Urinary Blockage in Cats: A Real Emergency

Most importantly, an affected cat must have the blockage relieved, typically while under heavy sedation or general anesthesia. A urinary catheter, or tube, is threaded into the urethra to help dislodge the obstruction and re-establish urine flow. The urinary catheter may be left in for a period of one to several days depending on the severity of the obstruction and associated complications. Many supportive treatments may be given during this time, including IV fluids, pain medications and sometimes antibiotics or other medications to help keep the urethra relaxed to encourage urine flow.

Not all affected cats can be unblocked with a urinary catheter and some may require emergency surgery, although fortunately this is less common.

What to Expect at Home

The first few days after your cat returns home may be stressful as some straining to urinate and discolored urine may still occur. Some cats may re-block during this time so close monitoring is required and any concerns should be reported immediately to your veterinarian. Frequent veterinary rechecks are usually scheduled during this time.

Getting an affected cat unblocked and through the emergency is just the beginning of managing this condition. Unfortunately, it is quite common for urethral obstructions to recur days, weeks, months or even years later.

After a urinary blockage, lifestyle changes may be necessary to help prevent recurrence of this life-threatening condition. Several factors have been implicated as potentially contributing to urethral blockage, including household stress and inadequate access to or intake of water.

The following are steps your veterinarian may recommend to help prevent a recurrence in the future:

  • Increase the amount of water your cat drinks. This “simple” strategy is strongly associated with a decreased recurrence of urinary blockage. Speak to your veterinarian about creative ways to get your cat to drink more water.

  • Look at food and diet. Your veterinarian may recommend a modified diet or a prescription diet — possibly one that can help dissolve certain types of crystals or stones.

  • Enrich the environment. Making sure your cat feels safe and stimulated is an important way to help decrease or eliminate household stress. Enrichment often includes appropriate litter-box management as well as access to climbing structures, viewing and resting perches and scratching posts. Synthetic feline facial pheromones may help reduce stress and anxiety for some cats.

The prognosis for most cats affected by urinary blockage is better now than ever before. But the outcome depends on how early a blockage is detected and how well the cat responds to treatment. Don’t delay if your cat is having urinary signs — a few hours can make a huge difference!

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