A frequent medical emergency that is common in our feline friends is obstruction of the urinary tract. It occurs when a bladder stone or a mucus plug gets stuck in the urethra, meaning the tube leading from the bladder to outside the body. It blocks the outflow of the urine from the bladder. The kidneys continue to make urine, and the bladder continues to fill, which is quite uncomfortable, even painful – think about the last time you REALLY needed to pee!
A couple of things can then happen. Firstly, the urine can back up and cause potentially irreversible damage to the kidneys. The second thing that can happen is a condition called uremia, a build-up of toxins in the body that can make the cat very sick. Another risk of this condition is the bladder rupturing and urine releasing into the abdomen. This combination of effects can be fatal within 24 hours. It is an EMERGENCY and requires veterinary care immediately.
Some signs that you could see at home to suggest a urinary obstruction include – frequent trips to the litter box with small or absent urine spots, straining to pee, blood in the urine, howling/vocalization, bloated or painful belly or lethargy.
This condition most commonly occurs in young adult, MALE cats that are fed dry commercial food. Treatment for this condition involves hospitalization for fluid therapy, bloodwork and sedation for catheterization of the urethra to relieve the obstruction. The patient is often kept in hospital for 24- 72 hours.
Talk to your veterinarian about steps you can take at home to minimize the risk urinary obstruction in your feline companion.
Written by: Dr. Nicole Hobbs-Ford, DVM