Cats play with and nibble on many different things around the home and some cats just flat-out eat things that they shouldn't. Today, our Kingman vets talk about intestinal blockages in cats and how surgery can help treat them if this serious issue occurs.
How do intestinal blockages occur in cats?
If your cat eats things they shouldn't including string or toys or if they suffer from serious hairballs they could end up with an intestinal blockage. This is a serious and potentially life-threatening situation that will require emergency veterinary care and surgery.
Indigestible objects swallowed by pets are known as foreign bodies, and when they completely or partially obstruct your kitty's intestinal tract or bowel. These objects would cause severe pain for your cat and have the potential to be fatal.
The Signs of an Intestinal Blockage
If your cat suffers from a complete intestinal blockage it means that their GI tract is completely blocked and there can be no more movement through it. This type of blockage can occur anywhere along the GI tract but is most often seen where there are sphincters (muscles that regulate the flow of material through the GI tract) or narrow sections.
Signs of a complete intestinal blockage include:
- Uncharacteristic behavior or aggression
- Abdominal pain
- Lack of energy
- Lack of appetite
- The appearance of partial items from the anus
What are the different types of intestinal blockages in cats?
A complete intestinal blockage is a veterinary emergency! If you believe that your cat has eaten something they shouldn't have, or if your cat is showing any of the symptoms above, it is essential to see your vet as soon as possible. If your cat is experiencing a complete intestinal blockage, their life is in immediate danger and you should bring them to the nearest emergency vet right away.
Partial Intestinal Blockage
If your cat has a partial blockage then they may display some of the symptoms that are associated with a complete blockage but some waste and materials are making their way through the GI tract. Even so, your cat may have a partial blockage and show no symptoms at all, however, there is a risk that damage is occurring within your cat's GI tract such as open sores and tears that could lead to pain and infection. In some severe cases, sepsis can occur which is a serious medical condition that can quickly be fatal.
Linear Intestinal Blockage
Cats that have eaten string or other long objects can experience what is known as a linear blockage. These blockages can occur without any symptoms in the early stages. However, as your cat's GI tract struggles to move the object along over the coming days and weeks a bunching of the intestine or bowels can result.
This can result in a loss of oxygen to the tissues resulting in tissue death. There is also a risk of the foreign item slicing through the wall of the intestine causing leakage into the abdomen.
Cat Intestinal Blockage Surgery
If you see your cat swallow anything that isn't food you should contact your vet immediately. Your vet will be able to do an ultrasound to confirm that the object has not passed through to the intestines yet and may be able to remove the object by inducing vomiting or using endoscopy, which is less invasive than intestinal blockage surgery. Do not try to get your cat to vomit unless under the direction of a veterinarian.
It is important that you act quickly as an intestinal blockage could be fatal for your feline friend. If your vet confirms that your cat has an intestinal blockage emergency surgery will be necessary to remove the blockage and in some cases tissue that has been damaged due to the blockage.
Cat Intestinal Blockage Surgery Cost
The cost of cat surgery for intestinal blockages can vary depending on the type of blockage and severity. The cost may also be affected by whether or not it needs to be completed in an emergency situation or by a specialist.
Speak with your vet if you would like to learn more about the fees associated with cat intestinal blockage or hairball surgery.
Cat Intestinal Blockage Surgery Recovery Process
Your cat's recovery after intestinal blockage surgery will depend upon the severity of the damage caused by the block. There is a relatively high risk of abdominal infection (peritonitis) following this surgery, so there is a chance that your cat will need to stay until the danger of this has passed.
Your vet will need to keep a close eye on your cat in the time immediately after surgery in order to watch for any signs of infection. Peritonitis is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment.
Preventing Intestinal Blockages in Cats
It can be difficult to predict what your cat may suddenly decide looks appetizing, so it's essential to keep tempting items such as elastic bands, small hair ties, and especially the strings off of cuts of meat and chicken, well out of your cat's reach.
It's also a very good idea to avoid the use of tinsel at Christmas time as these thin strands of sparkling plastic can easily cause issues for your cat's health if swallowed.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.