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  • Author or Editor: Robert C. DeNovo Jr. x
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To determine signalment, diagnoses, presence of effusions in multiple sites, and outcome in cats with peritoneal effusion.


Retrospective case series.


65 cats.


Medical records from 1981 to 1997 were reviewed to obtain information on cats with peritoneal effusion identified on physical examination, radiographs, abdominal ultrasonograms, or at necropsy.


Conditions most commonly associated with peritoneal effusion in cats, in order of frequency, were cardiovascular disease, neoplasia, hepatic disease, renal disease, feline infectious peritonitis, peritonitis attributable to other causes, and urinary tract trauma. Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) was the most common disease associated with peritoneal effusion; however, DCM was diagnosed in most of these cats before taurine deficiency was found to be a primary cause of this form of cardiomyopathy in cats. Neoplasia was the most common cause after 1987. Right-sided congestive heart failure was the most commonly associated disorder in cats < 1 year old, whereas neoplastic disease was more common with increasing age. Most effusions were detected during the initial physical examination and were modified transudates. Peritoneal effusion was commonly accompanied by fluid accumulation elsewhere, particularly pleural effusion. The prognosis for a cat with abdominal effusion in this study was poor (mean survival time, 21 days; range, 1 to 350 days; median, 2.5 days).

Clinical Implications

The primary differential diagnosis for peritoneal effusion in cats is neoplastic disease in older cats and right-sided heart failure in kittens. Diseases associated with peritoneal effusion generally have poor prognoses. (J Am Vet Med Assoc 1999;214:375–381)

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in Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association