Q: “Pete, my brother’s cat, is in the hospital because he is “blocked.” My brother and I are both worried, as Pete is our favorite cat. Can you explain? How worried should I be? D.C., Farragut
A: Hopefully, Pete is feeling better today. A “blocked cat” is layman’s term for a cat with a urethral obstruction. The urethra is that tiny tube that carries urine from the bladder on out. In male cats, the urethra is quite narrow and curvy and can become obstructed with a plug made from mucous, crystals and/or bladder stones. When this happens, the cat cannot urinate. This is a life-threatening situation, which is why Pete is hospitalized.
Under heavy sedation or anesthesia, the obstruction is relieved, and a urinary catheter is placed. Patients are often hospitalized for a few days with close monitoring of their urine output. IV fluids are often added for hydration and to maintain appropriate urine output. Additionally, pain medications are generally necessary.
A small percentage of cats will require urethral surgery if their blockage cannot be cleared or if multiple stones are present. Once the patient is home, medications and special diets are recommended to decrease the risk of recurrence.
Female cats have far less risk of this occurring, as their urethra is wider and more straight compared to a male. Any male cat is at risk, but that certainly does not mean your other cats will experience this. If any of Pete’s housemates have ever had urinary issues before, talk to your veterinarian about special diets to improve and maintain bladder health.
I hope Pete is home soon.
If you have any questions about your pet, e-mail Dr. Myers at email@example.com