Swollen feline stomach
November 14, 2005 6:23 PM   Subscribe

Cat with a swollen stomach. Vets, cat owners and helpful people welcome inside..

One of my cats now has a grotesquely swollen stomach. Back story: my cats spent some time in a cattery while we were on holiday. One came back with a virus which gave him ulcers on his tongue which lead in turn to a reluctance to eat, grinding teeth, etc. A course of antibiotics cleared up the problem but he lost considerable weight due to the eating difficulties.

Now...The vet prescribed him Hills Prescription cat food (a/d) to bulk him back up to normal weight. We fed him this but after a week he started to become very swollen around the stomach, while not gaining weight anywhere else. This became so distressing (giant stomach while his spine and shoulder blades protrude) that we took him back to the vet. The vet took blood and everything was normal. He didn't know what it was, but from prodding him thought it was liquid in his stomach and was confident it would go down and disappear within 3 weeks (when he is due to go back to the vet.)

Fast foward to now, a week later, and he is still getting bigger. He is now so big that it's painful to look at him. All other signs say he his fine. I know a fair bit about cats and he is really showing no signs of being distressed, but his stomach is unbelieveably big. I wonder how it cannot be affecting his other organs. The vet told us to persist with the Hill's bulking up food, but this suggestion (the food and the swelling coincided) coupled with the vet's puzzlement over the whole thing prompted me to post here, see if anyone can shed light on this. Googling the Hills food didn't show up anything notable, and FWIW, I have never had a problem with this vet before. Could this swelling be similar to emaciated farm animals that become massive around the stomach? Is that a protein deficiency? If anyone has any ideas about this, please do post. He will probably be back at the vets in a few days anyway, but I am dreading being sent away and told to be patient again.
posted by fire&wings to Pets & Animals (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I hope it's not, but...Feline Infectious Peritonitis? "The most characteristic sign of effusive FIP is the accumulation of fluid within the abdomen and/or chest. When fluid accumulation becomes excessive, it may become difficult for the cat to breathe normally."
posted by Gator at 6:42 PM on November 14, 2005

Abdominal distension / pot belly may be associated with a roundworm infection. A stool sample would help find out. Assuming this is what it is, you'll want to avoid OTC meds at all costs; your vet will either prescribe something effective or will prescribe treatment that will minimize the chance of intestinal blockage.
posted by rolypolyman at 6:44 PM on November 14, 2005

I am not a vet, but roundworm came to my mind as well. My cat, as a wee kitten, came with the little buggers. Nasty stuff. Skinny kitty, swollen stomach - so sad.

How do his stools look?
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:51 PM on November 14, 2005

Distended stomachs can be bad signs. Is it possible he could be constipated? that wouldn't be good.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:33 PM on November 14, 2005

Best answer: Please, get him back to the vet, now. Maybe not even your own vet, because I just don't think prodding his stomach is good enough. It could be something like intestinal blockage, a tumor that's growing really fast, things listed by posters above.

And I consider that Hill's Prescription food a total scam perpetuated by (some) vets. If you want him to "bulk up" you can tempt him with all kinds of tasty foods in addition to his regular food. I suppose it could be a coincidence, but I'd ditch the Hill's.
posted by Liosliath at 7:48 PM on November 14, 2005

I agree very strongly that you need to get him to another vet pronto. This could be all manner of things, some very scary (like FIP, as Gator mentioned), some less so, but the vet just sending you home is pretty frightening. Even if it's "just" constipation or worms, both can lead to very serious or even life-threatening conditions.

Hill's prescription diets are nowhere near as bad as their other foods (i.e. Science Diet), but they're certainly not great foods. I'd put him on a high-quality diet (Felidae, Innova, etc.) and just feed him more of it and/or supplement it with the a/d.
posted by biscotti at 7:55 PM on November 14, 2005

I have to agree with the above -- go see another vet, just to see how another vet takes care of him, if not to check whether anything has been overlooked.
posted by rolypolyman at 8:05 PM on November 14, 2005

Best answer: Swollen tummy is BAD F&W. To the Vet with you and kitty asap. And a different vet at that. From what you describe, this could very well be fatal. Sorry, but do the best you can for the cat.
posted by snsranch at 8:07 PM on November 14, 2005

Best answer: Absolutely take him to another vet right now. I had a cat when I was a kid who had the exact same symptoms and it was FIP, as Gator mentioned. That would normally show up on a blood test, but given what this vet has told you, I suspect he may not have run thorough enough tests. If he caught one virus at the cattery, he could've caught one that caused another infection that's causing his current symptoms.

Also, as several people mentioned, it could be an intestinal blockage or constipation. Have you noticed any difference in his bathroom habits at all? Less frequent stools, eliminating outside the litter box, etc. can all be indicators of a problem.
posted by bedhead at 9:24 PM on November 14, 2005

Just to cut through the tactless alarmism in this, the cat is probably fine just as your vet has indicated. However, a visit to another vet is an excellent idea because a second opinion can't hurt and it will give you peace of mind.

Try to remember that sometimes, we're more uncomfortable looking at the animal than the animal feels.

(Please don't fret anymore than you have to. There are some ludicrous worst-case scenarios planted here (and one that sounds frankly impossible) in the worst possible fashion. Everything's probably going to be all right.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:45 AM on November 15, 2005

On a more benign note, I just had the experience of taking a cat with a very swollen stomach to the vet this past weekend. She was a stray I took in and the first thought that came to my mind was pregnancy of course.

The vet ran a battery of tests and took some X-rays. She found that the cat had been gorging on the food I left out and that her stomach was completely distended.

This is pretty typical alley cat behavior. I'm wondering if the experience staying at the cattery might have triggered a similar behavior in your cat. The solution, according to my vet, is carefully rationing her food.

At any rate, I'd still take your cat to another vet for a second opinion.
posted by Sully6 at 6:57 AM on November 15, 2005

Best answer: "tactless alarmism?"

Listen, jerk, we're concerned for the cat. We're cat owners, so we know that worst-case scenarios can and do happen. If it's nothing serious, we'll be the first to celebrate, but a cat that's had a swollen stomach for two weeks deserves more than a blood test and a cursory prodding.
posted by Liosliath at 7:42 AM on November 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

FWIW, the 'wet' form of FIP which causes the distended abdomen is far more common in kittens than older cats however it's not unheard of. A blood test would typically not test for this, at least not to my knowledge and experience (I lost a cat to this 2 years ago). It's a specific test done on request and, at least at my vet, at a higher price.

That said, I agree with the above posters that you need to take this kitty to another vet asap. Cats are very good at hiding injury and pain and can often appear quite normal and healthy when they are actually suffering. Please take the symptoms seriously.
posted by justjen at 8:42 AM on November 15, 2005

Best answer: In order to find out if it is FIP, your cat would have to be specifically tested for that. Most blood panels wouldn't rule that out.
It also sounds like you may be describing muscle wasting when talking about the spine and shoulders of your cat. You may want to ask your vet about Cushing's Disease, which can cause a rounded, swollen looking abdomen as well as muscle wasting.. which can cause your cat to lose a significant amount of weight. This is also something that your vet would have to specifically test for.
posted by citizngkar at 12:15 PM on November 15, 2005

Listen, jerk, we're concerned for the cat. We're cat owners, so we know that worst-case scenarios can and do happen. If it's nothing serious, we'll be the first to celebrate, but a cat that's had a swollen stomach for two weeks deserves more than a blood test and a cursory prodding.

I'm a cat owner myself. I have two. I grew up with five. I've never seen a cat get better because a bunch of people who can't see the cat to make a diagnosis started telling the owner that the situation was grave.

By the way, it was your suggestion that it could be "a tumor that's growing really fast" that struck me as profoundly ignorant. But it isn't actually ignorance. You're just prone to hysteria. Why, if you're such a humanitarian, would you try to worry the questioner with physically impossible suggestions?
posted by Mayor Curley at 1:43 PM on November 15, 2005

MC, fire&wings asked for suggestions about what the problem could be. "If anyone has any ideas about this, please do post."

I've never seen a cat get better because a bunch of people...started telling the owner that the situation was grave.

So, what, are you saying that fire&wings's question is pointless, because nothing anyone might say except "I'm sure everything's fine" could possibly be of value? The poster now has a few things he can mention to the vet that they may not have thought of before. fire&wings is already worried and will be following up with a vet; how is it a bad thing that we are answering his question about what the problem could be?
posted by Gator at 2:00 PM on November 15, 2005

Mayor Curley - I know of a specific incident where the cat had a tumor on his liver, and the owners only became aware of it when the cat developed a swollen stomach rather suddenly. I'm sure the tumor had been there for some time, it probably just finally got to the point where it could be seen. Unfortunately, the cat could not be saved, and died while being operated on. This may be very rare, but it's certainly not "physically impossible." I guess you're the ignorant one.

I realize I can't "see the cat to make a diagnosis," but neither can you. There's no way you can say that everything's going to be fine - we all would hope for that outcome, but we don't know.

Keep on with your pollyanna nature, the rest of us that live in the real word- and have far more experience with animals - will continue to offer more valuable suggestions than "It's probably nothing."
posted by Liosliath at 2:14 PM on November 15, 2005

Mod note: a few comments removed, take it to email if you have the need for a cat fight.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:39 PM on November 15, 2005

I find it very interesting that ParisParamus, Dios, and others can post all kinds of rude and offensive stuff that remains up, and the minor spat between Mayor Curley and myself gets deleted.

Not that it matters, it was a silly argument anyway.
posted by Liosliath at 6:47 PM on November 15, 2005

fire&wings, if you're still checking in here, please do let us know of any developments. I'd email you, but you don't have an email address shown in your profile. I wish you the best and hope very much that I'm wrong about the FIP.
posted by Gator at 11:10 AM on November 16, 2005

Take the cat to a different vet. If possible, find one who is known as a good cat vet in your local area. Some vets have unspoken preferences as well as specific skills in diagnosing & treating different species.

Most importantly, just take the cat to the vet.
posted by Arqa at 4:59 AM on December 7, 2005

I found this thread a week ago when I was concerned my Cat had a swollen tummy. My cat has now been diagnosed with FIP, I only noticed his swelling on Wednesday, took him to the vet Friday and he has been given til the following friday (just 1 week) to live. I didn't know anything about FIP until three days ago, my advice to anyone with a cat showing these symptoms is to get to a vet STRAIGHT AWAY. For more info or to donate to research on finding a cure www.dr-addie.com is a very helpful site
posted by FoxyLoxy at 8:04 AM on May 27, 2006

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