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“Blocked Tom” or Urethral Obstruction

Hey there everyone,

I wanted to add a quick post about a patient we recently treated for a life-threatening condition, commonly called a “Blocked Tom” cat, or a Urethral Obstruction. Basically, this means that the cat is unable to pass, or easily pass, urine.

Initial signs may include straining to urinated, blood in the urine, painful urination and change in urinary habits, such as urinating outside of the box. This can then progress to a full obstruction, where the cat is unable to pass any urine. Obstruction could be due to inflammation, mucous, bladder stones or crystals. Sometimes, it may be due to a more serious underlying condition, such as cancer. The cat may become vocal, restless, and will then become lethargic and lose his appetite. Complete obstruction can cause death in 3–6 days.

Treatment will generally include sedation or anesthesia to allow a urinary catheter to be placed to relieve the pressure on the bladder. An IV catheter is also placed to keep the cat hydrated as most animals also have associated dehydration and elevated kidney levels due to toxins building up in the body as the urine  is unable to evacuate. The IV fluids and antibiotics help to flush the kidneys to bring their levels back to normal, however, if treatment is delayed, permanent kidney damage is possible.

We see several cases of Urethral Obstruction in a given year and most patients do have a good prognosis if treatment is started quickly. Our most recent patient was taken to the emergency clinic where a urinary catheter was placed and then transferred to our hospital the next morning. He had been unable to pass urine for an unknown amount of time and had extremely elevated kidney levels. After a few days of aggressive fluid therapy and antibiotics, along with some medication to relieve his pain, we were able to remove the urinary catheter and he began passing urine on his own.

“Boo” the cat has never seen so many cheering people over his litter box habits and we are never so glad to clean a dirty litter box!

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