Diagnosing Cat Fluid Retention

Cat fluid retention may occur for a number of reasons. Many underlying conditions can cause a buildup of fluid and other symptoms. Some of these conditions are easily treatable, while others may be symptoms of a life-threatening disease. In either case, cat fluid retention is an indication of a deeper issue that will need to be diagnosed and treated.

Symptoms of Cat Fluid Retention

The first and most visible signs of fluid retention in cats will be the swelling of the face, legs and abdominal area. The cat may appear bloated, or may appear to have rapidly gained weight. Because of this extra weight and pressure buildup, your cat may either become lethargic or be reluctant to lie down. Labored breathing may occur as the fluid pushes and swells along other organs. Purring may have a rattle sound, or you may notice coughing or a nasal discharge.

Feline Infectious Peritonitis

Feline infectious peritonitis, or FIP, is a viral disease caused by the feline coronavirus. This disease is fatal once it progresses to a clinical stage. Symptoms do not generally accompany infection of FIP until it becomes clinical, at which time an aggressive inflammatory reaction occurs around vessels, usually in the abdomen, kidneys or brain. FIP has no cure, therefore cats with fluid retention as a symptom may experience it chronically. Fluid retention will continue to build up and will need to be drained off repeatedly as an aid to the cat's comfort. Other symptoms of feline infectious peritonitis vary greatly by individual case, but may include fever, jaundice, diarrhea and weight loss.

Feline Heart Disease

As the heart begins to fail, pressure may build up in the chest or abdominal cavity. This leads to fluid retention in the abdomen. If your cat's abdomen feels 'squishy' to the touch, and you notice a limp, with the affected leg having a cold feeling, this should be considered a medical emergency. Additionally, if fluid retention is not properly treated, it could lead to congestive heart failure.

Other Causes of Cat Fluid Retention

There are many other potential conditions having fluid retention as a symptom. Look for additional symptoms or problems to help make a determination or diagnosis.

  • Chronic Renal Failure - Kidney disease often leads to fluid retention. Other symptoms of acute or chronic renal failure may be constipation, stomach irritation, excessive urination, increased thirst, grinding or cracking of the jaw bone, dehydration or halitosis.
  • Cancer - Abdominal cancer in cats may cause carcinomatosis, leading to fluid retention. If a mass is found near the site of fluid, accompanied by loss of appetite, trouble urinating, constipation, bad odor and lameness or stiffness, cancer may be the cause. 
  • Internal Bleeding - Cat fluid retention can be caused by internal bleeding from an injury or tumor. Recent injury accompanied by rapid retention of fluid may indicate a medical emergency. Tumors may also begin to bleed, causing buildup of fluid, commonly in the abdominal area. Tumors may or may not be cancerous, but should be biopsied for swift determination.