Cats do not tend to show a lot of symptoms when they are sick, mainly because they are such independent animals. Unfortunately, this means that noticing when your feline friend is feeling uneasy, has an infection, or is in pain can be quite challenging.
Abdominal pain in cats can be caused by several factors, some more severe than others. In today’s article, we’ll look at all of these causes, see how the condition that’s at the root of the issue is diagnosed, and what treatment options exist.
What causes abdominal pain in cats?
Abdominal pain cannot be considered a condition on its own. It is merely the result of a process that’s most likely happening inside your pet’s abdominal cavity – whether from trauma or an inflammatory process that has been going on for a while.
Some of the most common causes of abdominal pain in this species are listed below:
- Kidney stones or other urinary tract pathologies
- Gastrointestinal infections
- Severe parasitic infestations
- Inflammatory bowel disease
- Viral diseases such as feline infectious peritonitis
Other causes also exist, and they can range from indigestion caused by dietary indiscretions to ascites, which is a condition where fluid builds up inside your cat’s abdomen and causes pressure to the organs that can be normally found there.
A diaphragmatic hernia can be another factor that causes abdominal pain, although cats that experience this condition tend to develop general malaise very quickly. This is a health issue where a portion of the diaphragm is ruptured and allows the organs from the abdominal cavity to migrate to the thoracic cavity – which can cause a wide range of complications, including necrosis of those organ portions that have passed into another area of the body.
Symptoms that pet parents can notice
The clinical signs of abdominal pain in cats can broadly differ from one animal to the next depending on a plethora of factors, but they also depend on the exact condition that the cat has.
So, while some of the following examples of symptoms can be encountered in some animals, they might not be valid for others:
- Hiding from people or other animals
- Changes in the cat’s behavior and posture
- The presence of blood in the urine or feces
- No interest whatsoever in food or water
- Avoiding contact
First of all, abdominal pain in cats should be considered an emergency because you can’t really tell what might have caused it or how things will evolve in the next few hours.
Naturally, if your cat was involved in a car accident or some other type of trauma, you will take your pet to the veterinary clinic – but even if nothing as serious has happened, you should act quickly so as to make sure that your feline friend’s condition doesn’t worsen.
When you bring your pet in to the animal hospital, the vet will first perform a physical examination, ask you what symptoms you may have noticed already, and then move on to do some tests such as a complete blood count and blood biochemistry.
This is necessary to eliminate the possibility of the cat having ingested a toxic substance, for example.
Other diagnostic methods that can be utilized in this case range from imaging techniques such as an ultrasound or an x-ray to more advanced ones such as CT.
Ultrasonography can reveal the exact state of your cat’s parenchymatous organs, such as their kidneys, liver, and spleen, and others, while an x-ray can be particularly helpful when it comes to diagnosing meteorism (also known as tympanites, meaning the accumulation of gas inside the GI tract), fecaloma, foreign bodies, and generally anything related to the other organs besides the parenchymatous ones.
If your cat is diagnosed with ascites, the vet might also collect a small sample of the liquid from their abdomen and send it to the lab for a cytology exam.
Treatment options for abdominal pain in cats
There are two ways of going about things when it comes to treating this symptom – the first treatment that the vet will attempt is going to strictly be a symptomatic one, especially if the cat is in severe pain.
This means that your pet will be administered anti-inflammatory and analgesic medication so that for one or more hours at least, their pain is at a bearable level until all the diagnostic tests are performed.
The second type of treatment is the one aimed at solving the primary health problem, the one that has caused the abdominal pain in the first place.
Because the factors that can lead to this clinical sign are so varied, a universal therapy for all of them does not exist. If the cat has an infection, they might be treated with an antibiotic after the vet performs an antibiogram. Antiparasitic medication (dewormers) will be administered in severe infestations.
If a foreign body is discovered, surgery or a non-invasive technique such as interventional endoscopy might be the solution.
For chronic inflammatory conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, your cat’s diet will have to be modified, and they will be prescribed some medications that can alleviate their discomfort.
Recovery from abdominal pain in cats
The prognosis and the recovery period will also depend on whatever has led to this outcome. Depending on their condition, some cats may need to be hospitalized for a few days, whereas others can be sent home right away if the cause and symptoms are not severe and they are administered the correct treatment.
Your vet will instruct you to closely follow your cat’s behavior and see if there are any changes in their feeding and elimination routines. You should call your veterinarian as soon as you see any sign that they might be feeling sick or that they might experience abdominal pain once again.