While your kitty may love to play with items such as ribbons, strings, and rubber bands, there is a chance they may try to eat them, which could cause an intestinal blockage. In this post, our Tigard vets talk about the signs of an intestinal blockage in cats and the surgery used to treat it.
How Cats Get Intestinal Blockages
An intestinal blockage is a very serious condition in cats, often caused by your feline friend eating something indigestible such as the string from a roast, a ribbon, or other small objects. However, intestinal blockages could also be the result of a lodged clump of fur or a hairball.
Indigestible objects swallowed by pets are called foreign bodies, and when they completely or partially obstruct your kitty's intestinal tract or bowel they are not only painful but can also be deadly.
There are 3 types of intestinal blockages that your cat could experience, complete, partial, and linear.
Complete Intestinal Blockage Symptoms in Cats
A complete blockage occurs when there is an obstruction causing a total blockage of your cat's GI tract. 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.
Here are the signs of a complete intestinal blockage:
- Lack of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Lack of energy
- The appearance of partial item from the anus
- Uncharacteristic behavior or aggression
Intestinal Blockages In Cats
If your cat has a complete intestinal blockage it is considered a medical emergency! If you believe your kitty has eaten something they shouldn't have, or if your cat is showing any of the symptoms listed above, it's imperative that you take them to the vet as quickly as possible. A complete intestinal blockage is a life-threatening condition.
Partial Intestinal Blockage
A partial intestinal blockage will allow some materials to travel through your cat's intestines and may result in similar symptoms to those of a complete blockage. However, your cat may show no symptoms at all, but damage can still happen within your cat's GI tract, such as open sores and tears that could lead to pain and infection. In some severe cases, cats can develop sepsis which is a serious medical condition that could turn fatal quickly.
Linear Intestinal Blockage
Linear blockages can happen if your cat eats a long thin object such as string, tinsel, or fishing line. When these blockages are in their early stages, they may occur without any symptoms. But, as your cat's GI tract struggles to move the object along over the coming days and weeks their bowels or intestines can become bunched. When this happens the intestines can lose oxygen resulting in permanent, serious damage. There is also a risk of the foreign item slicing through the wall of the intestine causing leakage into the abdomen.
Intestinal Blockage Treatments & Surgery In Cats
You should bring your cat to the vet immediately if they swallow an item they shouldn't have. Your vet will conduct an ultrasound to confirm whether or not the object has passed through to the intestines yet. If it hasn't, your veterinarian might be able to remove the object by inducing vomiting or using endoscopy, which is less invasive than intestinal blockage surgery. Never attempt to induce vomiting yourself without veterinary supervision.
Intestinal blockages can be fatal for your cat. If your vet confirms that your cat has an intestinal blockage, emergency surgery will be required to remove the blockage and in some cases, tissues that have been damaged as a result of the blockage.
Cats Intestinal Blockage Surgery Recovery
Your cat's recovery after intestinal blockage surgery will depend upon the severity of the damage caused by the blockage. There is a relatively high risk of abdominal infection (peritonitis) following this surgery, so your vet might want to keep your furry friend in the hospital until the risk of infection is reduced and your cat is eating normally again.
In the days following your kitty's surgery, your vet will monitor your cat's recovery closely for signs of infection and provide treatment right away. Peritonitis is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment.
The Cost of Intestinal Blockage Surgery For Cats
This surgery can be costly, but if you have pet insurance a portion or all of the cost may be covered.
The cost of intestinal blockage surgery can vary widely, based on your location and the severity of your pet's condition. Your vet will provide you with a cost estimate when explaining your cat's treatment plan to you.
Preventing Intestinal Blockages In Cats
It can be difficult to predict what your cat may decide to eat, so it's essential to keep tempting items such as elastic bands, small hair ties, and strings from meats, well out of your cat's reach. It's also a good idea to avoid the use of tinsel at Christmas time because 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. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.