So you think life in a veterinary clinic would be a dream job; getting paid to play with puppies & kittens all day! Well, though I would agree with you that I do think it is a dream job, there are parts of the job you may question my definition of “dream job”.
This week we had a senior cat come into the animal hospital as he was straining in the litter box. Easy diagnosis – constipation! Right? Well probably, but cats will strain with diarrhea, urinary issues, as well as constipation. But, yes, you are correct this poor boy was constipated. On exam and radiographs he had a very full colon.
Now the colon is meant to store stool and can in fact actually store several weeks of stool, but for a healthy cat there should be 1 to 2 bowel movements every 24 hours. And a cat should never go more than 48 hours between bowel movements. With recurrent and prolonged constipation cats can loose the elasticity of the colon, and it becomes like your favorite old sweater that is all stretched out of shape. When this happens the colon can no longer contract and do its job of moving feces. We have had a few cats at FVAH that have gotten to this stage and actually had to have their colon surgically removed.
Signs that you may see if your cat is constipated…
*straining in the litter box
*crying in the litter box
*small hard dry stool
*small amount of liquid in litter box, may contain mucus and/or blood
So why do cats get constipated anyway?
*too little exercise
*not drinking enough water
*swallowing too much hair when grooming
*foreign material such as string
*too much or too little fiber in their diet
*anxiety – such as aggression from another cat around the box, new home
*dirty litter box
*electrolyte imbalance (low calcium, low potassium)
So how did we treat our constipated patient?
As like most things in life there is never one right answer for every cat. Every cat needs to be treated as an individual; the first thing is to do in any case is to diagnose any underlying conditions and correct them. Our boy did have some changes in his blood work, kidney issues. So besides his enema, we corrected his electrolytes and improved his hydration. We also put him on a medication to help improve the contractility of his colon and altered his diet. As he did have some arthritis we also made sure to address his discomfort and mobility.
Keeping your cat regular!
One of my frequent saying is an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So what can you do at home to keep your cat’s colon happy? (Who knew that would ever be a question you might ask?)
- GROOM. Brushing your cat daily to minimize hair ingestion. As well, especially if you have a long hair cat, regular use of a fur-ball laxative can help the prevention of the formation of fur-balls that can lead to both vomiting and constipation.
- PARASITE CONTROL Now with topical Profender it is easy to make sure your cat stays free of intestinal parasites. For a healthy pet it is recommended that your outdoor cat be dewormed every 3 months.
- BOX HYGIENE! You don’t want your cat holding his feces because he would prefer not to use his box!
- BOX NUMBER? Always have one more box than you have cats so as to avoid “sand-box conflicts”.
- WATER! Make sure your cat drinks plenty of water. Need hints on how to get your cat to drink more? Check out… https://www.fvah.ca/2015/03/24/8-steps-to-help-your-cat-drink-more-water/
- EXERCISE! You may be saying to yourself, with a sarcastic tone, at this very moment – RIGHT?! Well if you need some hints on how to get your cat to exercise more check this out… https://www.fvah.ca/2014/12/19/10-tips-to-get-an-indoor-cat-to-exercise/
- DIET. Talk to your veterinarian about what is the best diet for your cat. Depending on her stage of life, activity level, and medical issues your veterinarian can help you choose an appropriate diet. For some cats the addition of canned pumpkin can help keep them regular.
Now we wish all our patients – Happy Pooping and a Healthy Colon!!