Ascites in cats can be a minor incident that will still need to be fully examined, or it can turn into a life threatening situation for your cat.
Both scenarios are not normal; and the probability is very high that something serious is causing this development in your cat.
If this condition develops very rapidly, it has become an emergency situation.
This is a condition where there is an accumulation of fluid in the abdominal cavity. In most cases, this building of fluids will be a gradual process.
A gradual building of fluids in your cat’s abdominal cavity does not present a real problem, but the underlying disease may something entirely different.
Ascites in Cats
The abdominal cavity is the largest hollow space of your cat’s body and sits between the diaphragm and the top of the pelvic cavity.
It contains most all of the alimentary canal as well as the liver, pancreases, spleen, kidneys and the adrenal glands.
It is lined by a membrane referred to as the peritoneum that covers the inside wall.
There are two types of disorders that can affect this cavity; ascites and peritonitis.
These organs are vital to the life of your cat and a sudden large accumulation of fluid may compress the diaphragm.
If this occurs it can cause several respiratory problems as well as a difficulty in breathing.
The fluid that has leaked into your cat’s abdominal cavity will be from blood vessels, internal organs, or abdominal masses.
Ascites in cats can also be caused by lymphatic’s, which are small and very thin channels much like blood vessels but do not carry blood.
Instead they collect and carry tissue fluid form your cats body that will eventually drain back into the blood.
Ascites in cats can have several potential causes, and none of them will be good. The first is called Hypoalbuminemia which is a decrease of the blood albumin level.
Albumin is a major form of protein in your cat’s body and makes up about 60 percent of your cats plasma protein by mass.
There are several hormones in your cat’s body that are bound to albumin in their bloodstream and must be released before they can become biologically active.
Albumin is synthesized within the liver and low counts may signify liver failures or other diseases of the liver.
It can also be caused by chronic malnutrition because of your cat’s diet lacking potassium.
It can also be caused by what is known as right sided heart failure.
Your cat’s heart and its pumping action moves used blood that is returning to the heart from the veins through the right ventricle.
This right ventricle than pumps it back out where it goes to the lungs to be replenished with oxygen.
Right sided heart failure will almost always occur as a result of a failure of the left side of the heart; as a failure there increases fluid pressure which is transferred back to the lungs and damages the right side.
When the right side of your cat’s heart loses power, in backs blood up in the body’s veins and leakage occurs.
Ascites in cats can also be caused by abdominal masses which is a localized swelling or an enlargement in one area of your cat’s abdomen.
It can be a sign of an abscess, a problem with a blood vessel such as an aneurysm, or it could be an enlarged organ within the cavity.
Other potential causes could include Peritonitis which is an inflammation of the lining in the abdomen cavity or some type of a bleeding disorder that is causing the leakage of fluids.
The symptoms of Ascites in cats will depend on the severity of the leakage into your cat’s cavity.
These symptoms may take some to surface if the leakage is slow, or they can develop almost overnight if it a mass leakage.
The first symptom to watch for will be abdominal distention that will be caused by the fluid accumulating from blood or urine.
Whatever the cause, it will place a tremendous amount of pressure on your cat’s organs.
Once this happens, your cat will have difficult time breathing.
They may also develop a cough and anytime your cat starts to cough, it is a warning signal.
Because of this pressure, your pet will start to lose their appetite almost to the point of becoming anorexic.
As the accumulation of fluid increases, it may also cause vomiting and diarrhea, followed by a high fever.
Diagnosis and Treatments
Before treatment of this condition can be recommended, the actual cause of the leakage will have to be determined and it is usually very easy to find through testing.
Your veterinarian will perform a complete physical that will include blood tests, biochemical tests, urinalysis, as well as chest x-rays.
They will take also take samples of the fluid to see if infection has set in.
Once diagnosed, and if the problem is severe, your veterinarian may remove the fluid by therapeutic measures form the abdominal cavity to relieve the pressure on the organs.
Diuretics may also be used to reduce the fluids and to promote fluid excretion.
Diuretics will also be utilized as well as antibiotics if there is infection.
Once it is brought under control and the actual cause is identified that it is not a life threatening situation such as a liver disease or permanent heart condition, it can usually be controlled.
If a high number of cases, the leakage may be caused by a malnutrition condition in your pet which is most likely a potassium imbalance.
Potassium is found in high concentrations in your cat cells and it is absolutely critical for maintaining a proper fluid balance throughout the body.
If you are feeding your cat homemade diets you will need to supplement potassium.
Dandelion extract or supplements will also help your cat eliminate any excess fluids and provides potassium as well.
Ascites in cats can be life threatening if the buildup is very rapid and will almost always be the cause of an underlying serious disease. If the buildup is gradual, in most cases your cat will simply need more potassium in their system.