Should I Put My Cat Down For Urinary Blockage?

Understanding Feline Urinary Blockages

Feline urinary blockages occur when crystals or stones form in the urinary tract, completely obstructing the flow of urine. This is an emergency condition that requires immediate veterinary treatment. Male cats are at higher risk due to their narrow urethra.

Causes of urinary blockages include:

  • Struvite crystals forming from urinary tract infections or high-mineral diets (Hill’s)
  • Calcium oxalate stones forming from genetic factors or dietary mineral imbalances (ACVS)

Common symptoms of a blockage include (PetMD):

  • Straining or frequent trips to the litter box
  • Very little urine production
  • Crying out or signs of pain
  • Bloody urine

Blockages can quickly lead to kidney damage, metabolic changes, and death if left untreated. Even after treatment, recurrent blockages and urinary tract inflammation are common long-term risks.

Emergency Treatment Options

If your cat is unable to urinate and is in a life-threatening situation, emergency veterinary care is required immediately. There are a few main treatment options vets use to address a urinary blockage:

Unblocking catheters – Vets will first try to pass a urinary catheter to relieve the blockage and allow urine to flow again. Unblocking catheters are designed specifically for this purpose in male cats. According to Today’s Veterinary Practice, sedation is often required to insert the catheter.

Surgery if blockage is severe – In severe cases where a catheter cannot relieve the blockage, PetMD explains that emergency surgery may be required. This involves making an incision in the cat’s abdomen and manually expressing the blocked urine from the bladder.

Addressing pain and infection – Vets will provide pain medication, fluids, and antibiotics to address any pain, dehydration, or potential infection caused by the blockage and treatment procedures. Supportive care is crucial in stabilizing cats in an emergency urinary blockage situation.

Ongoing Management at Home

Once your cat has recovered from the emergency treatment for a urinary blockage, ongoing management at home is crucial for prevention. There are three main components to managing urinary health at home:

Prescription Urinary Health Diet

Veterinarians typically recommend switching to a therapeutic prescription urinary health diet after a blockage. These diets are formulated to promote urinary tract health. According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, prescription foods like Hill’s Prescription Diet c/d Multicare Urinary Health are shown to reduce the recurrence of blockages by 89% compared to a non-prescription diet.

Increased Water Intake

Keeping your cat well-hydrated is crucial to maintaining urinary health and preventing recurring blockages. The vet may recommend switching to canned food, which has higher water content. You can also encourage drinking by providing multiple fresh water sources around the home and consider getting a cat water fountain.

Stress Reduction

Stress is a common factor in feline lower urinary tract disease. Reducing stressors in your cat’s environment can help minimize blockage recurrences. Make sure litter boxes are clean and easy to access. Provide hiding spots and vertical space for perching. Use pheromone diffusers. Keep their routine consistent. Give them affection and playtime. According to HolistaPet, “A stress-free environment is key to preventing crystals from forming in the first place.”

When is Euthanasia Appropriate?

Euthanasia may be an option to consider if your cat is suffering from chronic, recurring urinary blockages that are life-threatening and/or causing continual pain and distress.

For some cats, blockages can become an ongoing problem that requires emergency veterinary treatment multiple times. Each episode of blockage causes immense pain and leaves the cat at risk of dying if the obstruction isn’t relieved quickly. This cycle of recurrent blockages requiring emergency procedures can significantly compromise a cat’s quality of life.

If your veterinarian determines that your cat’s blockages are chronic and likely to keep occurring, you may face the difficult decision of whether ongoing treatment is worthwhile or if euthanasia would be the most humane option. According to Dr. Arnold Plotnick of Manhattan Cat Specialists, “The pain with this disease is immense, and some cat owners understandably choose euthanasia over trying to reestablish the flow of urine.” (source)

The decision depends on each cat’s unique circumstances. Factors to consider are your cat’s response to treatment, prognosis for recovery, age/health conditions, severity and frequency of blockages, and most importantly – your cat’s quality of life. Your veterinarian can provide guidance on determining if your cat’s suffering outweighs their wellbeing. Euthanasia may be the most humane option if your cat’s blockages are not medically manageable and profoundly impact their quality of life.

This very difficult decision is one to make in close consultation with your veterinarian. Never make the choice lightly, but understand euthanasia may sometimes be the kindest way to relieve your cat’s pain and suffering. Take time to evaluate all factors involved in your cat’s condition and long-term wellbeing when deciding if euthanasia is the most compassionate option.

Working With Your Veterinarian

Your veterinarian will be an essential partner in diagnosing, treating, and managing your cat’s urinary blockages. Here are some things to discuss with your vet:

Getting a diagnosis and treatment plan – Your vet will perform diagnostic tests like bloodwork, imaging, and urinalysis to determine the cause of the blockage. Based on the results, they will create a tailored treatment plan which may include catheterization, IV fluids, pain medication, and dietary changes.

Discussing long-term prognosis – Given your cat’s specific condition, your vet can provide perspective on long-term outlook and recurrence risk. Understand if this is likely to be an ongoing issue or isolated incident.

Creating a care budget – Urinary issues can become expensive, especially with emergency care. Have an open conversation about costs so you can make financial preparations. Many vets work with pet owners on payment plans or discounts.

With your vet’s guidance, you can make the best decisions for your cat’s health and wellbeing. Their expertise will be invaluable in navigating this difficult condition.

Preventing Blockages

There are several things cat owners can do at home to help prevent recurring urinary blockages in their cats:

Feed a high moisture diet. Canned or raw foods have much higher water content than dry kibble. This helps dilute the urine and reduce crystal formation. According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, feeding only wet food can increase a cat’s water intake by over 50%.

Increase water intake. Provide multiple fresh water sources around the home. Consider getting a cat fountain since running water encourages more drinking. Avoid plastic bowls which can harbor bacteria. Changing to glass, ceramic or stainless steel bowls can help.

Reduce stress. Environmental stressors like new pets, construction noise, litter box issues and changes to routine can contribute to blockages. Providing a consistent schedule, keeping litter boxes clean, and limiting major home changes can help lower a cat’s stress.

Provide an enriching environment. Give your cat opportunities to climb, scratch, play and exhibit natural behaviors. Cat trees, toys, interactive playtime and feline companions can help cats feel relaxed and content.

Work closely with your veterinarian to determine the right prevention plan for your individual cat. Strategies like prescription urinary foods, supplements and pheromone diffusers may also be recommended.

Signs a Blockage is Recurring

If your cat has experienced a urinary blockage before, it’s important to watch for signs of another blockage recurring. Some key signs to look for include:

Straining to urinate – You may notice your cat frequently visiting the litter box but only passing small amounts of urine or crying out when trying to urinate. Straining is a major red flag for a potential blockage.

Blood in urine – Any presence of blood indicates irritation or inflammation in the urinary tract. Blood or reddish urine points to a blockage or crystallization.

Excessive licking of genitals – Your cat may lick their genital area excessively as they feel discomfort from a potential blockage.

Lethargy/loss of appetite – A blocked cat often loses interest in food or play and appears generally lethargic. This stems from the pain and discomfort caused by the blockage.

If you notice any of these recurrent signs in a cat with a history of blockages, it’s critical to contact your veterinarian immediately for an urgent examination and treatment. Catching a recurring blockage quickly can help prevent a life-threatening situation.

Alternatives to Euthanasia

There are several alternatives to euthanasia that cat owners can consider for long-term management of recurrent urinary blockages:

Long-Term Medication

Medications like phenoxybenzamine, prazosin, and bethanechol can help relax the urethra and prevent spasms that lead to obstruction. A 2010 study found that administering acepromazine, buprenorphine, and medetomidine was effective for managing urinary obstruction without catheterization (Cooper et al., 2010).

Dietary Changes

Feeding a wet canned diet high in moisture content can help cats stay well-hydrated and prevent formation of bladder crystals and stones. Prescription urinary diets may also help manage the underlying causes of obstruction.

Home Catheterization

With training from a veterinarian, some cat owners feel comfortable learning how to pass a catheter at home to relieve obstruction episodes. This can help avoid stressful visits to the vet.

PU Surgery

A perineal urethrostomy (PU) surgery creates a permanent opening in the perineum, bypassing the narrow urethra and making it unlikely for future blockages to occur. PU surgery can significantly improve long-term outcomes if performed by an experienced veterinary surgeon.

While euthanasia may still need to be considered for some cats, many can go on to live happy lives through some combination of medication, diet, and surgery. It’s important to thoroughly discuss all options with your veterinarian when making end-of-life decisions.

Making the Decision

Making the difficult decision to euthanize a cat with recurring urinary blockages involves carefully weighing the impact on your cat’s quality of life against the commitment required for their care. Financial costs can also be a significant factor.

Quality of life should be the priority. Recurring urinary blockages are extremely painful and stressful for cats. The blockages themselves often require emergency catheterization procedures, which are traumatic in their own right. Ongoing management may involve feeding only prescription diets, frequent vet visits for testing, and daily medications – which diminish quality of life. At some point, if blockages keep recurring and causing significant suffering, euthanasia may be the most humane option.

The financial commitment is also substantial. Just one emergency vet visit for a blockage can cost $1,000 or more. Ongoing costs for testing, medication, and prescription food also add up over time. For many cat owners, these expenses quickly become prohibitive.

Caregiving can also be exhausting for owners, especially as cats age and require more intensive treatment. Regularly monitoring a cat prone to blockages takes an emotional toll. At some point, an owner’s ability to provide adequate care can diminish.

In the end, the decision depends on determining what is truly best for your individual cat. Their level of suffering, quality of life, and your ability to provide care all play a role. Consult with your veterinarian honestly about your cat’s prognosis and options. With their support, you can make the most informed decision.

Coping with Loss

Losing a beloved cat to urinary blockages can be absolutely devastating. It’s important to give yourself time and space to properly grieve the loss of your furry friend. Focus on remembering all the happy times you shared together and celebrate your cat’s life. Looking through old photos and videos can help spark cherished memories. You may find comfort in creating a photo book or memory box to honor your pet.

Don’t isolate yourself during this difficult time. Lean on loved ones for support and consider joining a pet loss support group, either locally or online. Talking with others who have experienced similar losses can provide much needed comfort and perspective. You may also find journaling, art projects or volunteering at an animal shelter helpful outlets for your grief.

When the time is right and the pain begins to ease, you may consider welcoming a new pet into your home. This doesn’t mean replacing your beloved cat, but rather providing a loving home to another animal in need. Take things at your own pace – there’s no set timeline for when to adopt again after a pet loss. Be patient with yourself as you adjust to your new normal without your cat. With time, support and compassion, you can get through this.

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