Obstruction or blockage of the urethra (the tube which transports urine from the bladder out of the body) is a condition that male cats, particularly those that are overweight, are predisposed to.
The blockage is usually formed by “plugs” of mucus, crystals, calculi (small stones) or other forms of inflammatory material. These can form anywhere within the urinary tract and cause blockage of the urethra as they move within the flow of urine as it exits the body. The reason behind the formation of these plugs are often unknown, but large, male cats are at a higher risk of developing obstructions (the male urethra is longer and narrower than that of the female).
Cats of any age and sex can be affected, and there are many clinical signs which owners can look out for which may indicate that their cat is suffering from partial or complete urethral obstruction:
- Straining to urinate in litterbox or crying out when using the litterbox.
- Small “spurts” of urine being produced rather than a steady stream.
- Tense or painful abdomen when handled.
- Blood within the urine or urinating outside of the litterbox.
- Lethargy and loss of appetite.
Sometimes clinical signs can resolve themselves if the blockage passes, but this is not something an owner should wait to find out as urinary obstruction can quickly progress into a clinical emergency. If the blockage causes urine to back up into the bladder and kidneys, it can be life-threatening. If your cat is going to the litterbox and producing no urine, then you need to call your veterinarian immediately and have them seen straight away.
Stress, decreased water intake, a purely dry food diet, and multi-cat households can lead to a higher risk of developing urethral obstruction. It is often a more common presentation in the winter months.
If you are concerned that your cat may be at risk of developing urinary obstructions, we recommend speaking with your veterinarian. A simple urinalysis will be able to provide information on if there are any excess crystals or abnormal cells or mucus in your cat’s urine. To pick up a sample cup with urinary beads to collect a urine sample, contact your local veterinary clinic.
There are many ways to diagnose and treat urinary obstruction when you bring your cat in for a visit. The most important thing is to be vigilant of any clinical signs you notice at home so that they can be seen and treated as soon as possible.
There are now prescription diets available to prevent the formation of urinary crystals within your cat’s urine. These are an excellent tool to prevent urinary issues and to allow your cat to lead a healthier and more comfortable life.
If you have any questions regarding urinary obstruction, please give us a call at 506.466.2543, and one of our team members will be happy to assist you!