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Cat Intestinal Blockage Surgery

Kitties love to play with anything they can get their paws on, especially if that something is dangling, like string. But what if they accidentally swallow it? Here, our Charlotte vets discuss intestinal blockages in cats, how they happen and how surgery is used to treat this emergency.

What are intestinal blockages?

Intestinal blockages can happen when your cat eats objects, like string, lying around the home or when they have a serious hairball. This is a serious and potentially life-threatening situation that will require emergency veterinary care and surgery.

Indigestible objects swallowed by pets are foreign bodies, and when they completely or partially obstruct your kitty's intestinal tract or bowel. Not only can these cause immense pain for your furry friend, but they can also be life-threatening.

What are the signs and symptoms of intestinal blockages in cats?

There is no movement through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract when a complete intestinal blockage occurs. 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.

Some of the common signs of an intestinal blockage are:

  • Uncharacteristic behavior or aggression
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Lack of energy
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Drooling
  • The appearance of partial items from the anus

What are the different types of intestinal blockages in cats?

A complete intestinal blockage is a veterinary emergency! If you believe your cat has eaten something they shouldn't have, or is showing any of the symptoms above, it is essential to see your vet as soon as possible. If your cat is experiencing a complete intestinal blockage, their life is in immediate danger and you should bring them to the nearest emergency vet right away.

Partial Intestinal Blockage

If your cat has a partial blockage, they may display some of the symptoms associated with a complete blockage, but some waste and materials are making their way through the GI tract. Even so, your cat may have a partial blockage and show no symptoms. However, there is a risk of damage occurring within your cat's GI tract, such as open sores and tears that could lead to pain and infection. In some severe cases, sepsis can occur, which is a serious medical condition that can quickly be fatal.

Linear Intestinal Blockage

Cats that have eaten string or other long objects can experience what is known as a linear blockage. These blockages can occur without any symptoms in the early stages. However, as your cat's GI tract struggles to move the object along over the coming days and weeks a bunching of the intestine or bowels can result.

This can result in a loss of oxygen to the tissues, resulting in tissue death. There is also a risk of the foreign item slicing through the intestine wall, causing leakage into the abdomen.

What happens if your cat has an intestinal blockage?

If you see your cat swallow anything that isn't food, contact your vet immediately. Your vet can do an ultrasound to confirm that the object has not passed through to the intestines yet and may be able to remove it by inducing vomiting or using endoscopy, which is less invasive than intestinal blockage surgery. Do not try to get your cat to vomit unless directed by a veterinarian.

You must act quickly, as an intestinal blockage could be fatal for your feline friend. If your vet confirms that your cat has an intestinal blockage, emergency surgery will be necessary to remove the blockage and, in some cases, damaged tissue.

Preparing Your Cat for Intestinal Blockage Surgery

If your cat requires intestinal blockage surgery, your vet will need to do pre-anesthetic testing like bloodwork. This is to ensure that your cat will undergo surgery safely. While in most cases involving planned surgery, your vet will ask that your cat has fasted since the night before. In some emergency cases, alternative steps may be taken. Your vet will provide the necessary information, depending on your cat's specific situation.

Cat Intestinal Blockage Surgery: Cost

The cost of cat surgery for intestinal blockages can vary depending on the type and severity. It may also be affected by whether or not it needs to be completed in an emergency or by a specialist.

Speak with your vet if you would like to learn more about the fees associated with cat intestinal blockage (caused by hairballs or foreign objects) surgery.

Cat Intestinal Blockage Surgery: Recovery

Your cat's recovery after intestinal blockage surgery will depend upon the severity of the damage caused by the block. There is a relatively high risk of abdominal infection (peritonitis) following this surgery, so there is a chance that your cat will need to stay until the danger of this has passed.

Your vet will monitor your cat closely immediately after surgery for signs of infection. Peritonitis is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment. 

How can you prevent your cat from needing intestinal blockage surgery?

It can be difficult to predict what your cat may suddenly decide looks appetizing, so it's essential to keep tempting items such as elastic bands, small hair ties, and especially the strings off of cuts of meat and chicken, well out of your cat's reach.

It's also a very good idea to avoid using tinsel at Christmas as 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. Please make an appointment with your vet for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

    Did your cat swallow a toy or a random object from around your house? Contact our vets at Providence Animal Hospital for emergency care right away.

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