Welfare of Cats 5 to 29 Months After Perineal Urethrostomy
Surgery is typically a last resort for male cats whose urinary tracts repeatedly get blocked, thus impeding their ability to urinate. These blockages are painful and potentially deadly if not addressed quickly, and treatment is costly.
Traditional medical care involves sedation and running a catheter into the bladder to remove the blockage. Once discharged, cats are switched to a canned and/or special diet to help prevent future blockages However, because the diet does not fix the underlying condition, cats can block repeatedly.
Blocking can alternately be treated through a perineal urethrostomy (PU) surgery, which removes the narrow portion of the male urethra and dramatically decreases opportunities for future blockages. This retrospective study evaluates the long-term quality of life in cats following PU.
Veterinarians from the ASPCA Animal Hospital (AAH) worked with researchers from Strategy & Research and the ASPCA's Midwest Office staff to investigate how well cats do in the home post-surgery.
"This cross-department collaboration shows how research continues to improve our work so that we can have a greater impact on more pets and their owners by helping other veterinarians provide accessible care," says Sharon Pailler, Ph.D., Director of Research.
This study comprised a retrospective case series of 74 cats with urinary obstructions that received perineal urethrostomies at the AAH between September 2015 and July 2017. Researchers surveyed owners by telephone and text between 5 and 29 months after their cat's surgery to determine the procedure's long-term effects.
After reviewing responses from the 74 cases where cats underwent PU surgery, researchers found:
100% of responding individuals reported at least the same post-surgery quality of life compared with the cat's quality of life before they had urinary problems
48% of responding individuals reported a better quality of life for their cat compared with the cat's quality of life before they had urinary problems
On a quality-of-life scale of 1-10 (10 = excellent), 100% of responding cat owners reported at least a 7, and 75% reported a 10
Offering the option of PU surgery, which prevents future blockages, improves clients’ access to veterinary care.
Study Takeaways & Access to Veterinary Care
Cats undergoing PU do well in the home after the surgery, providing evidence that long-term outcomes of the procedure are good. Findings from the study also suggest that earlier surgical intervention may be the best approach.
"Offering the option of PU surgery, which prevents future blockages, improves clients' access to veterinary care," says Sharon. "It's clear that cats do well after PU surgery, and the costs of PU may be akin to the costs of medically unblocking a cat."
In addition, pet owners avoid the risk of future blockages and the cost of treating future blockages if they opt for the surgery.
"It could make sense to pay for a procedure once and not have to worry about blockages anymore," says Sharon. "Fewer blockages mean lower treatment costs and, more importantly, less illness, pain, and risk of death to the cat. We suggest considering PU surgery as a standard tool to manage urinary obstructions in cats."