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Intestinal Blockage Surgery for Cats

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 Clackamas 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 in cats and the required surgery could also be the result of a hairball or lodged clump of fur.

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 three types of intestinal blockages that your cat could experience, complete, partial, and linear.

Complete Intestinal Blockages 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
  • Drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lack of energy
  • The appearance of partial item from the anus
  • Uncharacteristic behavior or aggression

If your cat has a complete intestinal blockage, this is considered a medical emergency! If you believe your cat has eaten something they shouldn't have, or if you notice any of the symptoms listed above, take them to the vet as soon as possible. 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 occur if your cat consumes a long, thin object such as string, tinsel, or fishing line. When these blockages are in their early stages, they may not produce any symptoms. However, as your cat's GI tract struggles to move the object along in the coming days and weeks, their bowels or intestines may become clogged. When this happens, the intestines can lose oxygen, causing permanent and serious damage. There is also a risk of the foreign item slicing through the intestine wall and leaking into the abdomen.

Intestinal Blockage Treatments in Cats

If your cat swallows an item that they should not have, you should take them to the vet immediately. Your veterinarian will perform an ultrasound to determine whether the object has passed through to the intestines yet. If it hasn't, your veterinarian may be able to remove the object by inducing vomiting or performing endoscopy, a less invasive procedure than intestinal blockage surgery. Never try to induce vomiting without veterinary supervision.

Intestinal blockages can be fatal to your cat. If your veterinarian confirms that your cat has an intestinal blockage, emergency surgery will be required to remove the blockage and, in some cases, the tissues that have been damaged by it.

Preparing Your Cat for Intestinal Blockage Surgery

To prepare your cat for intestinal blockage surgery, follow your veterinarian's instructions regarding fasting before the procedure and ensure your cat is up to date on vaccinations. Additionally, provide a comfortable recovery space for your cat post-surgery and monitor them closely for any signs of complications.

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 expensive, but if you have pet insurance, you may be able to get some or all of it covered.

The cost of intestinal blockage surgery varies greatly depending on your location and the severity of your pet's condition. When your veterinarian explains your cat's treatment plan, he or she will give you a cost estimate.

Preventing Intestinal Blockages in Cats

It's difficult to predict what your cat will eat, so keep tempting items like elastic bands, small hair ties, and meat strings well out of reach. It's also a good idea to avoid using tinsel around Christmas because these thin strands of sparkling plastic can be harmful to 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.

    Call our Clackamas vets immediately if your cat is showing symptoms of an intestinal blockage. Depending on the severity, we can make a plan to treat it.

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