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Hemoabdomen & Hemoperitoneum: Abdominal Bleeding in Cats

By: Dr. Douglas Brum

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Hemoperitoneum (also commonly called hemoabdomen) is defined as blood within the peritoneal (abdominal) cavity. It occurs following intra-abdominal hemorrhage as blood accumulates in the space between the abdominal wall and the abdominal organs.

Some causes of hemoperitoneum include:

  • Traumatic injury – the most common cause of hemoperitoneum.

  • Intra-abdominal tumors – may rupture, bleed slowly, or invade into a blood vessel, causing blood to accumulate in the abdomen.

  • Hematomas – organized, local collections of blood that can rupture and bleed.

  • Coagulopathies – clotting disorders that can cause bleeding within the abdomen as well (as in other sites).

    Depending on the rapidity and extent of the blood loss, hemoperitoneum may be an emergency situation.

    Signs to Watch For

  • Weakness
  • Collapse
  • Abdominal distension
  • Bruising under the skin
  • Increased respiratory efforts
  • Pale mucus membranes (the best place to check is the inner lining of the lips and gums)

    Other signs that might indicate more gradual blood loss include: anorexia, lethargy, intermittent weakness, and weight loss.

    Diagnosis

    A thorough history and physical exam is critical for prompt and accurate diagnosis. Your veterinarian may also recommend:

  • Abdominal X-rays
  • Abdominocentesis – inserting a needle and syringe into the abdominal cavity to obtain a fluid sample for diagnostic evaluation
  • Analysis of the retrieved sample for evaluation
  • Complete blood count

    Depending on your pet's condition and initial test results, additional testing may be required. Such testing may include:

  • Biochemistry profile
  • Coagulation panel
  • Abdominal ultrasound
  • Computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

    Treatment

    The general approach to treatment varies on the clinical condition of the patient and the cause of the hemoperitoneum. Therapy may include:

  • Abdominocentesis (if pressure on the diaphragm is impeding respiration)
  • Intravenous fluid therapy
  • Blood transfusion
  • Belly wrap
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Analgesic therapy (pain medication)
  • Vitamin K administration
  • Emergency exploratory surgery

    Home Care

    Hemoperitoneum may be an emergency situation. Veterinary care should be sought as soon as possible. Keep your pet calm, comfortable and warm. Minimize stress until you can get to a veterinary hospital. If a traumatic injury is suspected, be careful moving your pet as spinal injury or fractures may be present.

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