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Cat's Enlarged Belly: Causes, Symptoms, and FIP Cats Treatments

Updated: Jun 7, 2023

Cat's Enlarged Belly, FIP Cats
Cat's Enlarged Belly: Causes, Symptoms, and FIP Cats Treatments

Has your cat suddenly developed a swollen abdomen? Don't take this lightly, as it might indicate serious health problems. A cat's suddenly enlarged belly can occur due to a variety of reasons. It could signal certain health issues, such as gastrointestinal parasites, organ enlargement, or a build-up of fluid in the abdomen due to a virus. One such issue causing swelling in a cat's abdomen is Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP) virus, particularly, wet FIP in cats.

Recognizing the Symptoms

Other symptoms shown by the cat include difficulty breathing due to pressure on the chest from a swollen abdomen or fluid accumulation in the space between the chest wall and lungs. Some other possible symptoms include:

Symptoms to Look Out for:

  • Lethargy

  • Anorexia

  • Vomiting

Causes of an Enlarged Cat's Belly

There are several causes for fluid accumulation in the abdomen, including abdominal hemorrhage, stomach cancer, inflammation of the peritoneum, ruptured bladder, liver damage, and low blood protein levels. One thing you need to be cautious about is the FIP Cat disease attacking your cat. FIP is a dangerous cat disease caused by feline coronavirus (FCoV). This virus attacks the immune system and causes inflammation of the lining covering the cat's internal organs. One form of FIP is "wet FIP" in cats, where fluid accumulates in the cat's abdomen and chest, making the cat appear bloated and have difficulty breathing. Fluid can also accumulate in the chest, making it difficult for the cat to breathe. This type of FIP causes damage to blood vessels, resulting in inflammation and fluid leaking from the blood into the abdomen and chest.

What is Wet FIP Cats?

FIP is a fatal viral disease in cats caused by a mutation of the feline coronavirus (FCoV). There are two types of FIP: Wet and dry. Wet FIP in cats is characterized by an accumulation of fluid in the abdomen, chest, or both, making it a potential cause for your cat's enlarged belly. If not treated early, both forms of FIP can progress into Neurological FIP and Ocular FIP, and cause death if left untreated.

Recognizing Wet FIP in Cats Symptoms

Wet FIP in cats presents a variety of symptoms, which can include:

  • Lethargy

  • Anorexia

  • Vomiting

  • Difficulty breathing due to pressure on the chest from an enlarged abdomen or fluid accumulation in the space between the chest wall and lungs

These symptoms might initially seem minor, but when paired with a suddenly enlarged belly, they could point to wet FIP in cats.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Wet FIP Cats

If you observe fluid accumulation in your cat's abdomen, you should immediately consult a veterinarian. The vet will perform a complete blood count, including a blood chemistry panel, Rivalta Test (used to differentiate between transudates (non-inflammatory fluid) and exudates (inflammatory fluid)), ultrasound, and X-ray. These tests help determine whether your cat is suffering from wet FIP or other health concerns.

Can the Fluid in the Cat's Belly Be Drained or Removed?

If your cat can eat and drink normally, and breathe comfortably, it's not recommended to remove the fluid in the abdomen. Instead, starting with FIP treatment like GS-441524, a common antiviral drug used for wet FIP in cats, at a dose of 6 mg/kg, is advised. With this treatment, you'll typically see the belly swelling start to decrease in 1.5 - 2 weeks.

Preventive Measures Against FIP Cats

While FIP may not be entirely preventable, taking steps to reduce your cat's exposure to the Feline Coronavirus (FCoV) can lower the risk. This includes regular vet check-ups, maintaining a balanced diet, keeping good hygiene, especially in multi-cat households, and keeping your cat indoors to avoid contact with infected cats.


An enlarged belly in your cat could be an indication of serious health issues, including the life-threatening wet FIP. Understanding the causes, recognizing symptoms, and seeking prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatment are crucial for managing this disease. Always consult with a trusted vet when it comes to your cat's health, and remember, early detection can make all the difference.

If you want to discuss more about FIP Virus and its treatment, you can contact us on Facebook or visit our Instagram to get in touch with our expert team. You can read the Complete Guide to dealing with feline FIP by clicking here.

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