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What is Intestinal Obstruction?

When an intestinal obstruction has occurred, the cat’s health will continue to decline until the condition becomes life-threatening. Early diagnosis and treatment is a leading factor in the likelihood of a full recovery. Signs of intestinal obstruction should be taken seriously and prompt veterinary treatment is strongly recommended.

Intestinal obstruction is a common condition that occurs when the stomach or intestines are partially or completely blocked. The blockage may restrict the flow of nutrients and/or secretions within the stomach and intestinal area. The condition is generally very painful and the presence of objects in the intestines can reduce blood flow, which may ultimately lead to tissue necrosis.

Intestinal Obstruction Average Cost

From 484 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,200

Symptoms of Intestinal Obstruction in Cats

Cats who are experiencing an intestinal obstruction generally will feel unwell and will display one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Unwillingness to eat
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Weight Loss
  • Dehydration
  • Subnormal body temperature
  • Electrolyte imbalances
  • Crying or whimpering
  • Unwillingness to lie down
  • Depression
  • Shock
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Causes of Intestinal Obstruction in Cats

Ingestion of foreign bodies is the primary cause of intestinal obstruction, and it tends to occur more commonly in younger cats as they tend to be more likely to ingest inappropriate objects. Other possible causes of the condition include:

  • Un-expelled hairballs
  • Tumor
  • Inflammation of gastrointestinal tract
  • Pyloric stenosis
  • Hernia
  • Intussusception (may be caused by intestinal parasites)
  • Intestinal twisting
  • Polyps
  • Overgrowth of stomach tissue
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Diagnosis of Intestinal Obstruction in Cats

After a full review of the cat’s medical history, the veterinarian will discuss the onset of symptoms, the cat’s eating habits, and whether it has access to objects such as string and sewing needles. If owners suspect that the cat may have ingested a particular object, the vet should be notified. 

A physical exam will be completed and a standard set of lab tests ordered. This will often include a complete blood count (CBC), blood chemical profile, urinalysis, and electrolyte panel. Abdominal palpation may indicate swelling or other intestinal irregularities. Visual diagnostics including X-rays or ultrasound imaging may be ordered and an endoscopy will likely be performed. In addition to providing a visual image of the intestines, an endoscope may also be used to extract tissue samples for biopsy and/or to remove foreign bodies that have been ingested.

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Treatment of Intestinal Obstruction in Cats

Intestinal obstruction in cats often requires hospitalization. The course of treatment will depend on the severity of symptoms and the size, location, and source of the blockage.

Stabilization

If the affected cat is experiencing extreme dehydration or electrolyte imbalance, it will need to be stabilized before any other treatments can be provided. Fluids and electrolytes will likely be administered intravenously and in some cases, plasma may be provided. 

Non-Surgical Treatment

When the obstruction is caused by a hairball, the veterinarian may choose to administer laxatives and monitor the cat for several days to see if the ball will pass prior to recommending surgery. This treatment option may also be recommended when the presence of a linear foreign body such as string or yarn has been detected soon after ingestion. Laxatives should only be provided under veterinary supervision and owners should never attempt to remove objects that are protruding from a cat’s rectum. 

In most cases, the veterinarian will attempt to remove foreign objects using an endoscope. This is less invasive than surgery, but it is difficult to ensure that no residual items remain in the intestinal tract. Endoscopes are also unable to remove large objects such as rocks.

Surgical Removal 

When attempts to remove the foreign body using an endoscope have been unsuccessful, surgical removal under anesthesia will likely be needed. During this process, the veterinarian will locate the blockage and make a small incision in the stomach or intestine in order to remove it. Once the surgeon has confirmed that all foreign materials have been removed, incisions will be closed using sutures.

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Recovery of Intestinal Obstruction in Cats

When veterinary care is provided promptly, prognosis for affected cats is generally positive as long as there are no surgical complications. Following surgery, pain medication and antibiotics will be prescribed and the cat may need to remain in the hospital for several days. Once the cat is able to hold down food and liquids, it will be able to return home. It should then be kept calm and given a quiet place to recuperate away from children and other pets. Care should be taken to keep the cat from licking the sutures and an Elizabethan collar may be needed.

Owners should closely monitor the cat for signs of dehydration or infection. Only bland foods should be given for the first few days in order to avoid further irritation. Sutures will need to be removed 7-10 days following surgery, and follow-up appointments will be needed to ensure proper healing.

Precautions should be taken to prevent the cat from ingesting objects in the future. This may include covering trash cans and keeping dangerous objects such as string and yarn out of reach.

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Intestinal Obstruction Average Cost

From 484 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,200

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Intestinal Obstruction Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

dog-name-icon

Poe

dog-breed-icon

Siamese/Domestic Medium Hair Mutt

dog-age-icon

3 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy, Fever, 3Rd Eyelid Showing

I'm not 100% on if it is a blockage or something with kidneys. My 3 month old kitten started to become lethargic and play less and 2 days later, he was extremely warm with his 3rd eyelids completely covering his eyes; complete with some sneezing and a little bit of wheezing - so I took him in to the vet. The vet thought he either had a kitten flu/cold or an Upper Repiratory infection. They prescribed him antibiotics while wanting to do testing for FIV as the shelter I got him from was not able to due to his age. It's been two weeks now and he's on his last antibiotic dose. His fever is mostly gone though he still feels slightly warm from time to time, I don't know how warm a kitten should be. His third eyelids are not covering his eyes anymore with eye drops, but he's still lethargic and isn't wanting to do anything besides eat & sleep. Eating is a tiny bit less than normal, he's definitely hungry. Drinks water normally, though I think it may be slightly longer. He does not play or run or do kitten things and has progressively lost a small amt of weight and has some kind of rounded something underneath his ribs on both sides. I cannot tell if this is his kidneys or part of his stomach, he's not a big fan of his belly being touched. He still gets wheezy if you pick him up too quick but only for a moment. Has a small amount of snoring occasionally. Was given a small amount of fluids at the vet for very mild dehydration. Had very mild, but rare sinus leakage & watery eyes - diagnosis was originally allergies.

Sept. 13, 2018

Poe's Owner

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Millie

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domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

1 Year

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Eating
Crouching,
Excessive Licking In Left Stomach
Playing Normally

Millie has eaten string once before. We didn’t know the signs so we waited until it got bad. ashe was vomiting, not eating or drinking. She had to get 1/3 of her intestines removed during surgery. She hasn’t thrown up and still eats, drinks and plays as normal, but I know she got into string. She’s actually been more playful than normal right now. I know she got into string because I saw the evidence. She has been crouching in a position that vets have told me are “pain positions.” I also pressed on her lower left stomach and she growled at me, which she never does. She’s still supper cuddly, loves peoples affection, but I am worried that it’s going to get worse. I am planning on taking her into the vet tomorrow for x rays. I believe this happened three days ago. How long is too late? I don’t want the string to poke through her intestines again, she will not survive it.

Sept. 12, 2018

Millie's Owner

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Boo

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DOMESTIC

dog-age-icon

3 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Sleepiness

4 month old kitten started vomiting every few hours 4 days ago & stopped passing stools. Vet gave anti nausea & waited but no stool & vomiting continued when Med wore off. Last night possible intussusception, emergency surgery, necessary. Day 4 (today) just passed large stool, personality returned but still exhausted. Was treated for roundworms. Had tapeworms & treated as well last week successfully. Should we still be on emergency/intussusception or consider another answer for illness?

Sept. 9, 2018

Boo's Owner

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Shay

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no breed

dog-age-icon

10 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Stool Blockage

Please i need some advice on my cat. The vet did an x-ray and said he has a tumor obstructing his bowls. Most likely colon cancer. I don't know what to do as neither of my options sound like a good outcome. Either try to shrink it with high does of steroids or surgery that they just don't sound like the outcome is going to be good either way.

Sept. 5, 2018

Shay's Owner

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Cinnamon

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Ginger cat

dog-age-icon

5 Months

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting, Nose Is Dry & Not Eating

Hi. I have a 5 month old male ginger cat. He ate some chicken bones and now has a intestine blockage. I am trying to keep him hydrated but he just keeps throwing up. I dont have the money to surgically remove the rest of the bones. There are 3 left. They are very small but causing alot damage. Please can somone help me to find a natural remedy to help get these bonrs out.

Aug. 26, 2018

Cinnamon's Owner

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0 Recommendations

In these cases, there is no ‘at home’ options available for you and administering anything to help gastrointestinal mobility will cause more problems; you should visit a Veterinarian regardless of cost whether it is a general Veterinarian, charity clinic or other organisation. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 26, 2018

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FB

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Turkish Van

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Critical severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Critical severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargic

Our 10 year old cat is extremely active. Last week, he was leading the charge to go run around in the snow in our rear deck. Really healthy and energetic cat. 3 days ago, he became extremely lethargic out of the blue. We took him to the vet and he had a temp of 105.6. They gave him fluids and sent him home. We brought him back today because he had not improved. Not eating, laying around, not himself. The temperature had not gone down, so he is now on IV fluids and is staying overnight. The ER vet said the radiologist said the X-ray showed possibly carcinomatoma in the intestine, which could be cause a leak, and thus the high temperature. Liver values and bilirubin are also elevated. We are beyond shocked at the preliminary diagnosis . We have lived through a cat with lymphoma and the signs were very slow and progressive. We are concerned there may be something else going on. The only change to his environment is we got a Christmas tree last weekend, our first tree we have had. We did notice him underneath the tree a day before the lethargy started, and he vomited up a lot of bile in an extremely violent and loud way. Pine needles were in the bile. The vet seemed to dismiss this right away, and said that pine needles are not capable of puncturing the intestines. but after reading online, we are concerned there could be a puncture or blockage. While the cancer diagnosis may be true, we find it strange that he had zero symptoms, healthy appetite, normal stools...to having such severe symptoms that would not be related to something more acute, like ingesting the sharp pine needles. The ultrasound is scheduled for tomorrow, which should tell us more. Curious if anyone has experience with the pine needle issue, and if there are opinions on this. We want to make sure we are giving him the right treatment.

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Cole

dog-breed-icon

domestic short hair

dog-age-icon

2 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Not Eating Regular

My cat swallowed a piece of yarn approx 4-5 inches in length. He did not show any signs of blockage except that his eating habits have changed slightly. He has had a bowel movement every day and is very playful when he wants to be. There has been no vomiting. I spoke with his vet and they don't seem overly concerned that there is a blockage and I was told that an xray or sonogram would not show anything. It has been a full week since the incident occurred, so I'm not sure how concerned I need to be. The cat is just shy of his 2nd bday

dog-name-icon

Einstein

dog-breed-icon

long hair

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

Im not aire this is what he has but my cat got into the pantry and atethrough the packaging( and some of the actual packaging) for the hseba snack stics we had for him. Thi occured about 10 days ago. Since then over the las t 5 days he has been vommitting about 3or 4 times a day( cnsisting of mainly bile and a few(5to 20 pellets of dry food) activity still the same , as far as i can tell hes dtill pooping and eating.

dog-name-icon

Toki

dog-breed-icon

Domestic shorthair

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lethargy
Vomiting
Stopped Eating

Just wanted to give anyone looking for advice some hints on how to know when there is a potential that you cat has a serious medical issue. The two biggest tips I can give you are: 1. Know your cats individual personality. If your cat has a drastic change in behavior that's usually a sign of something serious. Toki is extremely active, loves to run around and play. He is also a demanding eater. Meaning he will meow and beg for food all the time. So when he didn't get up for his meal we knew something had to be wrong. He had thrown up earlier in the day and was laying around not playing either. However, those two alone didn't make us worry enough to be concerned. But when those two symptoms were combined with his complete disinterest in food; we knew we could be facing a serious issue. 2. Always be observant and check on your cat: If you don't do this you may not catch a serious condition until it gets to an advanced stage. This is why I discourage automatic feeders, infrequent feeding and automatic litter boxes. One of the easiest way to catch something serious early is by doing these things yourself. This is because cats that love to eat (which is most cats) that stop eating completely is one of the best signs of something serious being wrong. We feed our cats 3 times a day so we can always be on top of any issues they may have. So we rushed Toki to our vet. Its a good thing we did because he had a complete blockage of his intestine. He had swallowed a metal object big enough to block off his entire intestinal system. Luckily, since we caught it within hours of him swallowing the object; he is expected to make a full recovery without any complications. Surgery and ongoing observation (overnight stay at 24 hour vet so he can be monitored) ran us a bit over $1,600. But it was well worth it to know he will make a full recovery. Intestinal blockage is right behind urinary tract blockage as one of the most serious and time sensitive conditions a cat can have. If you even suspect they have this condition DO NOT waste any time and take your cat to the vet even if its the middle of the night.

dog-name-icon

Shankar

dog-breed-icon

Cat

dog-age-icon

3 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting

My cat named Shankar.. didn't eat and drink water for last day, just drank some milk and vomited soon, when I touch his stomach it was paining, I thought it would be ok within some time, but everything went wrong in the early morning he was crying and the floor of my flat somewhere some urine or motion slightly reddish, I took him to hospital but in the front of doctor table he was coughed twice and passed away it age is just 3yrs only, postmortem has done waiting for report with full of tears on eyes. The surgeon assistant said that his under stomach totally ruined, reason for undigested food or something.. waiting for report. Sorry Shankar I couldn't help to survive and save you.. forgive me dear.. Giri Chennai

Intestinal Obstruction Average Cost

From 484 quotes ranging from $500 - $2,500

Average Cost

$1,200

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