Illustrated Articles

Cats + Surgical Conditions

  • Mast cells are a type of white blood cell that plays a large role in allergic response through degranulation. Mast cell tumors (MCT) can occur in the skin, spleen, or gastrointestinal tract of cats. Their cause is unknown; however, many affected cats show a genetic mutation in the KIT protein involved in replication and cell division. Cutaneous MCTs most often appear as hard pale/white plaques or nodules, often around the head and they may be itchy. Splenic MCTs cause decreased appetite, weight loss, and vomiting. Intestinal MCTs may cause GI upset and bloody stools, and a mass may be palpable. Diagnosis is typically achieved via fine needle aspirate although histopathology can be used. Treatment usually requires surgical removal of the masses or the spleen. Sometimes, chemotherapy or radiation is needed.

  • If the nerves to the colon do not function normally, the muscles of the colonic wall will not contract properly. The muscles then become stretched and the colon enlarges in diameter. Rather than being pushed into the rectum in a normal manner, fecal material accumulates in the distended colon, resulting in severe constipation called obstipation. This massive enlargement of the colon and the resulting constipation is called megacolon. Megacolon is often treatable using a medical approach but some cases require surgical intervention called subtotal colectomy.

  • Muscle tears are direct or indirect traumatic injuries that cause damage to muscle tissue. The most common cause is an indirect injury or strain caused by overstretching during athletic activities, such as running or jumping. This handout discusses muscle tears in cats and reviews the causes of these injuries, the clinical signs, diagnostic testing, therapy, and expected prognosis.

  • Polyps are benign fleshy growths that originate from the cells lining a cat's nasal passages, leading to a variety of clinical signs such as sneezing, difficulty breathing, and recurrent ear infections. The various diagnostic tools and treatment approaches are explained in this handout.

  • Nasopharyngeal polyps are benign idiopathic masses originating from the middle ear that extend either down the eustachian tube or into the external ear. They can cause stertor, nasal discharge, otitis, otic discharge and head tilt. Diagnosis may involve visualization through otoscopic exam or behind the soft palate, but usually needs radiographic evidence or more advanced imaging such as CT or MRI. Treatment involves debulking the mass through traction which has a high rate of recurrence, or more advanced surgery into the bulla to remove the source of the polyp.

  • Rarely, ovarian tissue can be left behind when a cat is spayed. This leads to the ongoing secretion of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone that can result in a cat continuing to have a heat cycle. Ovarian remnants are difficult to diagnose but vaginal cytology combined with hormone testing can be used to confirm the presence of functional ovarian tissue. Surgical treatment is typically recommended to prevent other health conditions from developing.

  • Oxalate bladder stones are composed of a mineral called calcium oxalate. Over the past 40 years the incidence over oxalate bladder stones has increased in cats. Cats are more likely to develop oxalate stones when their urine contains high levels of calcium and oxalate. In some cases, this is also associated with high blood calcium levels. Additionally, a low urine pH promotes the formation of oxalate stones. Bladder stones can cause significant inflammation and irritation of the bladder wall. Signs may include frequent urination, straining to urinate, blood in the urine, and urinating outside of the litterbox. Treatment of oxalate stones usually requires surgical removal, known as a cystotomy or less commonly may be removed via a process known as cystoscopy. Your cat will require ongoing management.

  • The ductus arteriosus is an arterial shunt between the aorta and the pulmonary artery. Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a heart defect that occurs when the ductus arteriosus fails to close down at birth. If the ductus arteriosus fails to close properly after birth, the difference in pressure between the pulmonary artery and the aorta means that the blood will take the path of least resistance and flow from the aorta through the patent ductus arteriosus into the pulmonary artery, needlessly recirculating this oxygenated blood back to the lungs. The larger the PDA is, the more blood will be shunted through it, causing more significant signs. A PDA will usually be diagnosed when your veterinarian hears a continuous heart murmur during a routine physical examination of your kitten. The goal of treatment for a forward flowing PDA is to stop the blood flowing through the shunt. Your veterinarian will refer you to a veterinary cardiovascular surgeon, who will determine the optimal treatment for your cat. Provided that the condition is treated before heart failure develops, the success rate associated with surgical closure is very high and the prognosis for a normal life after surgery is excellent.

  • Penetrating wounds can look minor on the surface but may cause severe injury below the skin. A thorough assessment requires sedation or anesthesia and surgery may be required to address the extent of the injury. This handout outlines first aid steps a pet owner can take while transporting their injured pet to the veterinary hospital.

  • A Penrose drain is a latex tube placed into a wound with one or two ends exiting the skin to passively remove unwanted fluid, usually from abscesses or open wounds. This handout provides post-operative wound care instructions for cats sent home with a Penrose drain.