Why Did My Cat's Bladder Block? (a cat emergency)

A blocked bladder is a true cat emergency but why does it happen in the first place? Join me as I run through the potential causes of bladder obstruction so that we can then try and prevent them from ever happening again.


My first question is all about a cat who developed a blocked bladder or a urinary obstruction. Now the owners couldn't afford everything that was recommended, but they did do some blood work and some urine testing, and the cat was then sedated and had their urethra unblocked.

They didn't do any X-rays, but the urine didn't come back as having any crystals in it. The blood came back negative for an infection and they kind of discussed that their cats eat a raw diet and they’re indoor cats and the only thing that they did differently was grow some catnip that he had access to and they were wondering if that was the cause or really were there any other ideas?

What are the of a blocked bladder in a male cat?

Well, there are a number of causes of an obstruction to start with. Now, they mainly are idiopathic cystitis and I'll discuss that in a bit more detail in a minute but also bladder stones and infection.

Other things can then look very similar as well that can cause a cat to strain, to either leak small amounts of urine or actually just appear not to be able to pass urine properly. That can be things like nerve damage, it can be a bladder tumors, and it can also be constipation that can actually look like a cat straining to pee.

Conversely, a cat that’s straining to pee is often mistaken for one who's constipated so that's something to bear in mind if that's something that you think your cat’s ever suffering from.

Now, unless the catnip were causing a lot of stress, then it's highly unlikely related to this blocked bladder. Catnip really generally does the opposite; it tends to relax cats rather than stress them out.

Now as I mentioned, the very first cause is something called idiopathic cystitis and this is stress related.

So it's generally not a bacterial infection, it’s generally caused by stress and that happens in stressful situations when there is also an underlying genetic susceptibility. So obviously not every cat is going to develop a blocked bladder, but if there's an underlying genetic susceptibility, then they're definitely more at risk of developing this condition.

And equally, a cat going through an idiopathic cystitis flare up is not necessarily going to become blocked. Certainly female cats, they never really become blocked because their tubes are a lot wider, a lot bigger and don't narrow or have the same anatomy as in a male cat.

Not every cat that develops an idiopathic cystitis situation will become an obstructed but it's a definite risk.

Urine tests and other diagnostics

Now urine culture is needed to rule out a bacterial infection, as it won't always result in changes in the blood, so that's definitely something to consider. And so then, bloods are generally often run instead to check for kidney levels, to check salt levels, which can then impact on treatment given and the prognosis for recovery.

Equally, urine crystals won’t always be present if there is a bladder stone present so that can be confusing as well. So to rule out a bladder stone completely then X-rays or an ultrasound are needed. But like I say, the vast majority of cats don't have those things.

Preventing recurrence

Then the last thing to mention is that after an episode has occurred, then there is a reasonable risk of recurrence that needs to be managed. We can do this by reducing stress and there's a number of ways that I've discussed before about how to reduce your cat’s stress.

We can also get your cat to drink more water to have a flushing effect so rather than a concentrated urine that sits there in the bladder and gets a lot of sludge built up, we get a more dilute urine and then bladder is actually flushed on a more regular basis.

And then also after a case of urinary obstruction or a blocked bladder, dietary modification is very important as well and so while wet food is great because that also increases water intake, there are specific diets that have been proven to really dramatically reduce the frequency of flare-ups of this idiopathic cystitis and also reduce their severity as well so further reduce the risk of an obstruction from forming.

So really those are the most likely causes of a blocked bladder.

As for the treatment of cystitis, reducing stress, increasing water intake, head over to my guide to cystitis in cats for more information.

The above is a transcript taken from “The Dr Alex Answers Show”.

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