Is it possible for your male cat to die from constipation?

In our experience when a client rings and advises that they think their male cat is constipated we will always strongly recommend that their cat is seen by a veterinarian immediately. Not because we think that constipation is life threatening, but rather experience has taught us that when a male cat's urethra (tube from the bladder) becomes blocked and they cannot urinate, owners often call to say they think their cat is constipated. This is because as these cats become more desperate to urinate they strain and adopt the same position as though they were constipated.  
 
Aside from being excruciatingly painful, a blocked bladder can quickly progress to serious illness and death. Hence, the advice to have your cat seen by a veterinarian immediately. If it does turn out that your cat was only constipated, be grateful that is was not a lot worse!

AdobeStock_92814896.jpegWhat causes urethral obstructions?

Several underlying conditions can cause obstruction of the narrow urethra of a male cat, including:
A 'plug' in the urethra - this is usually an accumulation of proteins, cells, crystals and debris in the bladder that accumulates and lodges in the urethra
A small stone (urolith) or an accumulation of very small stones - these form in the bladder but may become lodged in the urethra
Swelling and spasm of the urethra - during inflammation of the bladder and urethra. 
 
So what are some of the things that you can do to minimise the chance of your cat ever developing a life threatening bladder obstruction? 
The most important thing you can do is try to encourage regular emptying of the bladder and regular drinking as this results in regular flushing of the bladder as well as reduces crystal formation in the urine which can then form plugs and uroliths. Also treating any signs of cystitis quickly can help reduce crystal formation and inflammation.

1) Encourage regular toileting

Some cats prefer a clean litter tray every time, so to encourage regular toileting it is important to ensure that a clean litter tray is always available. The general rule is to have one more litter tray than you have cats. For example a two cat household would have three litter trays.  Also placing litter trays in several areas of your house can help as some cats prefer a private area to urinate. The general rule is to have

2) Encourage your cats to drink more water 

Keep in mind that cats do not like to have their water next to a food source (in the wild this could cause contamination of their water source), so having several fresh water stations around the house, and away from the food and litter trays, can encourage more drinking. Also some cats like to drink from running water so buying a cat water fountain can help.

3) Watch out for signs of cystitis

Signs of cystitis can include increased frequency of urination and urinating in unusual areas. If you think that your cat is showing signs of cystitis have them checked by the vet. Untreated cystitis can cause crystals to form in the urine resulting in urethral blockage and therefore bladder obstruction. A check up during normal working hours is a lot cheaper that dealing with a seriously ill cat.

If you need further information regarding cystitis or urethral obstruction please don’t hesitate to call one of our team. 

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