Diagnosing Constipation in Cats

Constipation in cats may occur due to mild gastrointestinal conditions or due to more severe health concerns such as cancer. Constipation involves infrequent bowel movement and dry stools difficult to pass during excretion. Cats with mild constipation may be treated with prescribed medication. However prolonged constipation, also known as obstipation could eventually cause megacolon if not treated promptly. Megacolon is severe constipation that leads to intestinal enlargement. Since cat's mask symptoms of discomfort or illness, pet owners should monitor pets that exhibit one or more of the following symptoms.

Symptoms of Constipation in Cats Includes:

  • Straining to defecate
  • Infrequent bowel movement
  • Dry stools and decrease in the amount of stool passed
  • Loss of appetite
  • Frequent licking of the anus

Diagnosis of Constipation in Cats

The cause of constipation varies and diagnosis will reveal the type of underlying cause present. Known factors that cause constipation include, cat hairballs, intestinal tumors, hypothyroidism, dietary inadequacy and side effects of certain medication. To diagnose constipation the vet will perform a physical examination and make note of the cat's previous medical history. The abdomen is palpated to detect internal swelling or enlargement. Additional tests include blood chemistry tests and urine analysis. An x-ray and ultrasound will reveal internal abnormalities such as tumors or inflammation. Tumors detected in the digestive tract are subjected to biopsy or fine needle aspirate testing.

Other Diagnostic Tests Include:

  • Urine analysis
  • Complete blood count test
  • Thyroid test
  • Colonoscopy

Treatment of Constipation in Cats

The treatment varies according to the severity of constipation present and the underlying cause involved. There are several commercial diets available to relieve constipation in cats. Most diets contain a source of fiber that facilitates easy movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract. Cats on an increased fiber diet should also consume sufficient water. Pets suffering from megacolon require hospitalization to eliminate hard feces with the help of enema. Although all laxatives may not be beneficial to cats, certain stool softeners and laxatives prescribed by the vet help relieve mild constipation. Commonly prescribed laxatives include lactulose solution and lax'aire for cats. Surgical intervention may also be necessary for cats that don't respond well to oral medication. Surgical intervention involves a procedure termed as colectomy.

Prevention of Constipation in Cats

Cats susceptible to frequent constipation benefit from food that's easily digestible and rich in fiber. New diets should be introduced gradually to prevent dietary intolerance. Cats suffering from hairballs should be fed diets such as the Hill's diet, hairball control food or lubricants that push hairballs out of the digestive tract. Pet owners may also flavor fresh water to encourage cats to increase water consumption. Some pets may suffer from idiopathic constipation or constipation that has no known cause. Cats suffering from idiopathic constipation require long term dietary modification and control. The symptoms of constipation are often confused with feline urinary tract infection (UTI). Since UTI is fatal if not diagnosed promptly, pet owners should take the cat for a vet check if constipation persists.

Pet owners should also monitor cats suffering from constipation as delayed treatment increases the cat's risk of developing severe conditions. It's best to avoid over the counter drugs to treat digestive problems and identify the primary cause of constipation.