Mr. Calhoun called at 7:05 am on Thursday morning and spoke with our receptionist, Nancy. Nancy’s been working at our hospital for almost 20 years and knows just about everyone who has a dog or cat in the area.
“Good morning Mr. Calhoun, how is Casper doing?” Nancy said when she recognized Mr. Calhoun’s voice on the other end of the line.
“That’s why I’m calling so early Nancy”, said Mr. Calhoun, “I’m really worried about him.” “He’s been doing fine, but since last evening he’s been meowing and crying non-stop. I don’t know what’s wrong with him.”
Casper is a pure white cat adopted from our clinic 3 years ago. His mother was found as a stray cat, pregnant and in terrible shape. We nursed her back to health and one month later she gave birth to 4 kittens in our hospital: 3 black and white female kittens, and one white male kitten, Casper.
Nancy could hear the loud, painful meows from Casper on the other end of the phone line. “You’d better bring him right in Mr. Calhoun. Dr. Vince should be here by 7:45 and will get him checked out” Nancy said.
I walked in the front door of our animal hospital after dropping my daughter off at elementary school. I heard Casper’s yowling and immediately had a pretty good idea what was wrong.
As I examined Casper I asked Mr. Calhoun what kind of food he fed Casper and if he had seen him urinate at all last night or this morning. “Well, I don’t feed him anything special”, he said, “just dry food from the grocery store. He never goes outdoors so he uses a litter box. He’s always been very good about his litter box. No accidents I mean. However, starting 2 days ago he’s been urinating all over the place and he’s been going into the litter box almost every 10 minutes since last night.”
I gently pushed on Casper’s belly and could feel the problem. His urinary bladder was extremely full, rock hard and painful. Casper was “blocked”. I explained to Mr. Calhoun what the problem was and what we needed to do. “Casper can’t urinate. We need to pass a catheter and relieve the blockage”, I explained, “then he should feel a lot better. We will keep him overnight so we can make sure everything is OK.”
After taking Casper from the exam room to our treatment room, I gave him an injection of a sedative which takes affect in about 15 seconds. Usually it is very easy to pass a catheter and relieve the blockage. However, this was not one of those times. I spent the next 10 minutes, with help from my technician Katie, attempting to pass a small catheter and flushing Casper’s urethra with saline. A lot of sandy material slowly worked its way out from the bladder and urethra. This is often the cause of a urinary blockage in cats. I was thinking I was close to having this problem solved when I firmly pushed on the catheter as Katie pushed on a syringe full of saline, connected to the catheter. With one final push I felt the blockage give way, but the catheter slipped out of my hands and was shot backwards into my shirt as a steady stream of Casper’s urine followed onto my recently cleaned and ironed shirt. I’ve learned over the past 20 years that things like this happen a lot, so I always make sure I have a clean shirt on hand. However, it’s common for us veterinarians to leave the office in the evening smelling a lot like our patients.
When Casper awoke from the sedation, we could tell he was a much happier cat. We gave him IV fluids for the next 24 hours as he comfortably and happily went to his litter box every 2-3 hours without any difficulty or crying.
Mr. Calhoun came in the next day to take Casper home. “What caused this problem, Doc?”, he asked.
“Well, I wish I could tell you but we really don’t know for sure. This is a very common problem in cats but no one has been able to figure out the cause. We do know how to prevent it, though. I need for you to feed Casper a special diet for the rest of his life.”
“That’s not a problem, Doc, I definitely don’t want Casper to have to go through this again”, said Mr. Calhoun.
2 days later I called Mr. Calhoun to check on Casper. He told me he was doing great, urinating fine in the litter box, eating the special food, but he didn’t seem crazy about it. Being that Casper weighed about 16 pounds I told him it wouldn’t hurt him to eat a little less food.
8 months later I arrived at work one Monday morning and found Mr. Calhoun sitting in our feline waiting area with Casper. “What’s wrong with Casper, Mr. Calhoun?” I asked.
“Oh, I think I messed things up”, he said. “I ran out of the urinary food Saturday evening and you were not open. So, I went to the grocery store that night and bought regular cat food until I could get his special food from you this morning. But, last night he started going in and out of the litter box every 10 minutes again. I’m worried he’s blocked again.”
Once in the exam room, I felt Casper’s urinary bladder. Fortunately, it was small and just a little tender. I gave Casper an anti-inflammatory injection and we watched him closely for the next several hours. By 3 o’clock that afternoon he was urinating normally and seemed very comfortable. We sent Casper home with Mr. Calhoun and an extra large bag of his special food. Needless to say, Mr. Calhoun now always keeps an extra bag of special urinary diet food for Casper. He is a believer in the phrase: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Dr. Vince writes the column “Tales from the Vet” for “This Week in Peachtree City” newspaper which is available online at www.fayettedailynews.com.
The Animal Medical Clinic
405 Highway 74 North
Peachtree City, GA 30269