Signs of Intestinal Blockage in Cats
Intestinal obstructions can be partial or total. In partial obstructions, the cat may exhibit subtle signs or intermittent signs, whereas in total obstructions the symptoms are more remarkable and dramatic.
Affected cats generally develop the symptoms listed below. The severity of the symptoms generally depends on various factors such as the part of the affected intestinal tract, whether the obstruction is partial or total, and how long the obstruction has been present.
Symptoms Suggesting Intestinal Obstructions in Cats
- Lack of appetite
- Weight loss
- Persistent vomiting
- Few if any bowel movements
- Abdominal pain
- Hunched-up position
- In some cases, diarrhea
A cat exhibiting symptoms of an intestinal obstruction should see the vet immediately because the obstruction may cause potential complications and even death.
Swallowed Items Are a Common Cause of Obstructions
Cats are less likely than dogs to eat foreign objects, but they may eat small items found around the house, causing serious and often life-threatening intestinal obstructions.
Items Cats Most Commonly Swallow
The most common items that are swallowed by cats are small buttons, strings, coins, Christmas tinsel, Easter basket grass, thread, toys, yarn, and even needles. Sometimes intestinal problems are caused by food items the cat ate, such as a piece of bone or a chunk of a corn cob. The most affected cats are young ones, generally kittens and cats under the age of two. This is because at these ages, cats are at the peak of their curiosity phase leading them towards trouble.
Other Possible Causes of Intestinal Obstructions
- At times, cats, in particular kittens, may be affected by a blockage created by intestinal parasites. This is mostly seen in kittens heavily infested by roundworms.
- In some cases, the blockage may be caused by a hernia or tumor which has grown big enough to block the cat's intestinal tract. This is mostly seen in senior cats.
- Long-haired cats may get their intestinal tract blocked by large hairballs.
- Obstruction may be caused by an intussusception, where for unknown reasons a segment of the bowel will collapse into itself like a telescope, or like a sock turned inside out.
Treatment for Intestinal Blockages in Cats
Once the blockage is in the intestinal tract, the only way to unblock the intestinal tract is to have the cat undergo surgery. This is done under total anesthesia. The prognosis depends on how quickly the cat undergoes surgery, the cat's general state of health, the cause of the obstruction, and if there were any complicating factors involved.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Can abdominal fluid buildup be a sign of intestinal blockage? My 14-year-old cat has a history of eating packing tape.
Abdominal swelling with pain can be a sign of a blockage in cats. A blockage would also cause a lot of vomiting and diarrhea. At this age though, fluid in the abdomen (ascites) may derive from several conditions you may want to have ruled out by your vet such as a ruptured bladder, liver damage, low levels of protein in the blood (hypoproteinemia) congestive heart failure, abdominal bleeding, abdominal cancer etc. It may be insightful to obtain lab results from analysis of the fluid and possibly ultrasound/ biopsy.Helpful 2
My cat took some chicken from my plate that had bones. I heard her crunching. She has pooped, but she is not eating much and now has diarrhea. What do I do?
It would be best to play it safe and see the vet. When working for the vet, we instructed owners of cats who ate chicken bones to monitor for signs such as vomiting, lethargy, not eating, straining, diarrhea or abdominal pain and to consult us without delay if any such symptoms appeared.
Your cat is manifesting two of these symptoms, which make a blockage more likely although the fact you heard your cat crunching the bones up is rather reassuring.
On the other hand, cats may too get diarrhea and lack of appetite simply as a result of eating something they are not used to. So it's difficult to say what is going on. When in doubt, it's always best to err on the side of caution and see the vet to play it safe.Helpful 2
© 2009 Adrienne Farricelli