Urinary Blockages in Male Cats: all owners of male cats should be educated about this potentially fatal condition known as Urinary Blockage. Having worked at an animal hospital, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of recognizing the symptoms promptly and reporting to a veterinarian as soon as possible. Because urinary blockages cause many cats to strain to urinate, many owners think their cat is really straining to defecate and confuse this condition with a bout of constipation thus, believing it will run its course. Others may simply think that their cat is having behavioral problems when their poor cat starts to associate the litter box with pain and starts urinating in other places such as the cool bath tub or the soft carpet.
Later, though they realize that their cat is really sick once it starts to refuse food, begins to vomit and appears lethargic. At this point however, treatment is more invasive and costly and at times, the owner has taken the cat to vet too late, underestimating this serious disorder.
How Urinary Blockages Occur
Male cats have narrow urethral passages, such passages therefore can be easily blocked not permitting normal urine flow. The cause of blockage is often associated with the presence of stone and crystals. Typically, a plug composed by crystals and inflammatory debris will form. The causes may be various, however commercial dry food with its high mineral contents seems to play a role. However, genetic disposition along with stress may also be culprits.
Blockages may be partial or total. Usually if the cat is straining but is still able to urinate a few drops the obstruction is partial and when there is no output at all it is complete. Another symptom suggesting a total obstruction is enlargement of the bladder. The bladder of an obstructed cat may feel about the size of a tennis ball.
Once the urinary passage is blocked, a cat will usually go into uremic poisoning within 48 hours. Because the urine cannot be released, it will accumulate in the body causing the cat to be literally poisoned to death. The main culprit is the accumulation of potassium in the body (hyperkalemia).
Affected cats will typically exhibit the following symptoms:
- Straining to urinate
- Painful urination
- Licking genitals
- Urinating in places other than litter
- Bloody urine
- Few drops of urine or none
- Enlarged bladder
If not treated promptly symptoms of uremic poisoning may arise within 48 hours:
- Loss of appetite
- Reluctance to move
If caught early enough some cats may recover by simply having prescribed muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs. In some cases, the vet may express the urine manually and dislodge the obstruction, other cases however, will need fluids to flush out the toxins and prevent uremic poisoning. A cathether will be inserted to unplug the blockage and flush the debris away. The cathether may stay in for a few days and the use of a urine bag may be helpful in monitoring the urine production. Most cats will produce a large amount of urine once unblocked. Cats may be hospitalized for a few days until a strong urine output is produced.
In some cases, the blockage and uremic poisoning have gone to point where it is no longer reversible. The cat may succumb to death,despite the best treatment attempts.
As seen, urinary blockages in male cats are something to worry about. However, there are some things that can be done to lessen the chances of recurrence of this condition, such as offering canned foods, plenty of fresh water and a clean litter box. Owners should also provide a stress free environment, help their cat stay slim and by feeding 1-2 times a day rather than having the cat have free access to food all day. Owners of cats that have a history of blockage should learn by their vet how to palpate the bladder to recognize early warning signs.
Knowledge is power. If you own a male cat, at this point you know what to watch for and most of all, you are aware of the fact that, when in doubt get on route (meaning rush to the closest vet!).