It might seem as though it's normal for cats to have hairballs, but it isn't. Hairballs are one of the first signs that your cat is at risk for an intestinal obstruction. If your cat has been diagnosed with this condition or you've done your research and are worried that your cat might be experiencing this problem, here's what you can expect when you bring your cat to the vet for it to be treated.
Diagnosing an intestinal obstruction for a vet is often as easy as simply palpating your cat's belly. Vets can often detect a blockage by doing this because built-up hair or other foreign objects that your cat has eaten will form a tight knot in the intestines, stretching them and preventing them from flexing normally.
If your vet doesn't find anything through palpation or wants to do a different test, they can do so by running an ultrasound test. This test is painless and uses ultrasound waves to look at the inside of your cat's body. An image will appear on a screen and your vet can use that to take pictures and determine if there is indeed a blockage, and if so, where.
If a blockage is detected, in most cases, surgery is required to get it out. Early on, hairballs can be avoided and hair can pass safely through the intestines with medication, but if a blockage is already in place, it needs to be removed.
Your veterinarian will perform surgery to accomplish this. Your cat will be put under general anesthesia and a veterinary technician will ensure that your kitty is breathing normally during the procedure.
Your vet will open up your cat's abdomen and access the area of the intestine where the problem is. The blockage will be pulled out, and any nearby hair or foreign bodies will also be removed. Then the intestines and belly will be stitched shut again and your kitty's surgery will be complete.
Once your cat is blockage-free, they may need to spend some time at the veterinarian's office. This is to ensure that they have a clean, safe place to recover, with regular wound cleanings and IV antibiotics. This is your cat's best chance to keep bacteria and viruses at bay so that your kitty doesn't develop a post-op infection.
Once your cat has rehabilitated enough at the vet's office, they'll be ready to come home. Your vet will provide instructions to keep your cat comfortable and to ensure that their wounds are healthy and clean. Follow the directions very carefully and make sure to call your vet's office if anything abnormal happens or you have questions or concerns.
An intestinal blockage can be life-threatening for cats, but thankfully vets have the tools and technology they need to take care of them. If you think or know that your cat has this condition, don't put off getting help. Make an appointment with a veterinary surgical service and plan on your cat having surgery.