What is Urethral Obstruction in Cats?
What is it?
How is it Treated?
Male cats, particularly those that are overweight, are at a higher risk of developing urethral obstruction. However, there is no specific breed predisposition for this condition.
During her morning routine, Emily noticed her usually energetic tabby cat, Oliver, acting lethargic and struggling to use the litter box. Worried about his sudden change in behavior, she wasted no time in seeking the help of her trusted veterinarian.
Urethral obstruction in cats means the urethra is blocked. It occurs when something blocks the flow of urine out of the bladder. The most common type of urethral trauma occurs when the tip of the penis becomes blocked by a piece of debris, like a hairball. This happens because the cat urinates while lying down, and the penis is bent over. When the penis straightens out, the debris moves into the urethra.
Urethral obstruction can cause difficulty in passing urine and urethral spasm, leading to a build-up of urine in the bladder called urosepsis. In extreme cases, an infection can spread to other body parts. In addition, the blockage can lead to life-threatening bacterial urinary tract infections and permanent kidney damage if left untreated.
The urethra is the tube through which urine passes from the bladder to the external body. In cats, this tube runs along the underside of the penis (penile urethra) and continues down the back side of the cat’s abdomen (abdominal urethra). It then emerges at the tip of the tail (coccygeal urethra), joining the urinary tract.
The urethra is surrounded by periurethral tissue containing blood vessels and nerves. This area is called the trigone because it forms three sides around the opening of the urethra. The trigone is covered by skin, so you’ll see a small hole when you look inside your cat’s mouth. This is the external meatus or opening into the urethra.
What Causes Feline Urethral Blockage?
Urolithiasis is the medical term used to describe the presence of calculi within the urinary bladder. Urolithiasis (urine stones) is quite common in cats and is reported in 28–58% of all cases of feline lower urinary tract disease. These tiny bits of rock are typically composed of calcium oxalate, uric acid, cystine, struvite, or some combination thereof. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to determine what is causing the problem.
- Struvite stones are the least dangerous type of stones. These stones are formed when bacteria multiply inside the kidneys and cause inflammation. This leads to crystal formation. Kidney stones are typically composed of calcium oxalate.
- Uric acid stones are high levels of uric acid in the blood. High levels of uric acid are often seen in gout patients.
- Calcium phosphate stones are the third most common type of stone. Calcium phosphate stones are formed when too much phosphorus is in the urine. Too much phosphorus causes calcium deposits to build up in the kidneys.
- Cystine stones are rare because cysteine is one of the building blocks of protein. When there is too much cysteine in the body, it forms crystals.
Urethral Plugs cause another Urethral Blockage
A plug is formed when there is an accumulation of mucus within the urethra. This occurs most commonly due to physical obstruction of urine flow out of the bladder. Inflammation of the bladder wall causes swelling of the tissue surrounding the urethra. When the bladder fills with fluid, it pushes against the urethra, causing pressure and compression. This can lead to a blockage of the urethra and cause a plug to form.
Plug formation is usually caused by an inflammatory process such as cystitis (infection), prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate gland), or orchitis (inflammation of testicles). Cystoscopy (inserting a scope into the bladder via the penis) can help determine what type of inflammation is present.
What are the Signs of Feline Urinary Blockage?
Symptoms of urethral obstruction in cats vary depending on the type of obstruction present. However, some common symptoms include urinating frequently,straining while peeing, and weight loss. Other clinical signs may include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and depression.
Other signs of urethral obstruction include:
- strain to urinate
- pain when urinating
- blood in the urine
- swelling around the genitals
- painful ejaculation
Diagnosis of Urethral Obstruction in Cats
Emergency care is needed if you notice any symptoms of urethral blockage. Your veterinarian will perform a thorough exam to determine whether the obstruction is partial or complete. Partial blocks often resolve within a few days, but a complete one requires immediate attention. If left untreated, it can be life-threatening.
Surgical removal is required if a foreign body, such as a hairball, causes the obstruction. Surgery involves making small incisions around the base of the penis, gently pushing the object out, and closing the wounds. Some vets use ultrasound guidance to make sure the procedure is successful.
After surgery, your pet needs close monitoring. He’ll likely experience pain and discomfort for several weeks. During this period, he’ll probably drink less in his water bowl, eat less food, and become lethargic. You’ll want to keep him confined to reduce his stress and help him heal. Afterward, he’ll usually resume normal activities.
Treatment for Urinary Blockage in Cats
Urinary blockage is a medical emergency that requires immediate veterinary care. Emergency treatment often involves alleviating the obstruction and treating any associated conditions. To relieve the obstruction, veterinarians perform a cystotomy (also called urethral catheterization), where a small incision is made into the bladder; vets then insert a urinary catheter, and the urine is drained. Once the obstruction is relieved, antibiotics are administered to prevent further bladder infections and urethral irritations.
Male cats with recurrent urinary blockages should undergo a surgical procedure known as perineostomy. (Compared with the reported recurrence rate of 35% and 36%, there were several limitations to the current study of cats) During this procedure, a hole is cut in the skin covering the anus, and the opening is sutured shut. The purpose of this procedure is to allow urine to drain out of the body via the rectum.
Perineal urethrostomy is another option for male cats with repeated urethral obstructions. During this procedure, the surgeon creates a channel from the outer part of the penis to the outside of the abdomen. This allows urine to pass directly out of the body.
Cats undergoing surgery for urinary blockages will likely require general anesthesia and hospitalization. Recovery times vary depending on the type of procedure performed.
Prevention of Urinary Blockage in Cats
Urethral obstruction in male cats is common. They occur because urine gets trapped inside the bladder, causing it to swell. This causes pain and discomfort for your feline friend. If left untreated, it could lead to kidney failure. Fortunately, there are ways you can keep your cat healthy and happy while preventing urinary stones. Here are some tips to keep your kitty happy and healthy.
- Feed Your Cat Urinary Diet – Cats do best on dry foods. Cats that eat dry foods are less likely to develop obstruction. In addition, dry food has lower rates of developing renal disease. Make sure your cat eats plenty of wet food too, but make sure they do not overeat. Too much-wet food can cause diarrhea and excessive drinking.
- Give Your Cat Water – Give them a drink if your cat seems thirsty. You can use a bowl filled with fresh water or a water bottle. Avoid giving your cat anything acidic, like orange juice or soda. These drinks can irritate their stomach lining.
- Monitor Your Cat’s Activity Level – Wait to let your cat run around the house with supervision. They might accidentally knock something over or fall downstairs. This could injure your cat or even kill them. Keep an eye on your cat at all times so you know when they need attention.
- Watch Out For Signs Of Pain – Your cat may show signs of pain if they have trouble urinating. Try to figure out what is going on before it becomes severe. If you notice your cat has difficulty urinating, immediately take them to the vet.
- Use A Cat Litter Box – A litter box is essential for keeping your cat clean and comfortable. Place one in each room where your cat spends time. In addition, cleaning out the crate regularly helps prevent urinary tract disease.
- Provide Plenty Of Toys And Exercise – Toys and exercise help stimulate your cat mentally. Playtime is essential for cats’ mental well-being. When your cat plays with toys, they use its mind and body. This keeps him
Frequently Asked Questions
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