You finally have a chance to stick your feet up and relax, when you notice your cat straining to pee on your favorite pair of shoes! Your first instinct is to yell ‘NO’ and shoo the cat away, thinking it is most likely a newly formed behavioural issue (cats are sensitive creatures after all…). But when you get a closer look, you realise that your cat’s urine contains blood. This can alarm many pet owners, and for good reason. Blood in the cat’s urine can be one of many symptoms belonging to a serious condition known as a urinary blockage.
What is a Urinary Blockage?
Urinary crystals, inflammatory debris (ex: mucous) and even tiny bladder stones can stick together in the bladder to form a plug in the cat’s urethra. This is seen almost exclusively in male cats, as they tend to have a longer, narrower urethra compared to that of females. Sometimes the blockage is only partial and sometimes it completely obstructs the urine flow. Either way, the cat needs to be brought to the vet as soon as possible; any type of blockage is considered an emergency!
Symptoms of Urinary Blockage:
-You may see your cat straining to urinate without actually producing urine, or only very small amounts of urine.
-He may make frequent trips to the litter box or urinate inappropriately.
-The urine may contain blood
– The cat’s abdomen may look large or distended and may feel hard to the touch.
– He may experience vomiting, nausea and/or a loss of appetite.
– Sometimes cats who are ill will seek seclusion.
– A complete obstruction can lead to death within 3-6 days!
It’s an Emergency!
When the urine cannot exit the body, pressure increases within the urinary tract. This causes the kidneys to fail and the body will stop producing urine. Toxins then build up within the blood stream, which is what causes the cat to lose his or her appetite, and begin vomiting.
If you have any suspicion that your cat may be blocked, bring him to the vet’s immediately. When you arrive at the clinic, the vet will normally start by performing a physical exam on your cat. The veterinarian will try palpating the abdomen in order to get an idea of the size and firmness of the cat’s bladder, and will look for any symptoms of pain, as well as levels of hydration.
If the veterinarian believes your cat is blocked, they will want to run some blood work in order to keep an eye on toxin levels within the blood stream, as well as to monitor the status of the kidneys and hydration levels.
Sometimes the heart rhythm is also disrupted and can be life threatening due to toxin build up, this needs to be monitored closely as well.
What is the Treatment?
Sometime gentle pressure on the bladder may actually help release the blockage, and expel the plug, although the majority of cats will normally require more aggressive therapy. A common method for removing the blockage is for the vet to by place a urinary catheter into the urethra of the cat. The catheter can help to move the obstruction or sometimes the vet can push a sterile solution through the catheter using a syringe which may dislodge it as well. This is a fairly uncomfortable procedure and the animal will either need to be sedated or anesthetized. If the catheter doesn’t work in order to move the blockage, then an emergency surgery must be performed. If the catheter does work however, then it must normally stay in place for a few days to prevent re-blockage.
Along with the urinary catheter, it is also crucial for the cat to be given IV fluids. The extra fluids will be given in order to prevent dehydration once urine production is re-established.
Some medications are also given for pain and to relax the urethra. Most cats will stay at clinic until the urine stream is good, and then released into the owner’s care. Most cats will eventually do well and can discontinue their medications.
Depending on the cause of blockage, the veterinarian may recommend a dietary change. Certain diets contain ingredients which are very helpful in cases of urinary crystals or stones. These special diets help to disintegrate already present crystals in the urinary bladder, and tend to be lower in magnesium. They will also help normalize PH levels in the urine, which can be a predisposing factor to crystal growth.
Once your cat has returned home, it may be normal for him to have bloody urine initially, but keep an eye on other symptoms which could indicate a re-blockage.
It is also important to keep track of the amount of urine being produced, the size and firmness of the bladder (it should feel soft), energy levels, appetite loss or vomiting. If you do have any concerns, bring him back to vet as he may have re-blocked.
*Cautions: The cat has a higher chance of becoming blocked again within the first one to two weeks after being discharged from the clinic. Keep a close eye on your cat for re-occurring symptoms.
Being a cat owner involves close monitoring and always being aware of even the slightest of changes in your pet’s personality and habits. If you notice any of the above signs of urinary blockage, even if you are not sure, bring your cat the vet immediately. Urinary blockages can lead to death and are always considered an emergency. With quick and proper treatment, most affected cats can go on to lead normal fulfilling lives with you by their sides!
*For more questions about urinary health issues, or if you are unsure about your cat having a potential blockage, please contact the Lansdowne Animal Hospital!