Constipation in Cats – Difficulty with Bowel Movements

Constipation can be defined as an abnormal accumulation of feces resulting in difficult bowel movements. This may result in reduced frequency or absence of defecation. The feces are retained in the large intestine or colon. Since one of the functions of the colon is water absorption, the retained feces become hard and dry, which makes fecal passage even more difficult. Constipated cats strain in an attempt to defecate resulting in abdominal pain. Some constipated cats may pass small amounts of liquid feces or blood.

What causes constipation?

Factors associated with causing constipation include:

Hairballs, especially in long-haired cats.
• Ingestion of foreign bodies.
• Obstruction caused by tumors, strictures or masses compressing or blocking the large intestine.
• Pelvic injuries resulting in a narrowed pelvic canal.
• Damage of the nerves, which cause the colon to contract. This may develop after trauma or may be part of a more generalized neurological disease.
• In some cases, there is no obvious cause identified.

Constipation is a condition seen most commonly in middle-aged and older cats.

What is megacolon?
This term refers to a dilated and weak colon that causes severe constipation. Megacolon may be seen as a primary entity or following long-term constipation. When the colon becomes distended with fecal material over a prolonged period of time, its ability to contract may be reduced or lost resulting in megacolon.

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. 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 and vomiting.

Further tests may be needed in order to diagnose the cause of the constipation and these may include abdominal and pelvic x-rays to look for pelvic injuries, colonic strictures or tumors. X-rays are also the primary test for the diagnosis of megacolon.

How can constipation and megacolon be treated?
Treatment varies depending on the cause of constipation. If an obstruction such as a colonic tumor is present, surgical treatment may be performed.

About the Author:
This article was supplied by Elizabeth Hodgkins DVM – All About Cats Health Center
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