Ascites in cats: this is why the cat has a swollen belly

A swollen belly in cats can be a symptom of feline ascites. Let’s see together what are the other symptoms, what are the causes that cause this pathology and how to treat it.

When a cat has a swollen belly, it is immediately thought that it is pregnant, if it is female, or that it has gained weight, not considering that this could be a symptom of some disease.

In fact, a swollen belly can be just one of the symptoms that arise when a feline suffers from feline ascites or abdominal effusion. Ascites is not very common in cats but nevertheless it can occur, so it is advisable to recognize the various symptoms and what could cause this disorder in the cat.

Feline ascites: what is it and what are the causes and symptoms

Feline ascites consists of the presence of fluid in the cat’s abdomen. This liquid can be of various entities, in the most serious cases it can be blood leaking from some internal organ or urine in the event that the bladder is ”broken”. In less serious cases, however, this liquid consists of a transparent substance that is produced slowly in the abdomen of the cat. Ascites is caused by various diseases and, some of which are very serious:

  • Hypoalbuminemia
  • Tumors
  • Liver disorders in cats
  • Cardiac disorders in cats
  • Poisonings
  • Trauma
  • Infectious peritonitis in cats (FIP)
  • Diseases of the lymphatic system


As previously mentioned, the first symptom of ascites in cats is the swelling of the abdomen of the latter, although very often it is confused with pregnancy (in the case of a cat) or with weight gain. After the swelling of the belly, however, if your cat has ascites, there is the presence of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of appetite in cats
  • Respiratory difficulties
  • Tiredness
  • Weight gain
  • Pain when the cat lies down
  • Swollen scrotal area (in male cats)

If your feline presents along with abdominal bloating, any of the symptoms listed above, you should contact your veterinarian.

Diagnosis and treatment

The first analysis that the veterinarian will carry out is the abdominocentesis, that is, he will take the liquid present in the cat’s abdomen with a needle to verify its entity. Then with an abdominal ultrasound he will be able to determine what is the cause of ascites in the cat.

Depending on the cause of the effusion in the abdomen, the specialist will be able to prescribe the right treatment. He can prescribe simple drugs if the cause is not serious, or suggest surgery if the pathology that caused the ascites in the cat is serious enough, such as a tumor.

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