Ascites in cats, often referred to as abdominal dropsy, is a secondary condition characterized by the buildup of fluid in the abdominal cavity. This condition typically arises as a consequence of underlying issues like renal or heart failure, or it can develop alongside chronic pathological processes associated with infectious, viral, and bacterial diseases.
In this condition, the buildup of peritoneal fluid in cats, known as pathological exudate, occurs due to a disruption in the drainage of transudate into the lymphatic and circulatory systems. Transudate is a non-inflammatory fluid that gradually infiltrates tissues and cavities through the walls of highly permeable blood vessels.
Ascites in cats is a perilous condition that demands immediate attention. The ailment can progress swiftly, and the volume of pathological fluid in the abdomen can reach two liters within a day. It's worth noting that even a small accumulation of peritoneal fluid can disrupt the functioning of internal organs and systems in the body. Furthermore, the exudate can become infected with pathogenic bacteria, posing a grave threat to the cat's health and potentially leading to the pet's demise.
Ascites in the abdominal cavity is rarely an isolated condition; rather, it develops in response to chronic pathological processes and diseases in the body. Animals with renal and hepatic insufficiency, cardiovascular issues, chronic pancreatitis, liver cirrhosis, viral and bacterial peritonitis, are particularly susceptible. This condition is also associated with disruptions in the endocrine system and weakened immune defenses.
Factors contributing to the development of the disease and the accumulation of transudate in the abdomen include obesity, excessive sodium intake (from salty foods, smoked products, and poor-quality dry feeds), water-salt and protein metabolism disruptions, oncological diseases, chronic pathologies and diseases leading to portal congestion and circulatory disturbances in the cardiovascular system.
Ascites can manifest with either rapid or gradual development, with symptoms appearing accordingly. The intensity of the onset and the degree of symptom expression depend on the rate of transudate buildup in the abdomen. A characteristic sign of ascites in cats is abdominal enlargement. Affected cats exhibit a large, taut, significantly distended abdomen due to the pressure exerted by the accumulated transudate. Lifting the cat causes the fluid to shift toward the lower abdomen, giving the abdomen a pear-like shape.
In the initial stages of the disease, fluid accumulates slowly, and the abdomen isn't significantly enlarged, while the cat's overall condition remains stable. As the disease progresses, cats become less active, experience a noticeable decline in appetite, and eventually, they may entirely refuse food. Bloating, vomiting, digestive disturbances (diarrhea/constipation), changes in breathing (rapid, shallow breathing, shortness of breath) may also occur. Cats become restless, meow constantly, seek out dark corners, lie on their side, and move cautiously. Elevated body temperature may also be observed.
For an accurate diagnosis, it's crucial to seek immediate veterinary attention when even minor symptoms surface or if the cat's overall condition worsens. The diagnostic process includes:
1. Gathering medical history, which involves assessing the duration and intensity of symptoms and determining whether the cat has a history of chronic heart, liver, or kidney diseases. 2. External examination, which includes palpation, temperature measurement, monitoring the heart rate, and identifying fluctuation points. 3. A series of laboratory tests on transudate (biochemical blood and urine analyses). 4. Ultrasound diagnostics and radiography.
In cases where the clinical presentation resembles other conditions and diseases, differential diagnostic methods may be employed to arrive at an accurate diagnosis.
Treatment of Ascites in Cats
Upon establishing a diagnosis, comprehensive treatment is initiated, primarily focused on addressing the underlying causes that triggered the development of this condition. Depending on the disease responsible for the ascites in cats, symptomatic medications such as diuretics, cardiac stimulants, and drugs to normalize liver and kidney function may be prescribed.
To reduce blood vessel permeability, an intravenous injection of a 10% calcium chloride solution is administered. In the case of infection, antibiotics and immunostimulant drugs may be required.
To drain fluid from the abdominal cavity, a veterinarian may perform abdominal puncture. With timely, correctly prescribed, and effective treatment, the prognosis is favorable. It is essential to notice any changes in your pet's condition promptly, avoid self-treatment, and seek veterinary care as soon as possible.
Throughout the treatment period, careful attention to the cat's diet is necessary. Salt intake should be limited, and water consumption reduced. The diet should be rich in high-quality protein. Food should be offered in small portions multiple times a day at consistent intervals. As a preventive measure, specially formulated therapeutic commercial cat food can form the foundation of the diet.