Inflammation of the Abdomen Due to Bile Leakage in Cats

Bile Peritonitis in Cats

Bile is a bitter fluid essential component in digestion, emulsifying the fats in food, thereby aiding in their absorption in the small intestine. Bile is secreted by the liver and released into the gallbladder, to be stored until is is released into the duodenum — the small intestine — after a meal is taken.

Under abnormal circumstances, however, bile can be released into the abdominal cavity, irritating the organ and causing inflammation. This may occur after injury, infection of the gallbladder, swelling of the gallbladder, blockage of the gallbladder’s ducts, or bile leakage.

Bile peritonitis is usually the result of a more serious underlying condition. And although as many as 75 percent of animals die from this disease when caused by an infection, bile peritonitis is a rarely seen in cats.

Symptoms and Types

Signs can be acute or chronic. However, symptoms for infectious bile peritonitis are generally acute, while those for non-infectious bile peritonitis are long-term. Such symtpoms include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Abdomen swollen, larger than normal
  • Yellow skin and/or yellow whites of eyes
  • Collapse (if infectious)
  • Fever (if infectious)


Bile peritonitis is generally caused by inflammation of the gallbladder or an injury that causes the cat’s gallbladder to rupture or break. Moreover, inflammation of the gallbladder may be due to infection or a blockage of the gallbladder ducts, which can be caused by:

  • Cancer
  • Gallstones
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Narrowing (stenosis) of the gallbladder’s ducts


Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical exam on your cat, taking into account the background history of symptoms and possible incidents that might have led to this condition. A complete blood profile will be conducted as part of a standard exam, including a chemical blood profile, a complete blood count, and a urinalysis.

If your cat is suffering from bile peritonitis, high liver enzymes will be present in the blood chemical profile and bile will be present in the urine. Abdominal X-rays and ultrasound will enable your veterinarian to visualize the liver and gallbladder area in the course of determining the origin of the bile leakage. Using an ultrasound to guide the process, your veterinarian may take a sample of your cat’s liver for biopsy, along with abdominal fluid that is present in the abdominal cavity. These samples will be sent to the laboratory for analysis.


A medical condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed


A gland that aids in both digestive and insulin functions


A medical condition in which the peritoneum becomes inflamed


The act of making an opening narrower.


An in-depth examination of the properties of urine; used to determine the presence or absence of illness


The first part of the small intestine; can be found between the pylorus and the jejunum


A passage in the body with walls


Term used to imply that a situation or condition is more severe than usual; also used to refer to a disease having run a short course or come on suddenly.


The fluid created by the liver that helps food in the stomach to be digested.


The process of removing tissue to examine it, usually for medical reasons.


A medical condition in which the body has lost fluid or water in excessive amounts

abdominal cavity

The space in the abdomen that holds the major digestive organs in an animal. Normally referred to as the area between the diaphragm and the pelvis. Also referred to as the peritoneal cavity.

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