With cats being so curious, it is possible for them to ingest something they shouldn't have, resulting in an intestinal blockage. Today, our Boulder and Westminster vets explain intestinal blockages in cats and the surgery that may be necessary.

Causes of Intestinal Blockages in Cats

An intestinal blockage is a very serious condition in cats, often caused by your feline friend eating something indigestible such as the string from a roast, a ribbon, or other small objects. Further, your cat may also need intestinal blockage surgery if they have a hairball.

Foreign bodies are indigestible objects that pets swallow, and when they completely or partially obstruct your cat's intestinal tract or bowel, they are not only painful but can be fatal.

Your cat could have one of three types of intestinal blockages: complete, partial, or linear.

Complete Intestinal Blockage in Cats

A complete blockage occurs when an obstruction completely blocks your cat's GI tract. This type of blockage can occur anywhere along the GI tract, but it is most common where there are sphincters (muscles that control material flow through the GI tract) or narrow sections.

The following are symptoms of a complete intestinal blockage:

  • Vomiting
  • Lack of energy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Uncharacteristic behavior or aggression
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of appetite¬†
  • Item visible from the anus

Types of Intestinal Blockages

A completely blocked intestine is a medical emergency! If you suspect your cat has eaten something it shouldn't have, or if your cat is exhibiting any of the symptoms listed above, you should contact your veterinarian right away. A completely blocked intestine is a life-threatening condition.

Partial Intestinal Blockage

A partial intestinal blockage allows some materials to pass through the intestines of your cat and can cause symptoms similar to a complete blockage. However, your cat could have a partial blockage with no symptoms, but there is a chance that damage to your cat's GI tract, such as open sores and tears, is occurring, which could cause pain and infection. Sepsis, a serious medical condition that can be fatal quickly, can occur in severe cases.

Linear Intestinal Blockage

Linear blockages can occur if your cat consumes long, thin objects such as string, tinsel, or fishing line. These blockages can occur without causing symptoms in the early stages. However, bunching of the intestine or bowels may occur as the object moves through your cat's GI tract over the next few days and weeks. As a result, the intestines may lose oxygen, causing permanent and serious damage. The foreign object may also slash through the intestine's wall, causing leakage into the abdomen.

Surgery to Treat an Intestinal Obstruction

If your cat ingests something, do not rush them to the vet. Your veterinarian can use an ultrasound to confirm that the object has not yet passed through to the intestines and may be able to remove it through induction vomiting or endoscopy, which is less invasive than intestinal blockage surgery. Never try to induce vomiting on your own without veterinary supervision.

Intestinal blockages in your cat can be fatal. If your veterinarian determines that your cat has an intestinal blockage, he or she will need emergency surgery to remove the blockage and, in some cases, damaged tissue.

Recovery From Intestinal Blockage Surgery

The extent of the block's damage will determine how well your cat recovers after surgery to remove the obstruction. Because there is a high risk of abdominal infection (peritonitis) following this surgery, your veterinarian may decide to keep your cat in the hospital until the infection risk has decreased and your cat is eating normally again.

In the days following surgery, your veterinarian will closely monitor your cat's recovery for signs of infection and will treat it as soon as possible. Peritonitis is a potentially fatal condition that requires immediate medical attention.

Cost of Intestinal Blockage Surgery

This surgery can be costly; however, if you have pet insurance, you may be able to get a portion or all of the cost covered.

The cost of surgery varies greatly depending on where you live and how serious your pet's condition is. When you meet with your veterinarian to discuss surgery, he or she will be able to provide you with a more accurate estimate.

Preventing Intestinal Blockages in Cats

It's difficult to predict what your cat will find appealing at any given time, so keep tempting items out of reach of your cat, such as elastic bands, small hair ties, and especially the strings off cuts of meat and chicken. It's also a good idea to avoid using tinsel during the holidays, as these fine strands of gleaming plastic can be harmful to 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.

    Are you concerned that your cat is suffering from an intestinal blockage? Contact our Boulder and Westminster vets right away to get your kitty back on their feet.