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Intestinal Blockage in Cats

Sonia Nair Jul 27, 2020
Intestinal blockage is quite common in cats and dogs, as they have a tendency to swallow foreign objects. Here is a brief overview about the condition, which can be caused by other reasons too.
Intestinal blockage is a common feline condition, which is mostly detected in young cats. They swallow foreign objects that can cause obstruction in the intestines. While most of these objects pass through the intestines and are expelled without much discomfort, some may get stuck. Such obstruction can be life-threatening at times.

What Causes Intestinal Obstruction

As mentioned above, swallowing foreign objects is one of the common causes for intestinal blockage in cats. The foreign object can be anything, like yarn, buttons, coins, pieces of corn hobs, grass, toy parts, beads, etc.
It has been noted that, mostly, smooth rounded objects are found to cause intestinal obstruction, as the surrounding muscles contract and cover the object. This may not be the case with sharp objects that are mostly eliminated through stools.
This is because, the sharpness stimulates the intestinal wall to prevent itself from covering the object. This facilitates passing out of such objects through stools.
Intestinal blockage may also be caused by other reasons, like heavy infestation of intestinal parasites, particularly roundworms. Sometimes, hairballs cause such blockage, which is mostly seen in long-haired cats. Ingestion of hair happens as a result of self grooming and swallowing of hair. Normally, such hair is eliminated through stools.
In some cases, the hair may get accumulated in the intestine, to form compressed bundles, thereby causing obstruction. Even medical conditions, like hernia and tumor may cause obstruction of the intestine in cats, especially, older felines.
Other causes include conditions, like twisting of intestine, sliding of one part of intestine into another (intussusception), etc.

Signs and Symptoms

Intestinal blockage can be partial or total, and the severity of the condition may affect the nature of the symptoms. While partial obstruction may cause intermittent symptoms, total obstruction may cause more severe and persistent ones.
The following are some of the symptoms that may develop in cats, due to intestinal obstruction.
  • Incessant vomiting
  • Constipation (some may have diarrhea)
  • Very few or no bowel movements
  • Anorexia (not eating due to loss of appetite)
  • Lethargy and weakness
  • Abdominal swelling with pain
  • Weight loss
  • Dehydration
  • Fever may develop in some cases
Intestinal blockage is a condition that may prove fatal for your cat, if left untreated. You have to take the animal to the vet, as soon as you notice such symptoms. Diagnosis is done on the basis of ultrasound sonography, endoscopy, etc.
Even urine and blood tests may be conducted to rule out the possibilities of other conditions, like liver problems. Once intestinal blockage is detected, surgery (under total anesthesia) is done as an emergency treatment.
In almost all cases, treatment for intestinal blockage in cats involves surgery, to remove the obstruction. While in some cases, only the obstruction is removed; in some others, the obstructed part of the intestine has to be removed. Such removal of intestinal obstruction is necessitated due to the death of tissues at the affected site.
The open ends are sutured, after removal of the damaged portion. The cat may require IV as well as other medication, after the surgery. So, intestinal blockage in cats is a condition that requires immediate treatment, so as to avoid complications that may prove fatal. If you notice such symptoms, take your pet to the vet, at the earliest.
Disclaimer: This story is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.