Constipation is common, particularly in older cats. It indicates an underlying illness that interferes with the normal passage of stool, often as a result of dehydration. Treatment allows for the stool to pass or be removed, but recurrence is expected unless the underlying condition is corrected. In some cases, constipation can develop into chronic difficulty defecating. Veterinarian investigation is warranted immediately, especially if other symptoms appear, like weight loss, blood in the stools, loss of appetite, or lethargy.
Constipation can also be an indicator of a condition that affects the animal’s mobility.
Constipation may occur as a side effect of some medications.
Sometimes constipation is caused by something as simple as matted or dirty fur blocking the anus. It can also occur following ingestion of a large amount of indigestible material, leading to GI foreign body obstruction.
Some cats become constipated in response to major stressors like being boarded or hospitalized.
Depending on the duration of the symptom, the severity may vary. In mild cases, it might be a symptom of dietary issues or dehydration. Drinking more water or consuming high-fiber foods or medications (e.g. laxatives) may lead to a quick recovery.
If the constipation is severe or chronic it is necessary to consult a veterinarian as it may develop into more serious conditions such as megacolon or obstipation.
There are a variety of tests to determine what is causing constipation as well as the underlying condition leading to it, including:
Once the root cause is determined, removal of the fecal mass, if present, is often the next step, either via enemas or laxatives. In case of dehydration, the next step is intravenous fluid therapy.
To relieve constipation laxatives and stool softeners may be prescribed. Nutritional therapy is also important. Failing to address the primary source of constipation will likely lead to recurrence, which often develops into more serious complications over time. In severe cases (e.g. megacolon) it may be necessary to surgically remove the affected portion of the colon.
Constipation is often confused with straining to urinate.