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Cat Intestinal Blockage Surgery

With cats being so curious and explorative, they can end up ingesting something they shouldn't have, resulting in an intestinal blockage. In this post, our Brookhaven vets discuss intestinal blockages in cats, and the surgery that may be necessary to treat the issue.

Causes of Intestinal Blockages in Cats

An intestinal blockage is a serious condition in cats, often caused by them eating something indigestible such as string, ribbon, or other objects such as a small cat toy. Your cat may even experience an intestinal blockage if they have a sizeable hairball.

When an indigestible object is swallowed by your cat, it can completely or partially obstruct their intestinal tract or bowel. These obstructions are not only painful, but they can also be potentially fatal.

Types of Intestinal Blockages

There are 3 types of intestinal blockages that your cat could experience, complete, partial, and linear.

Complete Intestinal Blockage in Cats

When an obstruction blocks your cat's GI tract completely, it is known as a complete blockage. This type of blockage can occur anywhere along the GI tract, but it is most commonly seen around sphincters (muscles that control the flow of material through the GI tract) or narrow sections.

Signs of a complete intestinal blockage include:

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

A completely blocked intestine is a life-threatening condition and 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.

Partial Intestinal Blockage

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

Linear Intestinal Blockage

If your cat eats long, thin objects like string, tinsel, or fishing line, it can cause linear blockages. These blockages can occur without causing any symptoms. However, as the object moves through your cat's GI tract over the next few days or weeks, it can cause bunching of the intestines or bowels.

The intestines may lose oxygen if the obstruction is not dealt with, causing permanent and serious damage. There's also a chance that the foreign object will slash through the intestine's wall, causing internal leakage into the abdomen.

Surgical Treatment of an Intestinal Obstruction

If your cat swallows something, you should rush them to the vet. Your vet will be able to perform an ultrasound to confirm that the object has not yet passed through to the intestines and may be able to dislodge the object by inducing vomiting. An endoscopy, which is less invasive than intestinal blockage surgery, may be performed to remove the object. Without veterinary supervision, never try to induce vomiting on your own.

Blockages in your cat's intestines can be fatal. If your vet confirms that your cat has a blockage, emergency surgery will be required to remove the blockage, and in some cases, damaged tissue.

Cat Intestinal Blockage Surgery Recovery

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

Your veterinarian will closely monitor your cat's recovery in the days following surgery for signs of infection and will treat it as soon as possible. Peritonitis is a life-threatening condition that must be treated as soon as possible.

Cost of Cat Surgery for Intestinal Blockages

Your cat's intestinal blockage surgery cost can be expensive. However, if you have pet insurance, a portion of the cost may be covered, if not all.

The cost of surgery can vary depending on your location and the severity of your pet's condition. When you meet with your veterinarian to discuss surgery, they will be able to give you a more accurate estimate of the procedure.

Preventing Intestinal Blockages in Cats

It's difficult to predict what your cat will find appealing at any given moment, so keep smaller, tempting items like elastic bands, small hair ties, and the strings off of cuts of meat and chicken out of your cat's reach. It's also a good idea to avoid using tinsel during the holidays, as these thin strands of glistening plastic can easily harm your cat's health if ingested.

    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.

    Is your cat showing signs of an intestinal blockage? Contact our Brookhaven vets immediately to have your feline friend diagnosed and treated.

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