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C2003-45

Dear Christopher Cat

Sebastian, my 10-year-old cat, has been constipated a few times. Each time, the veterinarian gives him an enema and he’s fine.

The vet says we need to change Sebastian’s diet and give him medications. He even mentioned possible surgery. What’s the big deal about constipation?

Christopher Responds

If it is not addressed, recurrent constipation in cats usually develops into a serious disorder called feline megacolon.

Megacolon is characterized by – you guessed it – a huge, dilated, flaccid large intestine that is no longer able to move digested food along the gastrointestinal tract.

Sometimes cats become constipated because their kidneys are unable to conserve water. When that happens, the body draws water from the colon, leaving hard, dry stool.

Other cats become constipated because the muscles lining the colon lose their normal motility.

Blood work, urinalysis and abdominal radiographs (x-rays) will help your veterinarian determine the cause of Sebastian’s constipation and recommend appropriate treatment. Whatever the cause, it’s important to begin treatment now to prevent megacolon.

Common therapies include a high-fiber diet (or a low-residue diet for cats that do not respond to high-fiber foods), increased water consumption, laxatives and stool softeners, and medications to increase the motility of the colon.

To increase water intake, feed canned food mixed with water. Encourage Sebastian to drink water by giving him a pet water fountain (I love mine!) or by adding broth to his water.

If these measures fail to prevent megacolon and severe fecal impaction continues, your  veterinarian may talk with you about surgically removing part of the colon.

But I’m sure Sebastian would prefer to prevent megacolon, so implement your veterinarian’s recommendations today.

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