Obstructions in the urethra, the narrow tube that passes urine from the bladder to the outside world, usually occur due to accumulation of sediment, small bladder stones/crystals or bladder mucus during a bout of cystitis (FLUTD). Less common causes of blockage are tumors and urethral scarring from trauma. These painful blockages most commonly occur in male cats due to their longer (and narrower) urethral length.
Key Point: A blocked urethra is a genuine emergency as, not only is it extremely painful, but it can rapidly become fatal.
What Are The Symptoms of a Blocked Urethra?
- Multiple attempts to urinate without success
- Passage of small amounts of often blood-tinged urine
- Vocalization (from pain)
- Remaining in a crouched position
- Reluctance to be handled (due to pain)
How Is A Blockage Diagnosed By A Veterinarian?
When examining a blocked cat, your veterinarian will feel a large firm bladder in the abdomen and, in the case of males, the penis may be spasming.
How Is a Blockage Treated?
Emergency treatment involves relieving the obstruction under anesthetic and correcting serious metabolic disturbances associated with the condition using intravenous fluids and medications.
A urinary catheter is usually placed to allow continuous drainage of the bladder while the inflammation settles. This can take a few days and requires hospitalization. Antibiotics are commonly given to prevent secondary infection and antispasmodics are administered where appropriate.
The patient will be hospitalized until blood levels are back to normal and attempts to identify the underlying cause will be made (this may include urinalysis, blood tests, x-rays). If a bladder stone is detected by x-ray, surgery may be necessary once stable to prevent recurrence.
Long-term treatment involves dietary changes to prevent the precipitation of crystals in the urine and, in chronically recurring cases, surgery may be performed to make the urethral opening permanently larger to reduce the potential for blockage (perineal urethrostomy).