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Study Offers Viable Plan B for Cats With Urinary Obstruction

photo 2009 Laura Bittner | more info (via: Wylio)Urinary obstruction is one of the worst things that can happen to a cat. It is linked...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Dec 11th 2010


he sleeps in the litter boxphoto 2009 Laura Bittner | more info (via: Wylio)
Urinary obstruction is one of the worst things that can happen to a cat. It is linked to FLUTD, a syndrome marked by chronic irritation of the bladder and urethra. In males, the irritation can lead to swelling of the urethra and, in some circumstances, complete inability to urinate.

At first urinary obstruction is painful while the bladder fills and distends. In the not-so-short run urinary obstruction is deadly. When a cat is not able to pass any urine, the kidneys stop producing the stuff. That amounts to kidney failure, which rapidly is fatal in untreated cases.

The gold standard treatment for urinary obstruction involves passing a catheter through the urethra and leaving it in the bladder for one to three days. This treatment is uncomfortable, expensive and intense. However, without it a miserable death is almost certain. Or perhaps now I should say was almost certain.

A paper in the most recent edition of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA) discussed an alternative treatment method. The method involves regularly administering sedatives and pain killers, keeping the cat in a quiet, dark location (to reduce stress), and draining the bladder with a needle passed through the skin and abdomen as needed to remove urine.

Of the 15 cats studied in the paper, 11 had successful outcomes. Treatment failed in one cat, but the cat’s life was saved with the gold standard (urinary catheterization) method. The other three cats died.

The study is small, the success rate appears to be much lower than that of the gold standard (I have yet to lose any of the hundreds of cats I have treated with the gold standard method, although some day I may), and the alternative treatment still sounds quite miserable and painful. The new protocol definitely is not Plan A. But, as the paper’s authors point out, if the only other choice is economic euthanasia it may be worth trying.

The paper is Cooper, et al J Am Vet Med Assoc 2010;237:1261-1266.