Urethral Blockage in Cats
Urethral blockage occurs when cats are unable to urinate, this life-threatening condition is unfortunately very common and it is always considered as an emergency, if not treated quickly cats with a urethral blockage can die in 24 to 48 hours.
Urine flows from the kidneys down the ureter and into the bladder, where it is stored and released through the urethra (a duct that transmits the urine to the exterior of the body). A urethral obstruction is caused by a build-up of solid material in the bladder; crystals or stones, mucus, blood clots, and inflammatory cells can also accumulate in the urine and form “urethral plugs”, and these plugs stop the urine from exiting the bladder which is stretched to its maximum causing severe pain. The pressure within the urinary tract damages the kidneys and can cause metabolic and electrolyte imbalances leading quickly to fatal cardiac arrhythmia. In severe cases, a bladder rupture can occur in which the urine passes inside the abdomen causing a “uroperitoneum.”
The urethra is longer and narrower in male cats which makes them more exposed to this condition.
A cat that is “blocked“ is in pain, yowls if touched in the abdomen,and tries to pass urine in the litter box without success (which is mistaken as a constipation ), and becomes lethargic quickly.
The treatment aims to re-establish the urine flow by placing a urinary catheter for a few days (under sedation in general), along with intravenous fluid therapy which will help to maintain the blood pressure, correcting the hydration, and eliminating the toxins. Other medications like antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and antibiotics are added to the treatment protocol and according to the results of the analysis.
The bladder is flushed daily to eliminate the plugs and the output of the urine is assessed, but in some cases, the stones are too big to pass the urethra by flushing the bladder in which a surgical removal by “cystectomy” is needed.
According to the cause of the blockage revealed by the urinalysis, the veterinarian will prescribe a special diet for weeks after the discharge from the hospital.
Urinary health in cats is intimately linked to the quality of food, hygiene, and the environment where they live: the diet creates a favorable internal environment in which crystals and stones are less likely to build, the hygiene of the litter box and water and food bowls is also primordial to avoid any old excretions to travel up the urethra and cause infection and inflammation in the bladder called “cystitis” and a stress-free environment which is essential to prevent urinary tract problems which are triggered by stress.
More water intake is promoted by using water fountains preferably in cats than those of classic bowls.
If you suspect that your cat has a blocked bladder, give us a call immediately.