Patrick - the blocked cat

Patrick's owners brought him to the veterinary hospital after they found him in his litter tray, straining to go to the toilet but with no result. The veterinarian palpated Patrick's abdomen and found he had a large bladder, the size of an orange.

The veterinarian was unable to express any urine from Patrick's bladder. The veterinarian diagnosed Patrick with having a bladder obstruction, which is a very serious condition. Patrick was admitted to hospital for an emergency anaesthetic to unblock his bladder.

How do cats become "blocked"?

Blocked cats first start out having a condition called Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease or FLUTD. The most common clinical signs of FLUTD is a cat straining when it goes to the toilet, urinating small volumes but more frequently and blood tinged urine. Cats may also show signs of pain such as vocalising when being touched near the abdomen or when picking your cat up.

FLUTD is commonly caused by the formation of crystals in the bladder. The crystals irritate the bladder wall, causing bleeding.

The female cat urethra is wider than in male cats, so crystals can be passed in the urine easily. However, for male cats, their urethra is much narrower. Crystals get stuck in the male cat's urethra, causing a blockage in the flow of urine which is life threatening.

The kidneys keep producing urine, despite the fact that the cat cannot pass it. The bladder increases in size, which causes a lot of pressure back onto the kidneys. Potassium starts to build up in the cat's blood stream as a result of the blockage, which can cause an irregular heartbeat. Blocked cats can die within 24 to 48 hours of being completely blocked.

What is the cause of FLUTD?

There are different types of crystals in a cat's urine, however the most common crystals are made up of magnesium, phosphate and calcium. This is why diet is important. Some supermarket brand cat foods are very high in these compounds which can promote the formation of crystals. A diet which makes the cat's urine alkaline or gives it a high pH level, can also produce crystals.

Bacterial infections in the bladder are also common with cats who have FLUTD. These infections will also increase the pH of the urine and can produce crystals.

Obese cats are more prone to getting FLUTD than other cats.

While under anaesthetic, Patrick's bladder and urethra were flushed clean to rid the area of any crystals which were blocking the urethra, enabling Patrick to urinate. A urinary catheter was placed into Patrick's bladder via his urethra which helps the flow of urine to empty the bladder. Patrick was placed on an intravenous drip to ensure a good flow of urine is produced.

A sample of Patrick's urine was taken so tests can be performed which will help with the treatment. The urine sample was looked at under a microscope to see which crystals are present, which will determine the type of prescription diet he will need. Stuvite crystals were present in Patrick's urine. He was placed on a special diet, Hills' s/d, which dissolves the crystals by changing the pH of the urine. Bacteria was also seen. Patrick was put on antibiotics to help clear up the infection.

Prevention of FLUTD

  • Your cat should be fed a well balanced diet that is low in magnesium, phosphate and calcium.
  • Make sure your cat is a healthy weight and gets lots of exercise.
  • Make sure your cat has access to lots of clean water.

Patrick is doing very well. Samples of Patrick's urine are taken and checked frequently in case of any reoccurring crystals or bacteria. Patrick was also placed on a prescription diet, Hills' c/d, which he must be on life long, to help in the prevention of crystal formation.