Oh No! Not the B Word!

Making dietary changes can significantly reduce the risk of urinary blockages.

Making dietary changes can significantly reduce the risk of urinary blockages.

The term “blocked” doesn’t sound very ominous, but veterinarians and nurses who hear it where their patients are concerned instantly go on alert, and for good reason. A patient who is experiencing a urinary blockage is potentially in extreme danger. How? To answer that question, let’s take a look at the nature of the issue.

Urinary blockages are an almost exclusively male cat issue and for good reason. The male cat’s urethra (the “tube” that drains urine from the cat’s bladder) is much smaller than that of the female. As Dr. Shea Cox, DVM at Berkley University points out, if we were to compare the two using a straw analogy, the female cat’s urethra would be the size of a milkshake straw while the male cat’s would be the size of a coffee stirrer. This makes the chances of males getting blockages far higher than females and understandably so, but urinary blockages can also occur in female cats as well as dogs.

Causes

While urinary blockages can be the result of urinary and prostate diseases, when a cat is experiencing a urinary blockage, it is usually due to crystals or small bladder stones that are too large to pass through the urethra. These stones or crystals become lodged in and block the urethra so that even urine is unable to escape. Once the bladder has filled to capacity, in an effort to “help” the situation, the kidneys will shut down. With the kidneys not functioning, toxins are no longer removed from the blood and balanced levels of electrolytes and fluids cannot be maintained.  If left untreated, the kidneys will eventually fail and the blockage will become fatal. Per PetMD, without treatment, urinary blockages can be life threatening within three days of symptoms.

The question is, how do we know if our pet might be experiencing this issue? Here are some things to look for:

Signs & Symptoms

  • Straining to urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • Blood in urine
  • Painful urination
  • Inappropriate urination (urinating in places other than the litterbox)

Because of the painful nature of this problem, we might notice him crying or moving about restlessly. It’s also possible that he may hide because of the discomfort. If allowed to progress, he will lose his appetite, generally begin vomiting, and become lethargic. All of these signs and symptoms are cause for alert. The good news is, the condition is easily diagnosed and can be treated if diagnosed early enough in the process.

Prevention

While there’s no sure-fire way to prevent urinary obstructions, as Dr. Shelley Knudsen, DVM at All Feline Hospital points out there are precautions that can be taken to minimize the risks. One preventative measure is changing your pet’s diet to one that is designed for urinary health – whether over-the-counter food or prescription diets, this is a good line of defense. Also, increasing water intake can keep crystals from forming. This can be achieved by offering more fresh water, utilizing water fountains as cats prefer their water from a moving source, and adding things to the water to give it flavor such as low salt broth or the water from canned tuna.

If you suspect that your pet is having urinary issues, please contact your veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.