Pet Doc: Feline Megacolon
Question: feline constipation is todays topic. First what the first sign a cat that has constipation might show?
Answer: it’s what is not in the catbox that counts. Probably the first thing a cat owner notices is less stool or no stool in the catbox for several days. A few days later the cat will spend more and more time in the catbox with very little to show for the effort.
Question: what are some causes of feline constipation?
Answer: there can be a number of different problems that can lead to feline constipation: any foreign material that is in the intestinal tract that does not digest may lead to a blockage and constipation. Kinks and twits and growths will also create a physical obstruction to the lower intestine creating constipation. Dehydration may lead to a very dry stool which may cause the cat to become constipated. Megacolon is also fairly common chronic problem that causes constipation in cats.
Question: let’s talk about feline megacolon, what is it?
Answer: megacolon is a condition of persistent constipation and stretching of the colon which results in very large and hard stools. Megacolon is most commonly associated with cats but dogs can also develop it.
Question: what causes megacolon?
Answer: it can be a simple case of constipation that does not get relieved and eventually the colon is stretched out, the stool continues to collect, eventually to a point that the stool is too large and hard to be passed. Sometimes the nerves to the colon are damaged so the colon muscles cannot contract to push the stool out, which is probably the most common cause of feline megacolon. There are also cases of megacolon that are caused by cats that for some reason or another have a smaller than normal pelvic canal, which the colon passes through on its way to the rectum. The smaller opening may not allow a normal sized stool to readily pass through, which eventually leads to megacolon. Whatever the cause the end result is a very large colon which forms an oversized hard stool which cannot be passed.
Question: what are the signs of a megacolon?
Answer: the major sign of a megacolon is chronic constipation with unsuccessful straining to have a bowel movement. Some cats may vomit and lose weight, they become depressed have a poor appetite and appear unthrifty, a cat that has megacolon, where it cannot pass a stool, has life threatening condition if left untreated.
Question: how is mega colon treated?
Answer: megacolon is initially treated with dietary changes that will produce a soft stool, which will more easily be passed. Stool softeners and enemas are often needed to clear out the obstructed colon. Megacolon is a condition that does not go away: it needs to be managed on a daily and long term basis, which is often accomplished successfully with products that create a soft stool that can be passed before they become too large. Some cats respond well to medications that help them have regular bowel movements. For the cats that do not respond to medical treatment there is a surgery called subtotal colonectomy where nearly the entire colon is removed.