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What To Do When Your Cat Is Constipated

What Is Cat Constipation

Cat Health : How to Know If Your Cat Is Constipated

Constipation is defined as infrequent or difficult defecation. This may mean hard stool large, uncomfortable pellets or no production of poop at all.

Cat constipation is a short-term problem. If your cat continues to be constipated, it can become obstipation or even megacolon, which is the advanced stage of chronic cat constipation that is often nonresponsive to medical management.

Always take your cat to the vet if they are straining in the litter box. The underlying cause could possibly be serious or deadly if untreated.

Treating Cats With Constipation

Though some constipation issues are mild and can be treated with changes to diet and lifestyle, along with at-home remedies, some may be severe and need the attention of your vet. Serious issues may become emergencies.

Constipation must be treated as soon as possible to decrease the risk of permanent damage as a result of prolonged distension of the colon.

To treat constipation in cats, the underlying disorder must be identified and if possible, corrected.

Impacted feces should be removed and recurrences prevented. It is considered a veterinary emergency when your cat can’t pass urine or feces or is experiencing pain when passing urine or feces. First, your veterinarian may run any required diagnostic tests, then provide fluids or an enema for immediate relief, and prescribe medications or recommend over-the-counter meds.

A qualified veterinary professional can safely and effectively perform an enema for your cat – NEVER attempt to do this yourself – some types of enemas designed for humans are toxic to cats.

If your cats constipation is long-term or if your kitty is suffering from obstipation , they may have megacolon, which is an enlarged intestine due to a defect in the colons muscle strength.

Cats with chronic constipation or megacolon that do not respond to medical treatment may need to have the section of the large intestine thats affected removed.

At-Home Remedies For Cat Constipation

These at-home remedies may help to relieve your feline friends constipation:

When Should I See A Full Service Veterinarian

You should definitely take your cat to a full-service veterinarian or urgent care if you notice any of the following:

  • It has been more than 48 hours since your cat has defecated

  • Your cat has not eaten or had water for more than 48 hours

  • You see blood in your cats stool

  • Sustained vomiting

  • Your cat stops grooming

  • Any signs of abdominal discomfort

Cat constipation can also be an indication of a different, potentially serious, underlying problem. You may need to have your cat examined by a veterinarian in the case your kitty needs more intensive care such as enemas, surgery or receiving fluids. By conducting a thorough physical examination and discussing your cats symptoms, your veterinarian will be able to decide what additional tests may be needed.

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Ask Your Vet About Over

The following over-the-counter products may treat symptoms of constipation, but make sure to consult your veterinarian before giving any new supplements or medications to your cat.

There are several types of laxatives that work in different ways. Most over-the-counter options work by causing the body to pull more water into the intestines, which helps soften the stool so its easier to pass.

Because they pull water into the intestines, laxatives can make other symptoms worse for cats with underlying chronic diseases, causing dehydration. You should ask your vet if theyre a good option for your cat.

Miralax is commonly used in cats with constipation, and Colace is also an option. Other laxatives that are designed for people can cause issues for cats.

Oil- or grease-based laxatives like Laxatone should only be used if a vet recommends them and should not be used long-term, as they can affect a cats ability to absorb nutrients from their food.

Enemas And Laxatives May Be Administered

What to Do If Your Cat Is Constipated

After hydration, laxatives may be prescribed to help the cat begin to pass the stool. Enemas can be used to directly hydrate and lubricate the stool that is stuck in the colon.

Over-the-counter enemas available in pharmacies should not be used in cats, since many contain ingredients that are toxic to cats. Many cats will tolerate enemas with minimal sedation, but a full disimpaction will require general anesthesia and is pursued only when other methods have failed.

Some cats with severe megacolon may require a surgery called a subtotal colectomy to remove the affected area of the colon to prevent painful recurrences. This is a major procedure that is reserved for only the most severe cases.

Once the constipation is addressed, your veterinarian will discuss measures you can take at home to prevent your cat from becoming constipated again, including encouraging more water intake, dietary changes, supplements, and possibly medications like stool softeners, laxatives or motility drugs .

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What Is The Long

The long-term outlook varies according to the cause of the constipation however, most cats can be adequately managed without surgery and resume normal, healthy lives. For cats that require surgery to correct megacolon, the prognosis is good.

Contributors: Malcolm Weir, DVM, MSc, MPH Ernest Ward, DVM

Why Is My Cat Constipated

There are numerous reasons why a cat may be constipated. Some of the more common include dehydration lack of exercise eating a low-fiber diet or intestinal blockages. Often constipation is simply the result of a cats natural hairballs. While hairballs are not generally harmful they can cause constipation if they become lodged in the intestines. If your cat is constipated you may notice that he or she is straining to defecate meowing in pain or has not defecated in several days. If you notice any of these signs it is important to take your cat to the vet for an examination.

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Common Medications For Cat Constipation

Medications that veterinarians rely on when treating cat constipation include lactulose, a non-digestible synthetic sugar that acts as a stool softener. Lactulose works by pulling water into the intestines, which makes it easier for things to move, Wallace explains.

Another is Miralax, an over-the-counter laxative and stool softener. Miralax is available in a powder, which Wallace says works much like lactulose. Though pet parents may be able to get Miralax over the counter, Wallace asserts that they should not administer it before consulting with a veterinarian.

Are There Risks Resulting From Constipation In Cats

Is Your Cat Constipated? A Vet Explains How to Help

A cat that experiences chronic constipation is at risk of developing other conditions, especially in the digestive tract.

According to PetMD, one of the common severe conditions is Megacolon. The name encompasses any condition that causes the colon to get abnormally enlarged.

In the case of constipation, the cat retains more waste products in the body and therefore the colon expands to handle the waste material.

Over time, the cat may suffer from obstipation, a condition where severe constipation blocks the passage of feces and gas.

Many of the cats acquire the condition from repeated constipation while others are born with the condition.

Those born with the condition lack the smooth muscle function in the colon that pushes the fecal matter down the digestive system.

If megacolon goes untreated for prolonged periods, a condition called distention may occur. Distention is irreversible colon inertia where the colon stops its smooth muscle function of contracting and expanding to push the fecal matter to the rectum

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It Could Actually Get Worse

Cats who are chronically constipated may develop megacolon, a serious condition in which the colon diameter becomes so distended that the tissue loses its ability to move contents along. In those cases, surgery may be needed to remove that segment of the digestive tract.

Thats why its a good idea to keep your eye on the litter box and seek veterinary help sooner rather than later.

Treatment Of Cat Constipation

Treatment may vary depending on the underlying cause, but the ultimate goals are to remove backed-up stool, give the cat some relief, and prevent recurrence.

When you bring your cat to the veterinarian for suspected constipation, your vet will discuss your cats history and perform a physical examination. They may be able to feel the stool through the abdomen when it is palpated, but this is more challenging to do in overweight cats.

Your vet may recommend abdominal radiographs to get a visual of the colon and intestines and determine just how much stool is backed up. Radiographs may reveal underlying causes for constipation like megacolon or obstruction.

Fluid supplementation is an important part of treating constipation in cats. Fluids may be injected under the skin to be absorbed slowly so that your cat is fully hydrated. Sometimes hydration alone is enough to treat constipation.

In mild to moderate cases of cat constipation, your vet may prescribe a laxative or stool softener to help your cat defecate. Your cat may be able to pass stool again a day or two after starting the medication.

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Diagnosis Of Constipation In Cats

The first step is to bring your pet to the vet if you notice any signs of constipation.

Sometimes problems with defecating can be confused with issues in the urinary tract. Remember to answer accurately to every question that your veterinarian may have and check the litter box before going to the vet. The medical history is crucial to diagnose constipation and the underlying cause.

Your vet will perform a medical examination. Your veterinarian may also conduct:

  • Pelvic and abdominal X-rays: to diagnose Megacolon and look for traumas caused by injuries.
  • Further tests: urine and blood analysis to rule out underlying conditions like renal failure.

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How Do I Know If My Cat Is Constipated

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A typical cat will defecate from 24-36 hours, so if your cat is pooping less frequently and has difficulty, your cat might be constipated.

Dry and hard stools

A normal poop looks rich and brown, and it contains enough moisture so the litter will stick into it. When you see that the stool is dryer than usual, your cat is constipated. Usually, these hard-looking stools are found outside the litter box because when your cat finds it hard to defecate, it will leave the litter box before it has finished its business.

Crying or straining out in pain in the litter box

When your cat is crying out in pain whenever it defecates, it is a hard sight to see. Observe whether it goes on and off the litter box several times before using it as well. A urinary tract infection can cause this alarming sign of discomfort. If this is the case, bring your cat to the vet for further examination.

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Tips For Helping Constipation At Home

Water intake

If your cat is experiencing a bout of constipation, one of the most effective things you can do is increasing their water intake. Ensuring that their hydration is as good as possible will help prevent the stools from drying out and lubricate their passage through the bowel. There are many ways that you can encourage your cat to drink more water, including using water fountains, extra water bowls, and running taps. However, if your cat wont be persuaded to drink more, you can try feeding them wet food and even adding extra water to their food.

Litter boxes

Cats are very clean creatures, and if their litter box is dirty or they have to share it with other cats, they may choose to hold their feces. To avoid constipation, its essential that your furry friend feels free to go whenever he needs to. Therefore, keeping litter boxes clean and providing more than one litter box per cat is important to keep your cat toileting stress-free.

Reduce stress

Your cat might also avoid passing poop for as long as possible if they are feeling stressed. This could be from other cats, building work, a new baby, or anything that impacts your cats normal routine. Using anxiety-reducing sprays, diffusers, or plug-ins can help keep your cat feeling calm.

If your cat is prone to constipation, you can increase their water intake and reduce their stress to help stop flare-ups.

How To Help A Constipated Cat

If your cat is severely constipated , she requires veterinary care.

Colonic obstruction can be mild or it can be very serious . When feces remains in the cats body for too long, the cat will eventually become extremely sick. Left untreated, cats can even die from constipation.

Prolonged constipation may result in severe fecal impaction as shown in this X-ray.

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Potential Causes Of Constipation In Cats

Constipation can occur if your cat’s digestive system isn’t able to move things through their intestines normally. Factors contributing to your cats constipation might include:

  • Not enough fiber in their diet
  • Pain or other issues in the spine
  • Anxiety or stress
  • Excessive grooming
  • Dry food diets
  • Kidney issues
  • An obstruction such as bones or string blocking the colon
  • Arthritis pain
  • Feline megacolon
  • Narrow places, tumors, or other problems inside the colon
  • Perianal disease
  • Chronic diseases such as hyperthyroidism, diabetes, or kidney disease

Though elderly cats experience constipation more often than kittens, the condition can develop in cats of any breed or age who eat a low-fiber diet or dont drink enough water.

Best Way To Help A Constipated Cat Poop Again

Is Your Cat Blocked or Constipated?

Take him to your vet. There! Easy! The Cornell Feline Health Center indicates a vet will evaluate your cat’s hydration levels, assess overall health, and eliminate other possible clinical causes.

Another reason why a professional exam is the best remedy for cat constipation is if the condition is more serious, the vet team takes immediate action. “Constipated cats may need an enema at the vet clinic to help them defecate. This is a liquid that softens and lubricates the passage of feces,” Anthony says. “Some cats can get so ‘blocked up’ that they are unable to move the stool. This is called obstipation and requires fecal extraction by a doctor under sedation/anesthesia.”

There are home remedies for cat constipation that you’ll probably find online, and your vet will likely recommend the safest and most effective options. “Often, adding fiber such as pumpkin or psyllium and/or stool softeners can help, as will increasing dietary moisture with canned food or low-sodium broths,” Anthony says. “No changes should be made prior to visiting a veterinarian, however, as dietary recommendations should be made with the whole cat in mind.”

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What Are The Causes Of Constipation In Cats

Dehydration due to an underlying illness such as

  • Inflammation/infection

Diet, including quality, consistency , fiber content

Decreased water intake

Litterbox location, cleanliness, type of litter

Stress due to changes in the household. For example, a new person or pet introduced to the household, moving, home renovations, etc.

Overweight, lack of exercise

Side effect from a medication

A foreign body such as string, bones, sewing needles, etc. stuck in the intestine

How Are Constipation And Megacolon Diagnosed

In most cases, a diagnosis of constipation can be made on the basis of the cat’s clinical signs and medical history. Affected cats usually strain unsuccessfully to defecate, and may cry in pain. Any feces passed are hard and dry. The cat may also show signs of lethargy, reluctance to eat, abdominal pain and distension, and vomiting.

Unless your cat is obese or tense, your veterinarian can often palpate or feel the accumulated fecal material in the colon. Further tests may be needed in order to diagnose the cause of the constipation. These may include abdominal and pelvic radiographs to look for pelvic injuries, colonic strictures , or tumors, as well as bloodwork and urine testing to look for underlying disease conditions that can contribute to constipation. Radiographs are also the primary test for the diagnosis of this condition.

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Treatments For Cat Constipation

While you can treat some mild constipation issues at home with lifestyle and diet changes, as well as some at-home remedies, other cases could be severe and require veterinary attention. Serious issues may become emergencies.

Constipation has to be treated as quickly as possible to decrease the risk of permanent damage as a result of prolonged distension of the colon.

The underlying disorder must be identified and if possible, corrected, in order to treat your cat’s constipation.

Impacted feces should be removed and recurrences prevented. Pain when passing urine or feces, or the inability to pass urine or feces is considered a veterinary emergency. First, your veterinarian may conduct any required diagnostic tests, then provide fluids or an enema for immediate relief. If needed, they may also prescribe medication or recommend over-the-counter remedies.

A qualified veterinary professional can safely and effectively perform an enema for your cat – NEVER attempt to do this yourself – some types of enemas designed for humans are toxic to cats.

If your feline companion’s constipation is long-term or if your cat is suffering from obstipation , they might have megacolon, which is an enlarged intestine due to a defect in the colons muscle strength.

Cats with chronic constipation or megacolon that do not respond to medical treatment may need to have the affected section of their large intestine removed.

At-Home Remedies for Treating Constipated Cats

How Do You Treat My Cats Constipation

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1. Changing your cats food

Changing to a high fiber diet in the form of canned food is important for the long-term management of constipation in cats. Ideally, this new food should be high in soluble fiber, which is important for increasing water into the stool, and is highly digestible/fermentable. With cat constipation, I prefer canned food however, not all cats will eat that! If your cat only eats dry food, please know that there are high fiber, prescription dry cat foods too. Remember, when it comes to cats, diet changes should occur very slowly to allow them plenty of time to acclimate. Psyllium products can also be sprinkled onto food, but keep in mind that some cats wont eat readily.

2. Fluid therapy

Whether given under the skin or in the vein directly , this is an important way of helping hydrate your cat and restore some moisture into the feces. This is also why its so important that your cats water intake is enhanced by providing clean, fresh water at all times!

3. Stool softeners

There are several types of stool softeners used in cats. These can be over-the-counter or prescription . When in doubt, always check with a veterinarian first prior to using these as they can cause secondary side effects .

4. Enemas

5. Prokinetics

These are drugs that help the gastrointestinal tract contract more. These are prescription medications from your veterinarian such as cisapride , metoclopramide, and ranitidine. Cisapride is thought to be the most effective.

7. Surgery

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