Intestinal blockage in a cat occurs when the cat swallows a foreign body that cannot pass through the digestive tract. Cats commonly eat objects other than food. Larger objects cannot pass through the stomach and will be vomited up. However, smaller objects like paper clips and string can pass through the stomach, but may get caught in the intestine, resulting in a blockage.
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A poor appetite and vomiting are usually the first signs of a foreign body in the intestine. Your cat will be in pain with a tense abdomen, and may hiss or cry out when touched. According to the Pet Info website, other symptoms include lethargy, depression, reluctance to move, straining and occasional diarrhoea.
During a physical exam, a veterinarian may be able to feel intestinal bunching. An oral exam should be performed to determine whether a piece of string has got caught around the base of the cat's tongue. According to the Pet Education website, cats with obstructions will often have a high heart rate and be dehydrated.
A string in the gut can get wound around the intestines as they contract, eventually lacerating the intestinal wall and causing leakage of the intestinal contents, according to the Petco website. If this happens, the cat will die without immediate surgery.
Surgery is almost always required for intestinal blockages. During surgery, the belly and intestines are opened and the foreign body is removed, according to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. If twisting has been severe enough to block the blood supply from a segment of the intestine, that segment will be removed and the ends will be sewn together. Finally, the abdominal cavity will be flushed to remove any bacteria that may have leaked from the intestines during or before surgery. The cat is then given supportive care, including IV fluids, for several days after surgery.
If a blockage is treated quickly, and there is no laceration of the intestines, most cats will recover fully. However, the prognosis is not as good for cats who have had an intestinal laceration and bacterial infection in the abdominal cavity, though they can still recover fully in some cases.
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