Cat with urinary blockage - urethrostomy decisions and vet bills...
July 11, 2016 12:47 AM   Subscribe

Hello everyone, My 10yr old cat Charlie developed a urinary blockage tonight and I rushed him to the emergency vet. Turns out he needs bladder surgery and possibly perineal urethrostomy. Has anyone been through this and did it turn out ok?

I just lost my other cat to cancer 3 weeks ago and am really afraid of losing Charlie too :(

Upon doing some research, it sounds like the PU surgery is usually only done after several blockages but x-rays show that he has a stone lodged IN his urethra that the vet thinks may not be able to be flushed out. He seemed perfectly healthy until tonight, not even any UTI's and hes been on Royal Canin urinary support diet since that's what the other cat was on.

I hate that money has to be a factor as well, but I just spent 1k on the other cat before losing him, and have already spent another 2k tonight on getting Charlie unblocked. The surgery(s) will be another 2k. There's a chance he may have to be referred to a specialist at which point I don't even want to imagine how much it would cost. :( The vet at the emergency clinic is supposed to call me tomorrow morning to let me know if they think he needs to see a specialist.
Any creative suggestions on how to pay for vet bills or negotiate payments welcome (I already applied for the Care Credit).

Sorry if this isn't the most coherent question, I'm really worried about getting him through this in the best way possible, and hopefully without spending my entire savings since my job is precarious at the moment. Thanks!
posted by seraph9 to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
Best answer: Wow, not only have I been through this exact thing, but with a cat named Charlie, as well. He was about 6-7 when this happened.

Due to stress (and I suspect food high in struvite crystals), he developed a blockage, which he was not able to work through. I think I had him unblocked at the vet at least five times over the course of a month. The poor guy was having a hard time. There was no other option for relief aside from the PU surgery, at that point.

As for funding the PU surgery, I was actually able to setup a GoFundMe page as I had JUST moved apartments under duress and was extremely low on savings. A few friends who had used it to help save their pets recommended it and promised to help. It actually worked out well. It's not something I'd normally consider, and I won't be insulted if you say that idea is off the table, but Charlie had a lot of friends who were glad to help.

He's TOTALLY back to normal now and because of the surgery, can never have the problem again (he had a blockage once before, when he was very young, but worked through it).

I hope everything works out well for you both! Please feel free to ask/MeMail me any further questions you might have about the surgery and after care.
posted by destructive cactus at 1:26 AM on July 11, 2016


About the price - from what I remember, it cost ~$1500 (though I think they were giving me a discount after all the money I had already spent), so the price you were quoted doesn't sound wrong. They brought a surgeon in who had done the surgeries before, but was not 'certified' to do it. A certified specialist would have cost $3000 or more, they told me.
posted by destructive cactus at 1:31 AM on July 11, 2016

Best answer: Oh, sweetie. You (and your kitty) are having a tough time. I'm sorry.

I was going to suggest Care Credit. My cat was sick and I was broke, and Care Credit took care of it and then set up monthly payments I could actually afford. As far as trying to convince the vet to cut you some deals, I think you have to just be honest about your situation and ask if there's any flexibility on the prices. It's never fun to ask for stuff like that, but if you need to ask, don't be ashamed of it. You're asking for the sake of getting your cat the best care you can!

Do you have some sort of training or experience that could be useful to a vet's office? If so, maybe you can barter. If you have any experience with social media or marketing, as random examples, maybe you could help them out with that stuff. Think of the things you can do, and how they could possibly be of use to a vet's office. Maybe you could volunteer to come in for a few weekends and help wash the dogs or take them for walks or something. Maybe you could pass out flyers for the vet at some event. It may feel weird to ask, but I bet they've gotten weirder offers.

Wishing your cat a speedy recovery!
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:42 AM on July 11, 2016

I'm sorry.

My sister's cat went through this a few months ago, at age four-ish. They flushed more than once, but the lining of the urethra was so inflamed that eventually their only choice was a urethrostomy.

Given the quality of life the animal would have had after that point, they took the decision to let him go. I don't think she made a bad decision.

I suggest a serious "what can we expect afterwards" discussion with the vet. Focus on the likelihood of infections and incontinence.
posted by Leon at 4:32 AM on July 11, 2016

My kid who is a vet surgical assistant says cats live long and happy lives after these types of surgery. She suggests NOT getting a specialist who will cost more if you trust the vets you've already met; this is a fairly common surgery and most vet surgeons can do this, which will save you money. Ask the vet.

She also suggests moving him to more wet food; male cats who eat wet food get far less crystals. And she did a GoFundMe to pay her own horse's vet bills; people were very supportive.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 5:46 AM on July 11, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone,

I got his x-rays sent to my regular vet to see if she can do the surgery. Would still be expensive, but less than 2k.

I'm pretty sure this must be due to stress. We just moved to a new apartment a month ago and then three weeks ago his best friend had to be euthanized (although I guess to Charlie, he just disappeared).

I don't feel right doing a GoFundMe when I technically do have the money, it's more a situation of how much of my savings can I responsibly sacrifice when my job could be gone at any time and I wouldn't get much unemployment. Maybe in that case, I could do a GoFundMe for ME although Charlie is much cuter! After this I think I need to get pet insurance or find him another home with someone more financially stable. My mom already thinks I'm spending too much and should put him down :/

Anyway glad to hear people have had good results, although the potential incontinence is worrying.
posted by seraph9 at 6:05 AM on July 11, 2016

AGREE that pet insurance is the way to go. We didn't have it with our previous cat who ended up with multiple (and very expensive) issues, but it's the first thing we'll do if we get another cat. Good luck with your fur baby!
posted by cartoonella at 6:41 AM on July 11, 2016

My cat needed this surgery last year (he was 2 years old, recommended after his first blockage) and the surgery cost around $1800, plus the associated cost for the emergency vet. I also believe stress played a role in his condition (death of my dog and introducing a new puppy to the house leading up to the problem).

He's now 100% better but it took a few months before he was back to normal. He didn't want to eat for the first month after surgery and didn't like the transition from all dry free-feeding to getting scheduled feedings of wet food. I joke it was a full time job trying to get him to eat!

He's now on a prescription diet which is costly (around $44 for 24 cans of food, feeding one can a day) but if he eats normal foods he has blockage problems. I can get the food cheaper online but I feel that the veterinarians at the animal hospital I go to are great, so I try to support them by purchasing food and medicines from them.
posted by bCat at 7:15 AM on July 11, 2016

My cat had this operation and it's been several years since and he's doing really well he still needs to eat special food and I encourage him to drink lots of water by having a kitty fountain but he's happy and healthy and I'm glad I did it.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 7:54 AM on July 11, 2016

Just adding another testimonial that my cat had this done seven years ago, and he had a couple of UTIs after, but once he completely healed, he was fine. He was never incontinent after the surgery. I got a fountain for him, and he eats wet food every day. I free feed a little bit of prescription food, mostly to help clean his teeth. He's 11 now and has been very healthy. I've never regretted doing the surgery.
posted by gladly at 8:23 AM on July 11, 2016

My cat had this done when he was six and lived another ten years. He didn't have to go on a special diet afterward and had no real issues after the surgery. No incontinence and maybe one or two UTIs in the rest of his life. The health problems he developed in his final year or two were unrelated. I had to have it done at the emergency vet because my regular vet wasn't comfortable doing it (and frankly I felt fleeced by the whole experience, but that's a different story). I had to borrow money from my family to do it, but I felt his age and overall good health meant it was the right thing to do.
posted by percolatrix at 10:17 AM on July 11, 2016

Best answer: From a friend whose now 3 (I think) year old cat had this done:

"This is EXACTLY what I went through.
Sarek had multiple blockages and treated each one. It was a vet tech there who explained she had a cat that had a PU surgery and that was 5 years ago and he was happy as a clam and very healthy.
Recovery was relatively packs help relieve some swelling if the cat will lay for it. Be very timely on the pain meds...they help A LOT.

If I had to do it all over...would do so in a heartbeat!!!"

PM me if you need more info and I'll connect you two. She also offered to send photos of his incisions and answer any questions
posted by TravellingCari at 1:42 PM on July 11, 2016

I had this done 6 years ago for my then-three-year-old cat, after two blockages in quick succession, and he's honestly never looked back. I keep him on the RC urinary diet but we've never had a recurrence of any sort. I'm in Australia and I recall the cost being around $1500; it was worth every penny to see him recover and thrive with his new "plumbing". I hope that everything works out for you and your furry friend!
posted by snap, crackle and pop at 2:15 PM on July 11, 2016

Response by poster: So my regular vet thinks he MAY not need the perineal urethrostomy and is going to do the bladder surgery tomorrow. I hope not getting it doesn't mean he'll block up again though! (not sure I could afford it right away!)

I will definitely move to wet food and get one of these fountains you all are talking about it. I'm not sure what I can do to lower his stress since I can't bring his friend Spike back :(. Maybe I need to spend more time staying home with him like a proper crazy cat lady.

Anyway, thanks everyone and I'll post an update tomorrow on what happens!
posted by seraph9 at 2:40 PM on July 11, 2016

Our Tuxedo had the bladder surgery last year (all of his stones were in his bladder so no reason for the rest). The recovery was slow, and he is still a very skinny version of himself who does not love his canned prescription food and eats it begrudgingly, but he is otherwise a happy, healthy 14 year old guy who is just a great example of Cat.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:53 PM on July 11, 2016

Response by poster: Charlie got through the surgery fine and didn't need the perineal urethrostomy! Thanks again everyone for responding, you made me feel a lot better about a traumatic situation.

My vet was a bit perplexed that this happened even though he was on a urinary tract prescription diet and told me to just feed him canned food with extra water until the analysis on the stones comes back. For now going to focus on getting him de-stressed and taking in a lot of water.

The bill total ended up around $2500 which sucks but is doable with the Care Credit. I will be shopping around for pet insurance and recommending it to my pet-owning friends too.

Thanks again :)
posted by seraph9 at 2:27 PM on July 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

When my cat had kidney issues he wouldn't touch the prescription stuff, so our vet suggested we feed him regular cat food but with the lowest protein and ash content we could find. Our kitty ended up living a nice long life that way. It may be worth asking your vet if something like that could be good here.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:42 PM on July 12, 2016

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