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A Urethral Obstruction: Know The Signs to Keep Your Cats Safe

Some health complications fly beneath the surface until they become a huge problem for your pet. Among these complications that you may not be readily aware of is a urethral obstruction (UO). Most common in male cats, multiple causes may be the culprit for your cat’s abnormal urination: stress, urinary crystals, urinary tract infection, or most commonly “idiopathic” (meaning there is no definitive reason with the diagnostics). In serious cases, a tumor may be the reasoning behind a UO.

This blockage of the lower portion of the urinary tract is an emergency that requires treatment immediately. A complete urethral obstruction causes a “back-up” of urine, causing damage and potentially kidney failure. This “back-up” leads to the accumulation of toxins in the bloodstream, as well as electrolyte imbalances.

Milo, this 4-year-old male cat, came in to see Dr. Katz in our ER. He was treated for this common, but dangerous, complication. It was found that Milo has an advanced form of urinary tract disease, and his urethra was obstructed by a combination of crystals, bladder cells, and mucous. After following treatment at the JPESC, Milo is home and still doing well with only minor changes to his normal life – including a different type of cat food to help a speedy recovery and prevent future issues.

Urethral obstruction is a significant emergency, and it typically affects males more often than females. The science behind this is male cats have a urethra that is more narrow than females, creating a higher risk. Additionally, younger to middle-aged cats are at a higher risk. If treated quickly, a UO is less life-threatening.

Unfortunately, a UO may be hard to spot. Serious symptoms include vomiting, lethargy, or inability to stand up, and in these cases your cat needs to be rushed to the hospital immediately. But staying on top of your cat’s health and watching for signs of increased vocalization, frequent trips to the litter box, licking their hind ends, or straining unproductively in the litter box can help prevent a UO.

If you have any concerns about your cat’s urination, please contact us at (561) 741-4041.