1. If your pet is lethargic, painful, feels warm to touch, is vomiting or off food, or has a distended abdomen, seek veterinary attention immediately.
  2. If your pet is otherwise bright and well and eating and drinking normally, you can add fibre to the diet (for example, ¼ – ½ teaspoon of bran or psyllium husk, or mashed pumpkin), or alternatively use a commercial high-fibre diet.
  3. Where fur balls are suspected, Πteaspoon of cod liver oil or a dose of a commercially available paraffin-based pet laxative once a day for three days may aid in the passage of stool.
  4. Seek veterinary attention if your pet fails to pass a stool within 24-48 hours, or if your pet shows any signs of being unwell.
  5. DO NOT GIVE ENEMAS SOLD FOR USE IN HUMANS TO YOUR PET UNLESS PRESCRIBED BY A VETERINARIAN AS THESE ARE POTENTIALLY HARMFUL.

WHAT IS IT?

Constipation is defined as reduced, absent or painful defecation. Obstipation refers to intractable or incurable constipation.

CLINICAL SIGNS

  • Failure to produce stool for more than one day
  • Small amounts of very hard, very dry stool
  • Straining to defecate – occasionally may produce a small amount of liquid faeces
  • Vocalising when attempting to defecate
  • A red, sore bottom
  • Rubbing of the bottom on the ground, “scooting”
  • Rectal prolapse
  • Flatulence
  • Fever
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Inappetence
  • Vomiting

CAUSES

Causes of constipation can be categorised as primary gastrointestinal disorders and secondary causes.
Primary gastrointestinal disorders may be caused by:
Dietary: change in water content of diet.
Gastrointestinal foreign bodies: foreign bodies in the colon or rectum, such as fur balls, may cause obstruction.
Gastrointestinal disorders: most commonly reduced gastrointestinal motility (ileus) or megacolon (a disorder seen in older cats).
Medications: some medications, such as opioid analgesics or cough medicines, are associated with constipation.
Cancer: masses associated with the rectum, anal glands or perianal region can prevent.
Examples of secondary causes include:
Fractures of the lower spine or pelvis, nerve trauma or damage, arthritis of the spine and/or hips, any condition causing generalised weakness, perineal hernias, dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, environmental changes such as litter box changes, inactivity.

TREATMENT

Treatment depends on the underlying cause. Your veterinarian will perform a full physical examination including a rectal exam, and in some cases x-rays or imaging. Dehydrated animals may require intravenous fluids.

A manual evacuation or enema may need to be performed under anaesthetic.

Your veterinarian may also recommend blood and urine tests to evaluate overall health of your pet.

Short or long-term medications to soften stool or increase gastrointestinal motility may be prescribed. Pain relief may be required, particularly in animals with a history of trauma or signs of arthritis.

In cats with megacolon, surgery may be recommended to remove the diseased section of colon.

REFERENCES

Washabau RJ (1999) Pathogenesis, diagnosis and therapy of feline idiopathic megacolon. Veterinary Clinics of North America Small Animal Practice 29(2):589-603.