Urinary obstruction mainly affects male cats as they have longer and narrower urethra compared to female cats.
Urine blockage can develop into a life-threatening condition that requires urgent care.
A blockage in the urethra can be due to urinary stones that form in the bladder and that get stuck in the urethra.
A “plug” consisting of, among other things, cells and crystals can also cause urine stops. Other causes can be cramps or swelling that clog the urinary tract and prevent the cat from urinating.
The cat tries to urinate repeatedly without result or just a few drops of urine that is often mixed with blood. The bladder fills with urine continuously from the kidneys and becomes larger as it cannot be emptied normally. The cat becomes anxious and often shows signs of pain during attempts to urinate.
Pet owners may misinterpret the symptoms and think that the cat has constipation. Occasionally, pet owners may have noticed mild ailments in the past, such as blood in the urine and frequent visits to the litter box. The longer the time passes (hours) with urinary arrest, the worse the cat becomes in its general condition. It can be a life-threatening situation due to the development of an acute kidney failure.
Imaging diagnostics such as X-rays and ultrasounds may be needed to see if a stone is in the urethra and clogging.
It is important to see a veterinarian quickly in case of suspected urinary retention. The cat’s kidney function is checked with the help of blood tests, as acute kidney failure can cause changes in the blood that are life-threatening and require medical treatment. Kidney failure can also mean that the cat cannot cope with an emergency anesthesia.
To lift the urinary retention, the cat usually needs to be anesthetized to allow the bladder to be emptied and the urethra to be flushed. If the urinary retention is due to a plug in the urethra, gentle massage of the urethra may help. A catheter is inserted into the urethra to resolve the blockage and the catheter is then inserted into the bladder to empty it. Sometimes a catheter is sewn on and left for a few days to facilitate the passage of urine.
Further treatment when the stop is resolved depends on the underlying cause of the stop, how serious it was and if complications have occurred. Kidney damage can be reversible but the cat may sometimes need a drip for a few days. In very severe inflammation, unfortunately, a new urinary retention can occur quickly. A few days of hospitalization with fluid therapy and pain medication are usually required. Continued treatment at home depends on what caused the urinary retention.
If the blockage cannot be resolved or if the cat has recurring problems with urinary blockage, the lower part of the urethra and penis can be removed to facilitate urination.
When should a veterinarian be consulted?
If the cat urinates in inappropriate places or has difficulty urinating, a veterinarian should always be contacted for advice. If the cat cannot urinate at all, consult a veterinarian immediately.