Ascites (Fluid Buildup in Abdomen) in Cats

Ascites is a medical term used to describe a condition where there is accumulation of fluid or fluid buildup in the abdomen. Ascites is not a disease but a clinical symptom of other known diseases.

Excessive fluid buildup can lead to abdominal distension (swelling). Ascites is often seen as gradual and slow progression. This can turn into an emergency if fluid starts building rapidly.

Common symptoms such as vomiting, abdominal pain, discomfort, swelling, loss of appetite is often seen in this condition. Progressing condition can show symptoms such as gasping, trouble breathing, pleural effusion, internal rupture of blood vessels, extreme weakness.


There are various causes which can have ascites as a symptom. They are:
› Abdominal Pain
› Parasitic infections such as Dioctophymiasis
› Abdominal bleeding due to rupture of spleen
› Abdominal bleeding due to poisoning, toxicity
› Bile peritonitis (bile leakage)
› Obstruction
› Rupture of blood vessels
› Protein-losing nephropathy
› Right sided congestive heart failure
› Hypoalbuminemia (lower blood albumin level)
› Lymphatic diseases and conditions
› Metabolic disorders
› Tumors and masses
› Trauma
› Cancer
› Liver diseases
› Peritonitis (Inflammation of the inner lining of the abdomen)
› Uroabdomen – Urine in the abdomen caused due to Urinary tract injury involving ureter, urethra, kidneys and bladder
› Diseases such as Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), Hyperkalaemia (High Potassium in Blood), Lyme Disease (Lyme Borreliosis), Lymphocytic Plasmacytic Enteritis (LPE), Protein-Losing Enteropathy (PLE)

Clinical Signs & Symptoms

Common symptoms seen are:
› Abdominal Distension (Swelling)
› Dyspnea (Trouble Breathing)
› Discomfort
› Lethargy
› Coughing
› Vomiting
› Diarrhea (Loose stools)
› Pyrexia (Fever)
› Anorexia (Loss of Appetite)
› Weakness


Diagnosis can be difficult to make as ascites can mimic symptoms of other known diseases.

Veterinarians will require a complete history of your cat which includes medical history, vaccination records, existing health concerns, current and previous medications, onset of symptoms, diet and exercise routine and any information which can help in establishing a correct diagnosis. Diagnosis is done with a combination of tests. These include routine lab examinations and special tests which can detect the underlying cause. They are:

› Complete Blood Count (CBC)
› Biochemical Profile
› Urinalysis (UA)
› Chest Radiograph (X-ray)
› Abdominal Radiograph (X-rays)
› Fluid Analysis
› Bacterial Culture Test

Depending of the underlying cause, veterinarians may suggest additional tests which include:
› Abdominal Ultrasound
› Endoscopy Test
› Serum Lipase
› Echocardiography (Ultrasound of the Heart)
› Measurement of bile acid


Severe cases require intensive professional treatment and pets will have to be hospitalized. Once the cause is diagnosed, treatment procedures and medications will vary accordingly.

› IV Fluids
› Fluid therapy
› Medications for treatment of primary disease
› Surgery
› Diuretic to remove fluids
› Oxygen therapy (in-case of breathing difficulty)
› Antibiotic medications
› Anti-parasitic medications


There is no prevention. There are numerous causes for fluid accumulation in the stomach. It can result from a mild infection to a chronic disease. Treatment should not be delayed as fluid accumulation can progress into a life threatening situation.

Home Care

Home care should aim at improving the condition. Treatments can take a few days to weeks, depending on the severity. If you observe any behavioral changes, or if the condition does not improve, please contact your veterinarian.

› It is mandatory to provide a stress-free environment for your cat. Keep water and food bowls within reach. Avoid physical activity. Keep your cats away from any noise and commotions.
› You have to administer and monitor all prescribed medicine as directed by your veterinarian.
› Do NOT travel with your cat.
› Do NOT allow your cat to roam freely. This works two ways, firstly if the cat is infected, it greatly reduces the chances of risk of exposure to other pets and humans and secondly in-case of a healthy pet, it reduces the chances of contracting the infection.
› Use of environmental disinfectants is recommended. Prompt disposal of any and all materials after use is suggested.
› Routine and regular checkups to access the progress, further tests may be advised this includes Liver and kidney function tests, blood tests. Monitor and administer all medications as directed by your veterinarian and complete the dosage.
› Humans, especially children, pregnant women and ones handling infected pets need to exercise caution. Wear gloves when dealing with a pet, cleaning the litter boxes, disposing any and all contaminated materials, garbage disposals etc. A thorough wash of hands is advised. Practice hygiene.
› Post recovery care involves re-hydrating, prescription diets, medications to enhance immunity as directed by your veterinarian.

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