Constipation is the infrequent passage of stool and/or straining to defecate. The feces may be hard or just firmer than normal. Recurrent constipation can lead to Obstipation which is the term used for severe, persistent constipation. The colon, which is the end or terminal portion of the large intestine, becomes dilated and enlarged. Stool retained for abnormally long periods of time and gets extremely hard. Obstipation may require surgical intervention to bring the cat relief. Nerve damage to the colon resulting from repeated bouts of constipation may be the underlying cause.
Constipation is a sign of disease not a disease itself.
* Very large hairballs form masses called Trichobezoars which are a leading cause of constipation in cats.
* Certain cats with obsessive behavioral disorders may groom themselves excessively. Siamese cats are prone.
* As opposed to dogs, dietary indiscretion is unusual in cats but certain eating disorders involving ingestion of wool and other fibers may cause constipation.
* Chronic Kidney Failure in older cats results in dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Dehydration causes the colon to absorb more water from the feces which makes harder stool.
* Anal Sac problems including abscesses are painful and cats may be reluctant to defecate as a result.
* Certain medications like antidepressants, diuretics, antacids and anticonvulsants can cause constipation as a side effect.
Strain to defecate
WHAT YOU AND YOUR VET CAN DO
* If owners only notice cats “straining” or making multiple trips to the litter box and there is no stool or urine apparent in the box, constipation may not be the problem. The cat may be straining to urinate which is a true emergency and immediate veterinary intervention is required.
* Simple mild episodes of constipation in an otherwise healthy cat may often be successfully managed at home.
* Fluids are important to maintain hydration and are often overlooked. Increase the cat’s fluid intake by making a thick broth of chicken, turkey, beef or liver, and add a few drops of soy sauce for taste.
* Increase fiber – fiber is not absorbed. It adds bulk to the stool which stimulates the colon to contract and expel the feces.
Fiber Sources include:
* Fine bran: 1/8 tsp added to each meal
* Stewed prunes or prune juice: ½ Tsp added to food
* Metamucil, Konsil and Siblin are commercially available: add ½ Tsp to meals.
* Plain Pumpkin Filling: place 2 tablespoons in a separate dish and leave out
* Prevent obesity by increasing exercise and feeding several small meals
½ tsp of melted butter or 1 tsp baby food vegetables added to meals helps soften stool
For recurrent constipation
* Changing to a diet with higher fiber levels of up to 10% fiber may help prevent recurrences.
* Enema – using Gentle Dragon may be advocated by some vets
* Certain medications– stimulate the motility or the ability of the large intestine to contract and expel stool. These should only be used under veterinary advice.
* Severe chronic cases of obstipation may require surgical removal of the diseased colon. The procedure is called a Subtotal Colostomy and permanently cures most obstipation cases.
* Zinc – 5 milligrams per cat daily
* Vitamin C – Powder 250 milligrams twice daily
* Indicated only for obstipation (cats with severe, recurrent, persistent constipation)
* Use one treatment only
* 2 whole or 3 pellets crushed to powder and placed on tongue
* No food 1hour before or after treatment
* Wait 30 days to see improvement.
Psyllium husks (plantago ovata) is labeled under the name Vetasyl
* Use the ground, loose herb and add 1/8 tsp to meals
* Psyllium stimulates the intestine to absorb water which softens the feces and promotes stool passage.
Excess dietary fiber can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb certain minerals including zinc, calcium, iron, and phosphorus. It can also lead to other nutritional deficiencies.
Fiber should be used under veterinary supervision
* Most commercial cat foods contain less than 5% fiber
* Increase the fiber gradually at a rate of 5 to 10% every 14 days and reevaluate the bulk of the stool to determine the proper amount of fiber needed.
* Using a high fiber breakfast cereal to increase dietary fiber is a better choice than using pumpkin. You may use smaller amounts of cereal as opposed to pumpkin to resolve the problem. Cereal is also a source of other beneficial nutrients whereas pumpkin is 90% water.
* A vitamin mineral supplement added to the diet avoids any deficiencies resulting from the additional fiber.