The symptoms of intestinal blockage vary according to whether the blockage is complete or partial, and the treatment for the blockage depends on the cause. Intestinal blockage is always a veterinary emergency -- get your cat to a vet, stat, if you suspect a blockage.
Symptoms of Intestinal Blockage
Feline intestinal blockage doesn't always produce symptoms early on, although some cats do experience bloated stomach. If a blockage is not remedied immediately, a cat can experience appetite loss, constipation, lethargy and low body temperature. They might vomit brown material that smells like feces. Serious symptoms are more likely to appear in cats with upper intestinal obstruction; milder symptoms are common with obstruction in the lower part of the bowel.
Causes of Intestinal Blockage
Many things can cause intestinal blockage, but blockages often occur from the ingestion of foreign objects. Intestinal tumors can cause obstructions, as can certain hernias and complications of abdominal surgery. Although less common, fecal impaction -- when feces become too hard and cannot pass -- can also lead to obstruction.
Partial vs. Complete Obstruction
Partial obstructions can be harder to identify than complete obstructions because partial obstruction symptoms can come and go. A cat with a partial obstruction might have intermittent diarrhea or vomiting. He might lose weight even though he eats normally. Full obstructions affect cats more severely -- they can cause severe vomiting, abdominal distension and pain. Full intestinal blockage makes it impossible for a cat to defecate.
Treatment for Blockage
The course of treatment for intestinal blockage in a cat will depend on what caused the blockage. Partial blockages caused by fecal impaction might be solved through the use of laxatives but, in most cases, intestinal blockage requires surgery. The surgery is sometimes exploratory -- such as when a foreign body or cause for the blockage cannot be identified via X-rays. If a foreign object or tumor is discovered during exploratory surgery, the vet will perform surgery to remove it.