Vet Services Hawkes Bay Ltd

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Let it Flow

Let it Flow

A common emergency condition that we see at a vet clinic is the cat with a ‘blocked bladder’ (urethral obstruction). They often present to us as a cat that is in pain due to an unknown cause. The owner may find them hiding in the garden or under a bed and suspect that the cat has had some sort of trauma. The cat is usually vocalising or crying out due to the pain, and may be seen to be clenching their abdomen or straining. This can sometimes be mistaken for constipation.


If you think your cat may be experiencing these symptoms please call your vet immediately, as this is a life threatening emergency.

This condition is very common in male cats but it is possible (although rare) for female cats to become ‘blocked’ too.  Most of these patients are ‘middle-aged’, overweight cats that have had an environmental trigger (such as bad weather or a change in their surroundings i.e. new animals in their neighborhood) to cause this multifactorial disease.

Initially, a plug of cells from the inflamed bladder or a plug of urinary crystals blocks the passage of urine out of the urethra. This means that as urine flows from the kidney into the bladder it cannot be urinated out of the body, thus the bladder gets bigger and bigger and more and more painful.

When a cat with this condition is presented to the clinic we immediately give the patient pain relief, and intravenous fluids are usually started. The patient is then anaesthetized and we will try to pass a catheter through the urethra and into the bladder. We usually have to flush the plug/crystals back into the bladder using pressure from saline flush to unblock the flow of urine. Once we have flushed the blockage back into the bladder another catheter needs to be placed and is often left in for a few days to avoid the urethra blocking again.

Due to the severe pain associated with this condition the patient is maintained on pain relief during their stay in hospital and sometimes this is continued at home. A choice of an anti-inflammatory is often added in to help with the inflammation in the bladder and urethra. Sometimes the cat will also need bladder relaxants or antibiotics depending on the case.

If crystals are the cause of a blocked bladder, then the patient will need to have a prescription diet to help dissolve these i.e. Hills c/d or Royal Canin S/O. The cat will need to stay on this diet lifelong to minimize the chance of crystals reforming and this emergency reoccurring.

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