One of the most common emergencies we see at Columbus Central Veterinary Hospital is the "blocked cat." Predominantly a syndrome found in male cats, a urinary obstruction can also be seen in female cats and dogs of both sexes, but with much less frequency. A "mechanical" urinary obstruction can form from bladder stones, an accumulation of crystals that form from certain minerals in the diet, an infection, or a mucus plug. Neurologic deficits or spasms of the musculature of the bladder and urethra can also cause the inability to void urine. Regardless of the cause, a urinary blockage is a medical emergency and death can occur within 24 hours if not treated promptly.
Male cats are the most prone to urinary blockages because of their anatomy. Their urethra, the pathway from the bladder to the external body, is long and narrow; therefore it is easier for stones, crystals or a mucus plug to get stuck. The initial symptoms of a blocked cat are straining to urinate with little or no urine output, but occasionally, small drops of bloody urine may be seen, vocalizing or crying in pain while straining to urinate and licking the genital area. Very quickly, toxins begin to build when the urine cannot be voided and the pet usually becomes lethargic, quiet and may begin to vomit. A veterinarian can immediately feel a distended bladder upon palpation. The immediate solution is to pass a urinary catheter to relieve the obstruction and empty the bladder of urine. X-rays are taken to look for the presence of stones, or an ultrasound is used to better see a mucus plug or a tumor. Blood work to determine electrolyte levels and kidney function are also performed. The functioning of the kidneys is usually impaired temporarily and sometimes permanently depending on the severity and length of time of the obstruction. Intravenous fluids are administered to "flush" the kidneys and body of the buildup of toxins and stabilize the patient.
Usually, a "blocked cat" can be medically managed with a strict diet used to prevent and dissolve stones and crystals and antibiotics if necessary, but a male cat that has blocked once is at an increased risk of repeat blockages and careful observation is necessary. With medical management, the catheter is usually removed after a day or two of intravenous fluids and the pet is observed for the return of symptoms. For the cat that has severe damage to the penis or that re-blocks immediately or at some future point in time, a corrective surgery called a perineal urethrostomy or "P/U" can be performed. This surgery shortens the urethra and attaches it the external wall at a wider point so that the debris that may cause a blockage can pass. Most cats go on to do extremely well with his surgery, although dietary changes and monitoring for infection are still necessary since the root cause of the obstruction still exists.
At Columbus Central Veterinary Hospital, we have great success with the perineal urethrostomy to surgically correct "repeat offenders" that do not respond to medical management. We provide exceptional pain management and attention to your recovering pet. The cost of this surgery offers an economical advantage over specialty centers with outstanding results. Care Credit is accepted as a long-term payment option to ease financial constraints.