Is it normal for cat bellies to sag?
September 17, 2011 12:28 PM   Subscribe

My one-year-old cat was spayed on Monday (five days ago). She appears to be doing fine, except that her tummy has started sagging. Is this normal?

Ada [photo: 1 2], my beautiful one-year-old cat, was spayed on Monday (five days ago). She is recovering well: she eats well, doesn't appear to be in pain, and is back to her old, troublemaking self for the most part. However, I noticed that her belly seems to be sagging quite a bit around where the incision was [photo: 1 2 3 4 5] and that the sag appears to be growing quite rapidly.

Right now, the sag is oblong and approximately 1.5" x 2" -- the size and shape of an egg. Should I be concerned about this? Besides this sagging, the wound appears quite clean without any pus or obvious discoloration. Ada doesn't like me touching the sag, but then again, she never liked me touching her tummy anyway.

This is my first time owning a cat, so I don't really know what to expect. My assessment is that, since there are no obvious signs of infection, Ada does not require urgent, emergency care. What do you think? Is it normal for cat tummies to sag post-spaying? Should I be worried? Please hope me, MetaFilter!
posted by tickingclock to Pets & Animals (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's hard to tell from the pictures, but is it loose or swollen? In the pictures it looks like it's swollen. When you touch it, does it feel a bit hard, possibly warm? Those would be signs of an internal infection.

My female cat does have a sag from her spaying, but it looks more flabby than the pictures you posted. It wouldn't hurt to call your vet and ask if this is normal or if there are any indicators to watch out for.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:33 PM on September 17, 2011

Our kitty had a much smaller swollen lump after she was spayed, that went away as she healed. Now she is definitely saggy in the area. I'd watch it and call the vet Monday, your kitty's lump looks larger and more pronounced than others I have seen.
posted by Swisstine at 12:38 PM on September 17, 2011

Girl kitties are almost always saggy after they get spayed (in my house, we say they've "really let themselves go"), but this seems too soon and too pronounced. Since she is otherwise behaving normally, I wouldn't consider it an emergency. But do call the vet on Monday.

And let us know what you find out!
posted by That's Numberwang! at 12:42 PM on September 17, 2011

Response by poster: It's hard to tell from the pictures, but is it loose or swollen? In the pictures it looks like it's swollen. When you touch it, does it feel a bit hard, possibly warm? Those would be signs of an internal infection.

It's not loose, but it doesn't feel hard. Just in case, though, I think I will clear my day on Monday and take her to the vet.

Thanks for the replies! I like reading about other cat owners' experiences, so please keep your answers coming!
posted by tickingclock at 12:48 PM on September 17, 2011

Our cat here just got spayed on Tuesday, now she's younger than yours, but her incision does not look like that. I would definitely call your vet.
posted by Polgara at 12:48 PM on September 17, 2011

The inner sutures might have failed (this happened to our cat).
We took her to the vet again and got them repaired.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:52 PM on September 17, 2011

She's beautiful! I don't think that looks normal compared to other incisions I've seen. If it's not loose, but she's not showing any other signs of infection, I'd continue periodically feeling it and checking it to see if it becomes harder, warm, or if there's any redness around the incision. I wouldn't cart her off to the emergency vet right this second, but I'd keep my vet's number close at hand in case anything changes, and I'd take her in first thing on Monday.
posted by bedhead at 12:52 PM on September 17, 2011

I had (have) EXACTLY this problem a few weeks ago. Took my baby back to the vet, who said she had never seen such a large seroma, which is fluid, mostly white blood cells. She x-rayed to make sure that the wound wasn't herniated, then drained it, but it came back immediately. It is, as you say, egg shaped, and on my kitty, at least, very firm.

At this point, more than a month later, the "egg" is smaller, but definitely still there. I have adopted a "wait and see" attitude. As Olivia seems to really react to any invasive thing, I have decided to not have any more draining or an operation to see if there is a leak. All of my reading suggests that they go away on their own. Meanwhile, she is happy, active, eating well, etc.
posted by thebrokedown at 12:54 PM on September 17, 2011

Sorry, I was in such a hurry to add my answer that I wrote very sloppily. But more importantly, I did not include a link to the picture of Olivia's seroma from about a month ago. As her fur has grown back in since, and it has gotten smaller, I can't really show you what it looks like now, but it is definitely still evident by feeling the area.
posted by thebrokedown at 1:11 PM on September 17, 2011

You do need to have a vet check it to make sure it's just a seroma or if she's herniated from slipping internal sutures. Watch for signs of infection and make sure she's eating and pooping as well.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:20 PM on September 17, 2011

Our Artemis had something sort of similar, about a week after her surgery. It turned out she was allergic to the stitches (which were supposed to be the dissolving kind) so the vet just took them out.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:56 PM on September 17, 2011

Call the vet, we can't really help you on the internet.
posted by TheBones at 1:56 PM on September 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another vote for "not normal". I would call the vet. I've been around quite a few recently spayed cats, and none of them looked like that.
posted by unknowncommand at 2:26 PM on September 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would also call the vet and take her to the weekend emergency clinic if you can't see your normal vet today. I've had a lot of spayed cats and I've never seen that before.
posted by something something at 2:43 PM on September 17, 2011

My cat developed a soft "bulge" after she was spayed - it turned out to be a hernia. The vet physically pushed the bulge back in and it ended up healing by itself. In her case, I'm pretty sure it was caused by a bad reaction to the anesthesia which resulted in her thrashing around a lot right after the spay procedure.
posted by groar at 2:44 PM on September 17, 2011

My old cat, Bella, had that when she was spayed and it was seroma, which the vet drained. He said it was probably caused by her brother giving her a kick and that it's a sort of safety reaction to protect the internal wound, but it was best to drain it. It was clear, yellow fluid which he said was a sign that there was no infection.

I would take your gorgeous kitty to the vet, if I were you.
posted by essexjan at 3:27 PM on September 17, 2011

Response by poster: OP here. Based on the advice above, I called a 24-hour emergency clinic and spoke to a vet. She said that it could be something like a seroma or possibly even a hernia, and that I should definitely bring Ada in for an emergency consultation.

Upon examination, it looks like the sagging is likely due to a seroma, although the exact cause cannot be determined without an ultrasound. Ada is doing well for now, but I will definitely be calling the vet as soon as I can and having her checked out. Thanks so much, everyone.
posted by tickingclock at 9:30 PM on September 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

Glad you've taken her to the emergency vet. The pictures and description REALLY pushed my buttons and made me think of when my pup, post-spay, popped a stitch or two and got a hernia. We went to the 24-hr vet, who said "oh yeah, that's a hernia. You could take her home, but if she starts chewing on it, you might wake up to find intestines everywhere. OR, you know, you could just leave her here overnight." YIKES. KEEP HER HERE, we said.

Good luck!!
posted by librarina at 10:53 PM on September 17, 2011

Response by poster: I talked to the ASPCA post-operative care hotline, and was told to put warm compresses on the swelling three times a day. We are hoping that the (likely) seroma will reduce in size on its own, but if it doesn't, we will have to schedule another appointment to get it drained.

For Googlers: if your cat or dog was neutered through the ASPCA and requires emergency post-operative care, call +1 877 772-9692 (SPAY-NYC), option 1 (for English), then option 6 to talk to a post-op consultant directly. This line is open 24/7. Do not use option 3, listed on the ASPCA site and hand-out as the post-op hotline, as it will direct you to general information -- and the person receiving the call does not always know about option 6 (the person I got last night had no idea that a post-op care line even existed).
posted by tickingclock at 7:14 AM on September 18, 2011

Response by poster: Hello everyone. I ended up taking Ada to the emergency clinic again, and the lump turned out to be, in fact, a hernia that was surrounded by a seroma. Her surgery ended a while ago and she is starting to come out of anaesthesia -- it seems like there were no further complications, which is good.

Roughly, it seems like some of her sutures came undone on the inside, forming a small gap through which layers of fat and blood plasma escaped. The operating surgeon was concerned that some of her intestines may have escaped through the gap as well, but this turned out not to be the case. This could have been very bad, as blood flow to the escaped portion could have been cut, resulting in some dead cells. The surgeon then would have had to remove the dead portion of the intestine and stitch the remaining parts together.

I'm extremely glad that my roommate bugged me about making this AskMe post yesterday. Who knows what would have happened if I had waited much longer?

Also, an amendment regarding the ASPCA number above. The general NYC SPCA line is open 24/7, but the post-operative care line is not. If you call when they are not available, you will be redirected to general information.
posted by tickingclock at 5:07 PM on September 18, 2011 [2 favorites]

Thanks for the update. Good luck to you and the kitty!
posted by unknowncommand at 9:37 PM on September 22, 2011

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