Hemoabdomen & Hemoperitoneum: Abdominal Bleeding in Cats

Overview of Abdominal Bleeding in Cats

Hemoperitoneum (also commonly called hemoabdomen) is defined as blood within the cat’s 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 in cats include:

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

Signs to Watch For

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

Diagnostic Tests for Hemoabdomen & Hemoperitoneum in Cats

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

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

Treatment of Hemoabdomen & Hemoperitoneum in Cats

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

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.

In-Depth Information on Hemoabdomen & Hemoperitoneum in Cats

Hemoperitoneum is a potentially life-threatening situation. The peritoneal or abdominal cavity is potentially a large space that can contain a significant volume of blood. If a large amount of blood is lost into this space, the abdominal musculature is stretched and abdominal distension becomes evident. Abdominal distension may cause discomfort or pain, leading to agitation and stress. Severe hemoperitoneum may cause pressure on the diaphragm, which may impede breathing.

Rapid blood loss into the abdomen may lead to a decrease in blood pressure and tissue perfusion: This can cause shock. As blood continues to be lost, the decrease in circulating red blood cells results in anemia. Pale mucus membranes are often seen. If veterinary care is not immediately available, rapid blood loss may cause death. Slower blood loss is more common, allowing owners more time to seek veterinary attention.

Chronic (long standing) or intermittent blood loss usually occurs more slowly and more subtle clinical signs are present. If the blood loss is slow, the body can reabsorb (auto transfuse) some of the free blood in the abdomen. Thus, animals may only have a small amount of blood in the abdominal cavity at any one time. Such animals may not present as an emergency, but they still have a serious underlying disease process. In these cases, appreciating the existence of hemoperitoneum is critical for proper case management.

If the cat has normal clotting parameters, bleeding into the abdomen will oftentimes stop on its own. Blood clots form that stop the bleeding. Sometimes, cats collapse because of acute blood loss, and then spontaneously recover because of the body’s compensatory mechanisms. These animals may appear pale and weak initially but slowly become stronger and their mucus membranes become pinker. Owners may describe intermittent episodes of weakness followed by spontaneous recovery. However, blood clots can become dislodged, especially with increased movement or manipulations. If blood clots are dislodged, the bleeding may start again. In many cases of hemoperitoneum caused by abdominal trauma, bleeding stops on its own.

Causes of Hemoabdomen & Hemoperitoneum in Cats

There are several causes of a hemoperitoneum. Probably the most common cause is trauma. A lacerated blood vessel within the abdomen or on the surface of an internal organ trauma may lead to rapid or slow bleeding, depending on the extent of organ or tissue damage. Outdoor cats are at significantly greater risk of hemoperitoneum than indoor cats. Younger cats are more likely to be traumatized and thus develop hemoperitoneum than older cats.

In young animals with a hemoperitoneum and no history of trauma, coagulopathy (bleeding disorder) should be suspected. In cats with a coagulopathy, bleeding into the peritoneum does not usually stop unless vitamin K or other therapy is initiated.

In older cats with a hemoperitoneum and no history of trauma, a bleeding abdominal tumor is often the cause. Bleeding tumors may cause rapid or chronic intermittent blood loss.

Specific causes of hemoperitoneum include:

Diagnosis In-depth

Treatment In-depth

Your veterinarian may recommend one or more of the diagnostic tests described above. In the meantime, treatment of patient is required, especially if the problem is severe. The following nonspecific (symptomatic) treatments may be applicable to some, but not all, cats with hemoperitoneum. These treatments may reduce severity of clinical signs and provide relief for your pet. However, nonspecific therapy is not a substitute for treatment of the underlying disease causing your cat’s condition.

If possible, seek immediate veterinary care. A hemoperitoneum may be a life-threatening condition requiring immediate intervention.