Tigger is a 7-year-old female mixed dog who came to WVRC Waukesha in the middle of the night due to not being able to urinate. Tigger was previously diagnosed with bladder stones, and she was on a prescription diet to try and break down the stones. Unfortunately, one of those stones became lodged in her urethra! That is what led to Tigger and I meeting.
What is an Urethral Obstruction?
Urethral obstruction is a blockage in the lower urinary tract that impedes urine outflow. It’s a medical emergency and requires urgent veterinary care. In cats and dogs, urinary obstructions can happen for various reasons, such as stones, severe infection/inflammation, masses, blood clots, foreign objects, etc. Male animals have a narrow urethra and thus are at greater risk for urinary obstructions, but obviously it can still occur in females like Tigger.
Why an Emergency?
Urinary obstructions require immediate medical attention due to the associated complications: electrolyte abnormalities causing arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), azotemia (increased kidney values), urinary tract infections, bladder atony (dilated and nonemptying), and bladder rupture.
How do you know your pet has an Obstruction?
Dogs and cats commonly show signs that you might expect to see with a urinary tract infection. They may urinate more frequently, strain to urinate, have blood in their urine, or lick at their vulva/penis excessively. When they become obstructed, they may become lethargic, vomit, vocalize, stop eating, or become restless. If you see any of these signs, please have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian.
What should you expect if your pet is Obstructed?
The veterinarian will perform a physical exam and assess the bladder. If the veterinarian confirms that your pet has a urethral obstruction, they will move quickly to unblock it. Ideally, an EKG (electrocardiogram) will be performed to assess for arrhythmias, blood work performed to assess electrolytes and kidney values, urinalysis performed to see if there is an infection or crystals, and abdominal radiographs taken to look for stones. Most animals will require heavy sedation or anesthesia in order to unblock them. If they have bladder stones, surgery will likely be recommended to remove the stones, although some bladder stones will dissolve over time with a change in diet.
Back to Tigger
Tigger was very obviously obstructed on her physical exam and very uncomfortable, as you can imagine! We took an abdominal radiograph of Tigger and found that she did have a stone stuck in her urethra and numerous stones in her bladder. Her blood work was normal as well as her EKG. She was put under general anesthesia, and the stone in her urethra was pushed back into her bladder. She was then taken to surgery, and all of her stones were removed and submitted for analysis. She recovered well and went home stone-free and comfortable with her loving pet parents the next day!