Urinary Tract Obstructions in Felines

Posted on: December 5, 2018

Urinary Tract Obstructions in Felines


If your cat is straining to urinate and producing little or no urine each time, it may be suffering from a urinary tract obstruction. The obstruction may be due to inflammation or compression on the urethra, or simply a blockage. Treatment is available and the prognosis of this issue will depend on the cause and severity of the obstruction.

Urinary tract obstruction occurs mostly in male cats, but dogs and female cats may also be affected.



 The first sign of a urinary obstruction is straining to urinate. This may actually look like constipation since the cat may be seen going to the litter pan more often and hunching over in pain. Because of the abnormal passage of urine, the stream or flow of urine will be interrupted and may appear cloudy. If any urine is seen, it may appear dark or blood-tinged.

The pain involved causes many cats to cry out and they will stop eating and become depressed. Vomiting or retching may also occur. A urinary obstruction is a medical emergency and rapidity of treatment significantly impacts prognosis. Urinary obstruction can become life threatening in as little as 24 hours.



 There are several known risk factors for a urinary tract obstruction. Crystals, stones and most commonly, the accumulation of minerals in the urinary tract can cause the formation of an obstruction (crystals or stones). In addition, more rarely, tumors, lesions, and scar tissue can lead to an obstruction. The reason male cats are over represented in patients with urethral obstruction is their incredibly small urethral (tube from the bladder out of the body) diameter. This combined with a tendency to have urinary crystals or stones, make this condition unfortunately common.




Diagnosis is made by clinical signs ie: straining to urinate, not doing well, lethargy, hiding, blood in urine and pain. Upon examination the Doctor will be primarily feeling the pet’s abdomen and noting the size of the bladder.

 Your veterinarian will carefully feel the cat's abdomen. If your vet suspects an obstruction, they will recommend sedation (because of great pain and to reduce muscle spasms that may be worsening the obstruction.) They will also complete bloodwork to evaluate kidney function and a urinalysis to determine any other complicating factors. Once the pet is sedated, attempts at unblocking the patient will initiate.

As the treatment progresses, additional blood samples will likely be taken to determine changes in the cat's condition. Additional blood analysis and imaging, including X-rays or ultrasound may be helpful to determine the cause of the obstruction or other contributing diseases or illnesses.



 The obstruction must be relieved as soon as possible. Sedation is necessary. Depending on the severity of the obstruction, several methods may be used by the veterinarian to remove the obstruction -- urethral massage and using fluid to push the obstruction out of the urethra and into the bladder are two examples.

Once the obstruction is removed or pushed back into the bladder, a urinary catheter is left in place and is maintained for at least 24 hours, often for 2-4 days, depending on the cause of the obstruction.

 Intravenous (IV) fluids are administered to rehydrate the cat and normalize its electrolyte levels. Because of the pressure buildup and the inability to eliminate urine and its components, the entire renal system is affected and kidney damage can occur. In most cases, this damage is repaired with adequate fluid and electrolyte administration. Medications to treat the pain are necessary.

Pets typically go home with pain medications, antibiotics, dietary recommendations and medications to reduce urethral spasms.


 Living and Management

 It is important to monitor the flow of urine to ensure that there are no visible signs of complication. Cats are especially prone to repeat obstructions due to their tendency for uncontrolled urethra spasms. Some causes of urethral obstruction can be treated and eliminated, others cannot. Therefore, carefully monitoring the pet is very important.

Dietary changes are necessary to prevent crystals, stones or other potential causes of the obstruction. Changes in diet have been shown to dramatically reduce recurrence in most patients.Ensuring a cat has a clean and safe litter pan can also help.


If you feel your cat may be experiencing any of the above symptoms please do not hesitate to give us a call at 859-781-2577.