Urinary Blockage

What is a urinary blockage?

A urinary blockage occurs when a cat’s urethra becomes obstructed by urinary crystals or mucous plugs. The obstruction can be partial, allowing the cat to pass small amounts of urine, or it can completely block the urethra and prevent the cat from passing any urine at all. Urinary obstructions commonly occur in male cats due to their narrow urethra; female cats very rarely block.

What are the signs of urinary obstruction?

A blocked cat will eventually become lethargic

Obstructed cats will often groom their genital area excessively,  make repeated trips to their litter pan,  often straining for periods of time and producing little or no urine, and vocalizing while urinating or trying to urinate. Some cats will urinate or strain outside of their litterpans, and their urine might appear bloody.  If the cat is unable to pass urine for more than a few hours, the kidneys become unable to perform their job of clearing toxins from the body, and the cat will begin to exhibit signs of illness: vomiting, lethargy, and pain when being handled are among some of the symptoms. Feline urinary obstruction is an emergency and requires immediate veterinary care; left untreated, a blocked cat will go into acute kidney failure and eventually die.

What is the treatment for urinary blockage?

An obstructed cat will need emergency care. A urethral catheter will need to be placed to remove the material blocking the urethra and allow the urine to pass out of the body. The cat’s kidney values and electrolytes will need to be checked regularly, and intravenous fluids will need to be administered to rehydrate the cat and help restore electrolyte balance, as well as to help flush out the bladder. Pain medication and medication to help relax the cat’s urethra will also be given. Depending how long the cat was blocked and how much damage was done to the kidneys, the cat might spend one to several nights hospitalized.

Urinary diets dissolve crystals that cause obstruction

Once the cat is stable and able to urinate on his own consistently, he will be discharged with dietary recommendations. There are several urinary diets on the market that help dissolve urinary crystals and prevent a recurrence of urinary blockages.  We recommend Royal Canin Urinary SO, Hill’s C/D, or Purina UR. Canned diets are best, as they increase water consumption and help keep the bladder flushed out.

What can I do to prevent urinary obstruction?

The best thing a cat owner can do to prevent urinary obstruction is to feed a high-quality diet and do what they can to encourage their cat to drink water. We recommend that canned food be part of every cat’s diet because it has much greater moisture content than kibble.  We also encourage cat owners to provide water sources throughout their homes, preferably non-standing water sources like fountains, which keep water cooler and filter out hair and food particles that can make water undesirable to cats.

Diamond loves his water fountain

It is also important to make sure that you have one more litter pan than you have cats, and that the boxes kept clean and are in places where your cat has privacy and feels safe. This will reduce the chances that your cat will associate litter pan use with stress.

I think my cat is blocked, what do I do?

If you notice any of the signs of urinary blockage in your cat, contact your veterinarian immediately. This is a serious emergency and cannot wait–if your vet is unable to see you, go to an emergency hospital or find an office that can accommodate you. You cat’s life depends on it.

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