Inflammation of the cavity containing the abdominal organs is called peritonitis. Peritonitis can be localized or diffuse. In localized peritonitis an apron of fat (called the omentum) seals off and contains the source of contamination.
Dogs with generalized peritonitis have severe abdominal pain and are reluctant to move. Vomiting is common. Pressing on the abdomen causes the dog to groan. The abdomen has a tucked-up appearance and feels rigid or board-like, owing to reflex spasms of the abdominal wall muscles.
Dehydration, infection, and shock rapidly ensue. The pulse is weak and thready, breathing is rapid and labored, and the gums are cool and pale. The capillary refill time is prolonged more than 3 seconds. Collapse and death occur in a matter of hours.
Peritonitis occurs when digestive enzymes, food, stool, bacteria, ruptured ulcers, perforations caused by gastrointestinal foreign bodies, intestinal obstructions, rupture of the uterus, rupture of the bladder, acute pancreatitis, penetrating wounds of the abdomen, and breakdown of suture lines following intestinal surgery.
Diagnosis is made by veterinary examination.
Immediate veterinary treatment is essential for survival. Intravenous fluids and broad spectrum antibiotics are given to treat dehydration and shock. Surgical exploration is needed as soon as the dog is able to tolerate general anesthesia.
After the source of the peritonitis is repaired, the peritoneal cavity is repeatedly flushed to remove all foreign material. The surgeon may decide to pack the abdominal wound open with gauze pads to facilitate drainage of the infected peritoneal fluid. An incision left open can be closed at a later date.
Localized peritonitis may respond to fluid replacement and antibiotics alone.
There is no prevention for this condition.
Seek immediate veterinary attention if you think your pet may have this condition.
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