Thanks for your question.
Constipation is a common problem in cats. Some practitioners use a rule of thumb that says if a cat is still eating and feeling good, then you can wait on treating constipation and just monitor your cat for the time being, but this isn’t always a guarantee. If symptoms are present at all, it’s ideal to address them as soon as you can especially since it’s an uncomfortable condition. If there is vocalizing at the litter box, obvious straining, bloody discharge, lethargy, inappetence or vomiting, then you should see your veterinarian right away.
Here’s a few ways to combat constipation…
- Exercise. Exercise can help move things along the digestive tract. I should clarify that light exercise is good and that it shouldn’t be stressful or vigorous.
- Weight loss. We know that overweight cats are much more prone to constipation so keeping them at an ideal body weight will help prevent the condition.
- Diet. It’s ideal to control constipation through diet so that you don’t have to start administering medications or supplements. There are many prescription diets that are formulated to aid in preventing bulky dry stools and improve gastrointestinal health to reduce the risk of constipation. Diets with ideal fiber levels and a low ash component will be beneficial for the condition.
- Encourage water intake. Water absorption from digested food occurs in the colon, so the longer feces sit in there, the more it dries out and becomes firm, hard and increasingly difficult to pass. Increasing water intake in your pet by adding water to food, getting a water fountain, or flavouring your cat’s water bowl can encourage them to drink more. This will help prevent constipation.
- Stool softeners. There are products you can get from your veterinarian that will help soften the stool. Some of them are in a liquid form and some of them come as a powder. You may be able to find samples of these in your pet supply store but I would recommend you speak to your veterinarian and buy a well-researched and tested veterinary product.
- There is a variety of laxatives you can use to treat constipation. In some cases you can use a human product that is over the counter. I always recommend speaking to your veterinarian before using any product on your pet and get his or her guidance.
- Fiber formulas. You can add fiber to your cat’s diet to reduce the risk of constipation and again, human product can be successful in some cases but I would strictly advise you to work with your veterinarian before administering any product and get their approval and direction.
- Enemas. These should be performed by your veterinarian and they can be done in different ways. If the constipation is mild, a small amount of the enema solution can be inserted into the colon through the anus. As the constipation worsens, large fluid mixtures can be used and even sedation may be necessary to alleviate a serious case. For the worst cases of constipation, a full general anesthetic may need to be performed and the stool can be physically removed.
- Pro-motility medications. There are drugs that will increase the ability of the digestive tract to propel digested food down through the colon. Speak to your veterinarian about the different products and dosages.
I hope this is a good start for you. Good luck!
Dr. Clayton Greenway
What are some ways to treat feline constipation?
If symptoms are present at all, it's ideal to address them as soon as you can especially since it's an uncomfortable condition. If there is vocalizing at the litter box, obvious straining, bloody discharge, lethargy, inappetence or vomiting, then you should see your veterinarian right away.
Dr. Clayton Greenway, B.Sc., DVM
Healthcare for Pets