Goals of Treating Cats with Constipation
The goals of treating constipation in cats are to clean out the colon, reestablish the cat’s normal hydration, correct any identifiable underlying cause of the condition and, hopefully, prevent it from recurring in the future.
Treatment Options for Cats with Constipation
The treatment options for constipated cats depend on why the cat became constipated in the first place. If an animal is only occasionally and mildly constipated, dietary supplementation with high-fiber, bulk-forming ingredients such as flax seed, wheat bran, rice bran or canned unsweetened pumpkin can be quite helpful in moving things along. Administration of laxatives, and giving one or more enemas, may also be recommended by the cat’s attending veterinarian to “clean out the proverbial pipes”. Good supportive care - with appropriate intravenous or subcutaneous fluid therapy, electrolyte supplementation, pain management drugs, anti-inflammatory medications and possibly antibiotics – can be quite helpful to constipated cats, again depending upon the underlying cause of their condition.
Owners can increase their cats’ water intake (and help resolve dehydration) by feeding canned or soft food instead of or in addition to kibble. Canned cat food is much higher in water content than dry kibble, and it is difficult if not impossible to force a cat to drink water when it chooses not to. Other ways to increase a cat’s hydration status are to add beef or chicken broth, or even water, to their dry food diet. Cats with moderate to severe constipation may need to be put on prescription medication, in addition to fluid management and dietary changes. Stool softeners, lubricants, laxatives, suppositories and drugs that promote large intestinal motility and movement of stool are all available. Some of these products shouldn’t be used in cats that have intestinal obstructions, so they should always be used under a veterinarian’s supervision. Most constipated cats should be encouraged to be active and move around a bit, which can help “unclog the pipes.”
When constipation is caused by an impaction in the colon, the situation can deteriorate rapidly and become a real life-threatening emergency. Abdominal surgery may be necessary to remove the source of the impaction and save the cat’s life. These cats will need to be hospitalized for at least a few days following surgery.
Prognosis for Constipated Cats
Constipated cats have a variable prognosis, depending upon the cause of their condition. In most cases, medical attention, supportive care and regular follow-up management will relieve the cat of its discomfort, with a fair to excellent long-term prognosis. Of course, if constipation is caused by cancer, an anatomical abnormality or some other underlying medical disorder, the prognosis will be more guarded.
Cats with mild constipation usually can be treated symptomatically by modifying their diet and increasing their water intake. Moderate to severe cases may require prescription medications and/or enema treatments, in addition to dietary and fluid therapies. Sometimes, surgery may be necessary to remove impacted fecal matter that is preventing the cat from evacuating its colon.