Abdominal Pain in Cats – Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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About     Causes     Symptoms     Diagnosis     Treatment

Abdominal pain in cats

About:

The abdomen is located between the chest and the pelvis and contains many internal organs including the liver, spleen, gallbladder, pancreas and kidneys. Pain in the abdomen can have many causes, all of which should be investigated by a veterinarian.

Causes:

Symptoms:

Symptoms of abdominal pain may not always be apparent, a hunched over appearance and/or pain when being touched in the abdominal area are both worrisome. Other symptoms may vary depending on the underlying cause.

  • A cat with giardia will have diarrhea, a cat with kidney stones may have difficulty urinating, a constipated cat may strain in the litter tray.
  • Cats with intussusception have vomiting, loss of appetite and diarrhea.
  • Viral, bacterial and parasitic infections (such as giardia) commonly cause vomiting and diarrhea. Giardia can produce foul-smelling, frothy feces.
  • Symptoms of poisoning vary depending on the type of toxin ingested. Your cat may appear confused, foam at the mouth, vomit, have seizures.
  • Cancer symptoms can often be vague but may include loss of appetite, blood in feces, loss of appetite, change in toileting habits (constipation, diarrhea), loss of appetite.

Diagnosis:

Your veterinarian will perform a physical examination of your cat and obtain a medical history from you. He will want to know how long your cat has had a painful abdomen, have you noticed other symptoms, what food is he eating, has he possibly eaten something he shouldn’t have? Diagnostic tests will depend on the suspected cause but may include:

  • Abdominal ultrasound and/or x-ray to check the organs for tumours, kidney stones, rupture, inflammation.
  • Barium x-ray may be necessary. Barium, which is a contrast material that coats the inside of the intestines, is mixed with food or water which is swallowed by your cat. Your veterinarian will then take several x-rays over the next few hours to see your cat’s intestines. This can be a helpful diagnostic tool for intestinal blockages.
  • Complete blood count, biochemical profile, and urinalysis to check organ function, for signs of infection and/or inflammation.
  • Fecal tests to check for parasites.
  • Biopsy.
  • Peritoneal fluid analysis – To determine the type of fluid within the abdomen (if present).

Treatment:

The goal of treatment is to find and address the underlying cause and relieve symptoms associated with fluid build up.

Emergency care:

  • Removal of the fluid from the abdominal cavity (abdominocentesis) and diuretics to treat ascites.
  • Supportive care such as fluids to treat dehydration and electrolyte imbalances, pain relief, anti-nausea medication.

Treat the underlying cause: 

  • Bacterial infections: Antibiotic therapy.
  • Pyometra: Spay the cat and antibiotics.
  • Cancer: Surgery to remove the tumour. Chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy may be necessary as a follow-up.
  • Giardia: Antibiotics and supportive such as fluids to treat dehydration.
  • Poisoning: Where possible gastric decontamination. Activated charcoal to bind to any toxins remaining in the system. Supportive care such as medication to control seizures, fluid therapy, antidote, where available.
  • Viral infections: Supportive care where possible, unfortunately, the mortality rate for FIP is very high.
  • Ruptured bladder: Surgical repair.
  • Intussusception: Surgery.
  • Pancreatitis: Address the underlying cause and supportive care such as pain relief, anti-nausea medication, fluids and nutritional support.
  • Constipation: Stool softeners, increase fibre and water in the diet.
  • Kidney stones: Medications to dissolve the stones or surgery to remove them.
  • Urinary obstruction: Unblock the cat by catheterisation and fluids to correct electrolyte imbalances.