attempting to defecate, vomit, or stop eating entirely. This condition is most commonly caused by dehydration due to low moisture food, although obstructions, endocrine disorders, and behavioral retention may also play a part in its development. 

Fluid Accumulation in the Abdomen

Referred to medically as ascites, the accumulation of fluids in the abdomen may come from blood vessels, internal organs, or from abdominal masses, and may be a product of liver or kidney damage. Ascites can develop either slowly or quickly depending on the rapidity of leakage into the abdominal cavity and may be accompanied by difficulties breathing, loss of appetite, fever, and weakness. 

Intestinal Blockage

Objects that get lodged somewhere in the gastrointestinal tract and intestinal tumors and masses may interfere with the proper passage of food through the digestive system. This may cause the stomach or intestines to become distended which can sometimes be felt as a hard mass in the abdomen area. 

Intestinal Worms

There are several types of intestinal parasites that can cause abdominal distention, particularly roundworm and hookworm infestations. Infestation by these parasites can be quite dangerous, and the symptoms and risks are exaggerated in kittens.

Overeating and Obesity

Obesity can cause the abdomen to appear distended, however, it is pliable and soft in texture as opposed to being hard and tight to the touch. Occasionally cats may eat their food too quickly and become over-full, causing their stomach to temporarily appear bloated, however, this should clear up as the food digests in just a few hours. 

Pregnancy

Pregnancy can also cause distension of the abdomen due to both the growing kittens and the fluid that surrounds them. Typically, if the animal is far enough along to be visibly bloated, the kittens may be palpated in the abdomen as several small masses.

Pyometra

This illness is a serious and often life-threatening infection of the uterus that is characterized by pus that fills the uterus. Although this condition is more likely to develop in unspayed females over the age of five, it can occur in any unspayed female. Pyometra can be either open, meaning that the pus is able to drain through the cervix, or closed, where drainage is cut off. Closed pyometra is more likely to cause bloating than open pyometra due to the pus continuing to collect in the uterus.

What to do if your Cat is Bloated

If your cat is experiencing bloating, a veterinary professional should give the animal a physical examination as well as run the proper tests to uncover any underlying conditions. The treatment for overweight and obese felines will vary somewhat from individual to individual depending on their age and overall condition.

Your veterinarian may be able to assist you in designing an efficient and safe program of exercise and healthy food for your cat’s particular circumstances. Cats that appear pregnant should see a veterinarian to ensure that the pregnancy is healthy. In most cases, both bloodwork and ultrasound technology will be utilized to get a clearer image of how many puppies there are and what position they are in. Endocrine disorders such as thyroid disease, diabetes, or Cushing’s disease may require lifelong treatment and medication to manage. Stress can often be controlled through additional exercise, routine changes, and sometimes diet changes, however, anti-anxiety medications may be suggested for severe cases. Constipation sometimes resolves on its own, but more often than not medical intervention is required to clear the cat’s system, pyometra is generally treated using antibiotic medications, and deworming medication may be prescribed to eliminate parasites in the patient’s gastrointestinal disorder. Many of the other diseases and disorders that are known to cause bloating, such as ascites or intestinal blockages, are likely to require surgical intervention to correct.

Prevention of Bloated

There are several steps you can take to help prevent bloating in your cat. Ensuring that your companion is receiving the correct amount of food for their individual metabolism and activity levels will go a long way in preventing issues such as overeating and obesity. This can include reevaluating the cat’s daily diet and exercise routine on a regular basis in order to compensate for things like advancing age, neutering or spaying, and other factors that are known to influence changes in metabolism. Some veterinary professionals recommend getting special bowls designed to slow the cat down when eating in order to reduce the chances of overeating or intestinal blockage due to eating too fast. Regular veterinary screenings may also help catch imbalances in the levels of hormones and indications of infection before these conditions become too advanced. Making certain that your pet is up to date on their recommended vaccines and preventative dewormers will help prevent many of the causes of bloating in cats.

Cost of Bloated

The cost for clearing up this condition will be dependent on the underlying cause of the bloating. Ascites in cats averages $1,500 to treat, and intestinal obstruction runs around $1,200. Less complicated conditions may be less expensive as well, for example obesity generally costs an average of $500 and  parasitic infestation typically averages just $175.