What is Urethral Shaft Abnormality?
Urethral shaft abnormalities include a narrow or completely closed urethra, a displaced urethral opening (on the underside of the penis in male cats), the presence of two urethral openings, urethral diverticula (inflamed pouches in the urethra that can cause pain), and an additional opening.
Urethral shaft abnormality is an umbrella term for an incredibly rare set of conditions that affect the location, development, or function of the urethra. These abnormalities may be congenital, or inherited. Additionally, many urethral abnormalities are observed in small male animals. This is because the urethral shaft in males is typically narrower than in females.
Symptoms of Urethral Shaft Abnormality in Cats
Symptoms may vary depending on the type of abnormality. However, incontinence is a common symptom of most urethral abnormalities. Other symptoms include:
- Blood present in the urine
- Difficulty or pain during urination
- Recurring urinary tract infections
- Urinating from both the urethra and the anus
- Urine leaking from the rectum
- Frequent grooming of the genitals and/or anus
- Swollen genitals due to urinary tract infection
- Urinating outside the litter box
- Frequent urination with little or no urine
If your pet is presenting any of these symptoms, it is important that you consult a vet right away.
Causes of Urethral Shaft Abnormality in Cats
The causes of urethral shaft abnormalities are not fully understood. As these conditions are anatomical, the causes of urinary shaft abnormalities are most likely due to genetics or birth defects.
However, the type of abnormality may indicate a cause, or may be connected to another condition, such as urethrorectal or rectovaginal fistulas. A fistula is a urethral opening in an abnormal location. The primary symptom of this condition is urination from the urethra and the rectum simultaneously. This condition has been observed in only two cats, one kitten aged male and one 10-year-old female. Fistulas are typically accompanied by stones in the urethra as well.
Diagnosis of Urethral Shaft Abnormality in Cats
The vet will conduct a preliminary physical examination of the urethra and anus to assess outward anatomical abnormalities. Be prepared to answer questions regarding your pet’s complete medical history as well as their current symptoms.
There are several tests your vet can run to determine whether or not your cat has a urethral shaft abnormality. Urinalysis, a urine culture, and cystocentesis – or the process of collecting urine directly from the bladder via a syringe – may be used to confirm urinary tract infections. Your vet can also perform a urethrography, a test which uses a contrast injection to highlight urethral abnormalities on an x-ray. If your cat is suffering from a urethrorectal or rectovaginal fistula, general anesthetic will be used so that a rectal examination can be performed.
Treatment of Urethral Shaft Abnormality in Cats
The course of treatment will vary depending on the type of abnormality your pet has. The vet will suggest customized treatment plans for your cat based on the abnormality, symptoms, and health history. Most urethral shaft abnormalities are typically treated with general anesthetic and surgery, in conjunction with traditional treatment methods for urinary tract infections. In most cases, surgery will cure the condition, also causing the urinary tract infections to stop.
In the cases of the two cats known to have been diagnosed with urethrorectal or rectovaginal fistulas, surgery was completely curative for the 10-year-old female and she was able to urinate normally. The cause was never identified. The young male kitten was not as fortunate; he was passing feces through his urethra and was euthanized due to complications from the condition. However, this is an extremely rare case, and the condition was congenital.
Recovery of Urethral Shaft Abnormality in Cats
Due to the rareness and range of urinary shaft abnormalities, there is no precedent set for recovery procedures. Your vet will recommend a recovery plan based on your cat’s specific needs and treatment. They may recommend changes to diet and exercise, in addition to prescribing pain medication to manage post-surgery discomfort. In most cases of urinary tract infections, antibiotics may be prescribed to manage symptoms if the infection is bacterial. If stones are present in the urethra, surgery will remove them. Certain diet changes may be suggested by the vet in this case.
Following surgery, it is important that you keep a close eye on your cat, particularly when they urinate. Ordinary urination should resume shortly after surgery. Ensure that the cat is not grooming or irritating the surgery site. You may observe urine dribbling or leaking from the urethra following surgery – this is normal, and should stop within a couple of days. Painful urination is also common within the first few days following surgery.
Your vet will likely schedule follow-up appointments to monitor your cat’s recovery. The vet will specifically look for signs of urinary tract infection and other types of urethral irritation.