Peritonitis - Cats and Dogs

From WikiVet English
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Category:WikiClinical CanineCow
Category:WikiClinical FelineCow



Peritonitis is defined as the inflammation of the peritoneum, which can be septic or non-septic.

Septic peritonitis results from free bacteria in the peritoneal cavity, caused by perforation of the gastrointestnal tract due to foreign bodies, necrosis secondary to obstruction, intussusception, neoplasia, foreign bodies, dehiscence of wounds. Peritonitis as a result of wound dehiscence is most likely to occur 3-5 days post-operatively.

Non-septic, also known as chemical peritonitis, may be the result of leakage of bile, urine or pancreatic enzymes. However, non-septic peritonitis can cause septic peritonitis, for example cases where septic urine is present.


Clinical Signs

  • Depressed
  • Tachycardia
  • Tachypnoea
  • Pale, cyanotic or muddly mucous membranes
  • Hypothermia or hyperthermia
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting

Laboratory Tests


  • Significant leucocytosis or leucopaenia


  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Increased lactate concentration

Diagnostic Imaging


  • Abdominal radiography may reveal free gas in the abdomen. This is highly suggestive of peritonitis
  • Thoracic radiograph should be assessed for signs of metastatic disease.


  • Abdominal fluid collected for laboartory analysis via abdominocentesis. The fluid should be stained for intracellular bacteria and assessed for:
    • amylase and lipase for pancreatitis
    • bile for biliary leak
    • creatinine for urine
    • glucose (<2.8 mmol/l) and lactate (>5.5 mmol/l) for sepsis


It is vital to identify cases which require emergency surgical intervention. Any of the following is a major indication:

  • positive for intracellular bacteria.
  • free gas visible in the abdominal radiograph.
  • presence of penetrating injuries in the abdomen.

Fluid therapy

  • Aggressive fluid therapy with crystalloid and colloid should be given on initial presentation to improve haemodynamic parameter.
  • Fluid therapy is also very important in the postoperative period. Both crystalloid and colloid should be continued until the the patient is normotensive. However, if hypotension continues, a vasopressor such as vasopressin should be considered.


  • Opiods should be given.


  • Broad spectrum antibiotics should be given, preferably following culture and sensitivity test.


Guarded. Peritonitis is a multifactorial disease and the consequence if fatal in most cases. A rapid diagnosis and treatment may improve the prognosis.


  • Ettinger, S.J. and Feldman, E. C. (2000) Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine Diseases of the Dog and Cat Volume 2 (Fifth Edition) W.B. Saunders Company.
  • Hall, E.J, Simpson, J.W. and Williams, D.A. (2005) BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Gastroenterology (2nd Edition) BSAVA
  • Nelson, R.W. and Couto, C.G. (2009) Small Animal Internal Medicine (Fourth Edition) Mosby Elsevier.

For further information on peritonitis see: [1] In Practice article