Less poop to scoop out of the litter box... what’s not to like about that? The truth is that cats need to defecate regularly, so changes in litter box habits can indicate a potentially serious health problem.
Constipation (the abnormal retention of feces within the colon) is a relatively common problem in cats. Cats can become constipated for many reasons including diet, dehydration, tumors, infections, injuries, medications, and intestinal, metabolic and neurologic disorders. Without treatment, constipation can lead to obstipation (blockage and distension of the colon with large amounts feces), which is a life-threatening condition.
"When a cat becomes constipated for the first time and is otherwise healthy, it is reasonable for owners to try some home treatment before making an appointment with a veterinarian."
Diagnosing Constipation in Cats
Cats that are constipated typically have some combination of the following symptoms:
- Straining to defecate
- Pain while defecating
- Producing small amounts of hard fecal matter that may contain blood
- Loss of appetite
- Abdominal discomfort
- Paradoxically, some constipated cats may drip small amounts of liquid feces leading their owners to incorrectly assume that they have diarrhea
A veterinarian can usually diagnose constipation based on the results of a physical exam and abdominal X-rays. Determining the condition’s underlying cause may require blood work, a urinalysis, abdominal ultrasound, and other diagnostic tests.
Treatment and Prognosis
When a cat becomes constipated for the first time and is otherwise healthy, it is reasonable for owners to try some home treatment before making an appointment with a veterinarian. Giving Laxatone or a similar product orally will lubricate the intestinal tract making it easier for the cat to pass feces. Increasing a cat’s water intake can also help soften stools. Feed a canned food and mix in some extra water for a few days to give it a soupy consistency. Also, make sure that a clean bowl of water is available at all times.
If a cat does not begin to defecate normally within a couple of days of initiating home treatment or constipation becomes a recurring problem, veterinary care is necessary. The doctor will diagnose the underlying cause of the cat’s condition and initiate treatment with some combination of fluid therapy, stool softeners (e.g., lactulose), enemas, and medications to enhance muscular contractions within the wall of the colon. If necessary, he or she will manually remove the impacted feces.
Prognosis for constipated cats is generally good with appropriate management, although some individuals require long-term treatment with special diets and medications as well as the occasional enema to keep them comfortable. In extreme situations (e.g., advanced megacolon), surgically removing the non-functioning portion of a cat’s colon is the best way to promote a relatively normal lifestyle for cat and owner alike.
A personalized treatment plan offers the best chance of successfully managing recurrent and/or severe constipation. Talk to your veterinarian about the best option for your cat.
The above is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of any condition.
This information does not cover all possible variables, conditions, reactions, or risks relating to any topic, medication, or product and should not
be considered complete. Certain products or medications may have risks and you should always consult your local veterinarian concerning the treatment of
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