Any problem that interferes with the passage of intestinal
contents through the GI tract results in a blocked bowel. The most common cause
is a gastrointestinal foreign body. Other causes are tumors and strictures of the
small and large intestines, adhesions following abdominal surgery, navel and
groin hernias, and intussusception-a condition in which the bowel telescopes in
upon itself, much like a sock pulled inside out. On occasion, obstruction of
the colon may be caused by a fecal impaction or tumor. An intestinal blockage
can be partial or complete.
Partial or intermittent obstruction, such as that caused by a
tumor or stricture, may cause signs that come and go. These include weight loss
and intermittent vomiting
or diarrhea. Tumors tend to
occur in older cats, and most of them are
malignant. They often become large before being discovered, usually by feeling
a mass in the abdomen.
Shedding is a cat’s natural process of losing dead hair. Outdoor cats may lose more hair in the spring and fall and retain more fur in the winter, while indoor cats can shed all year round. Regularly grooming your cat and vacuuming hair from your house should minimize the inconvenience of shedding. However, if you see bald patches in your cat’s fur or notice a significant loss of hair, the underlying cause may be a health-related problem and should be investigated by a veterinarian.
Signs of complete blockage include sudden pain, vomiting
without relief, dehydration, and
swelling of the abdomen. When the blockage is in the upper small bowel, the
vomiting may be projectile. Blockages in the lower GI tract cause abdominal
distension and the vomiting of brown, fecal-smelling material. Cats with
complete obstruction pass no stool or gas through the rectum. In general, cats
with lower bowel obstruction are less sick than those with upper intestinal
Treatment: Intestinal obstruction leads to death unless
treatment is instituted immediately. The cat’s condition is most urgent when
there are signs of strangulation or interference with the blood supply to the
bowel. This is characterized by sudden distress, an extremely tender, boardlike
abdomen, shock, and prostration. Surgical exploration and relief of the
blockage is necessary. Strangulation requires immediate surgery. A dead segment
of bowel must be removed and the bowel restored by an end-to-end hookup. There
are often complications associated with these surgeries.
WebMD Veterinary Reference from "Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook"