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Why Your Cat Might Need Intestinal Blockage Surgery

Cats absolutely love playing with anything they can get their paws on, especially if that item is a dangling string or other enticing object. But what if they accidentally swallow it? In today's post, our Denver vets discuss intestinal blockages in cats, how they occur and how surgery is used to treat this emergency. 

What are intestinal blockages?

Intestinal blockages can occur if your cat eats objects, like string or toys, that may be lying around your home, or if a serious hairball gets stuck in their system. This is an emergency situation, as it's serious and potentially life-threatening. Surgery will also be required to remove the blockage. 

Indigestible objects swallowed by pets are also referred to as foreign bodies. When these objects partially or completely obstruct your feline friend's intestinal tract or bowel, they can cause immense pain for your furry friend and become life-threatening. 

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

When a complete intestinal blockage happens, nothing else, including food, will be able to move through the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This kind of blockage can occur anywhere along the GI tract, but most often occurs in areas with 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

  • Lack of energy 
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal pain 
  • Uncharacteristic behavior or aggression 
  • Drooling
  • Lack of appetite 
  • Diarrhea
  • 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 suspect your cat has eaten something they shouldn't have, or your kitty is displaying any of the symptoms above, it's critical to visit your vet as soon as possible since their life is in immediate danger. 

Partial Intestinal Blockage 

If your cat is experiencing a partial blockage, you may notice some of the symptoms related to a complete blockage. However, some waste and materials will move through the GI tract. On the other hand, you may not see any symptoms if your cat has a partial blockage. 

However, any intestinal blockage can damage your cat's GI tract, causing open sores and tears that may lead to pain and infection. In severe cases, sepsis may occur. This serious medical condition can quickly become 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 (foreign body) 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 a cat's surgery for an intestinal blockage 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. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Has your cat swallowed a toy from around your house? Contact our Denver vets today to arrange emergency care right away.

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