Have you ever heard of a cat, or less frequently a dog, who can’t pee?
It may sound funny, but it's an emergency!
Much like in humans, animal bladders are connected to their kidneys via ureters. Unfortunately, also like humans, our pets can get blockages in their urinary tracts that cause issues when trying to urinate. The most common types of blockages in dogs and cats are bladder stones, urethral stones, and even cancer. Males are also susceptible to blockages caused by the prostate gland. Even more specifically, male cats can also be subject to a mucus plug, which is a mixture made up of mucus, protein, and crystals that just doesn’t exit the body as it should naturally.
Common Causes of Blockages
Signs of an Obstruction
If you notice your cat or dog making unusual noises or crying while urinating; needing to potty more often, but little to nothing comes out; exhibiting bloody urine, lethargy, vomiting or lack of appetite, you should take your pet to the veterinarian immediately. Cats who begin to urinate outside the litter box for no apparent reason may also be trying to let you know of an impending blockage. If your dog or cat is unable to urinate, the obstruction build-up can become toxic quickly which is life-threatening.
Diagnosing an Obstruction
A pet that’s unable to urinate will usually have an enlarged (and very painful) bladder. A professional can easily feel this in the back half of the belly, unless the bladder has ruptured. Your veterinarian may complete x-rays of your pet’s abdomen, and potentially an ultrasound if they suspect a tumor to be the cause of the issue. Your vet is also likely to take a blood sample to determine the severity of the blockage to the kidney.
Treating an Obstruction
So, you’ve got the diagnosis that your furbaby has an obstruction, what now? In order to properly get rid of a urinary obstruction, your vet will have to place a catheter, which will require anesthesia. Your pet will likely need to be hospitalized for a few days where they’ll be able to urinate using the catheter, get fluids, pain meds, and antibiotics. Surgery may or may not be necessary depending on the cause of the obstruction, but some pets are also able to pass the obstruction a little more naturally through a form of diet dissolution and special prescription diets.
In pets with repeated incidences of blockage, the urethra can be surgically widened (perineal urethrostomy) to create a permanent opening that allows crystals, mucous plugs, and stones to pass more easily.
Preventing an Obstruction
There can be many causes of urinary obstruction. Identifying the most likely culprits for your pet can help focus your strategies for prevention. In general, PetMD and Banfield resources recommend these general strategies.
No matter the cause, not being able to properly urinate is a grave situation for your pet and should be taken very seriously. If you fear that your pet isn’t properly relieving themselves, always contact your preferred veterinarian or emergency vet for an exam right away. For more information about urinary obstructions, you can visit here, here, or here.