Constipation in Cats: Time To Get It Out

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Constipation in Cats

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What is Constipation?

Constipation is a term used to describe the conditions of abnormal bowel movements. More specifically, it refers to the accumulation of feces in the colon or rectum (lower large intestine connected to the colon). As feces remain unmoved in the colon, the water is absorbed out of them. This makes them hard/solid and results in difficult or infrequent bowel movements.

Removal of feces is a crucial part of detoxifying the body. Normal, healthy cats typically have around one to three bowel movements a day. When the number of bowel movements drops to zero, thats when you should be questioning whether your cat has constipation.

What are the Causes of Constipation in Cats?

There are many different causes of constipation in cats. Some are more common while others are more severe. We have listed some causes below:

  • Dehydration (most common) see our cat technology reviews on cat fountains
  • Hairballs causing blockages
  • Obesity (more common in obese cats)
  • Unkept litter tray (if constantly dirty your cat might be reluctant to use the box)
  • Kidney disease (leads to dehydration)
  • Diabetes
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Adverse reaction to medications
  • Arthritis (in older cats, makes squatting down more painful, causing them to hold onto their feces for longer)
  • Tumors in the intestine (e.g., lymphoma)
  • Trauma (could be from severe injury)
  • Megacolon this is when the large intestine starts to malfunction it can lead to constipation or worse, obstipation (severe/complete blockage of the large intestine with feces)

What are the Symptoms of Constipation in Cats?

Cats affected by constipation might display the following symptoms:

  • Significant less or even no defecation (expelling of feces)
  • They display painful behaviors when attempting to defecate (e.g., crying out/making noises or visibly straining)
  • There is a lack of feces found in the litter box
  • If feces are present, they will be: small, hard and dry
  • Sometimes they will expel small amounts of liquid feces with either mucus or blood in it (sign of infection)
  • Some cats may vomit
  • Lethargy (lack of energy)
  • Lacking appetite

How is Constipation in Cats Diagnosed?

Diagnosing constipation in cats follows a number of different steps. These first three vital steps are:

  1. Noticing the symptoms listed above
  2. Taking your cat down to your local vets
  3. A veterinary expert will conduct a physical examination of your cat (abdominal palpation feel for blockages)

After this, there are many different diagnostic methods used. These are:

  • Blood tests
  • Blood chemistry analysis
  • Urinalysis (this, and the two tests above, are completed to find out whether your cat has a urinary tract infection)
  • X-rays (confirm that there is a blockage which has led to constipation, and to inspect the condition of the colon)
  • Ultrasound (to investigate whether there are tumors causing constipation)
  • Colonoscopy (a procedure that invasively looks at the inside of your cats colon to examine the condition)
  • Biopsies (extract a piece of tissue for further microscopic investigation of causes)

How is Constipation in Cats Treated?

Since constipation in cats can be caused from a range of different conditions, both mild and severe, it means that treatment must be approach from different angles depending on the specific case. We have listed some possible treatments below:

  • Rehydration this can be done through dietary changes recommended by your vet (e.g. high in fiber)
  • Intravenous fluid therapy if your cat has been seriously affected and their blood tests results show that they are lacking necessary chemicals and electrolytes
  • Medication stool softeners and laxatives are the most common, pain medication may also be administered
  • Enema injection of fluid into the rectum to soften the hard stool that will allow them to pass (do not attempt at home without consulting a veterinarian)
  • Instrumental removal if medication and enemas have proven unsuccessful, your cat may have to be anesthetized (made unconscious) while a veterinarian uses instruments to remove the solid feces from the colon manually
  • See kidney disease page for treatments related to this cause
  • Surgical removal procedures this is in the case of megacolon (it very rarely reaches this stage)

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