Chronic Constipation in Cats

Chronic constipation can affect cats of all ages, breeds and sexes but it’s more common in older, male cats that belong to breeds such as Siamese, Domestic Shorthair and Domestic Longhair.

Chronic Constipation in Cats

Chronic constipation is a clinical sign of another condition and is characterized by difficult or infrequent passing of stools. The feces is retained in the large intestine or colon. Chronic constipation can lead to a condition known as megacolon that literally means big colon. The longer the feces remain in the colon, more moisture is removed from the feces by the colon.

This results in dry hard stools that are difficult to expel. Your pet might experience pain while defecating and strain to pass stools.

Causes of Chronic Constipation

Foreign bodies can cause obstruction leading to chronic constipation. Lumbosacral spinal cord disease can impair nerve function of the colon and lead to retention of feces in the colon and its subsequent distension. Narrowing of the pelvic canal due to an injury to the spinal cord can cause a blockage of feces and distension of the colon. Apart from this, congenital deformity of the spinal cord is another cause of chronic constipation in cats.

Symptoms of Chronic Constipation in Cats

Chronic cat constipation symptoms include:

  • Decrease in frequency of defecation
  • Difficulty in defecation
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Excessive straining while passing stools
  • Hard and dry feces
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of weight
  • Increased trips to the litter tray
  • Passing of fecal fluid that is mistaken for diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Anemia 
  • Distension of the colon

Diagnosis of Chronic Constipation in Cats

A medical history and a physical exam including a complete neurological exam can assist the veterinarian in diagnosing chronic constipation. Besides this, tests such as a complete blood count test, urinalysis, chemistry panel, thyroid tests and abdominal X-rays are performed. Barium series and a colonoscopy might also be recommended to diagnose chronic constipation. The blood test can help pinpoint underlying conditions such as kidney, bladder or liver disease and also electrolyte imbalance. X-rays can pinpoint problems associated with the pelvis, hips or spinal cord.

A neurological exam can help identify neurological causes of constipation such as trauma to the pelvic area or the spinal cord and any deformity of the sacral spinal cord. The barium series test and the colonoscopy can help identify abnormalities such as distension of the colon.

Treatment of Chronic Constipation

In cases of chronic constipation, a hyperosmotic laxative such as Lactulose can help the colon secrete more fluid and soften the stools. The pet should be fed a high fiber diet that would help the feces absorb more water and make the stools bulky. Fiber products such as Metamucil can be added to the food to help make the stools soft for easy elimination from the body.

In severe cases, surgery is required to remove feces and foreign bodies from the colon or to make the pelvic opening wider. Part of the colon may also need to be removed surgically. A low residue diet is helpful as it produces less waste that needs to be eliminated.

Untreated constipation can lead to chronic constipation and permanent distension of the colon. Hence, you should have your pet treated by a veterinarian as soon as you observe signs of constipation in order to prevent complications.