is a 10-year-old Siamese cat. She has spent all of her
life under the watchful eye of Marsha in a home in
Goleta, Calif. Marsha is an elderly woman and was
planning on moving to an assisted-care facility with
Franny, however Franny has developed a constipation
problem over the last few months, a solution for which
has eluded Marsha and delayed her move.
started demonstrating her problem with frequent visits
to her litter box each time producing small amounts of
fecal material in very dry segments. Marsha recognized
this as out of the ordinary but it seemed to improve for
a while. That improvement, however, was short-lived as
Fannyís straining to defecate became much more
prevalent and her production became almost non-existent.
It got to the point where Fanny was not eating well,
prompting Marsh to bring Fanny in to see her
veterinarian. Fanny was diagnosed with constipation and
placed on a stool softener and a wet food diet.
after starting her new diet and stool softener, Franny
seemed to do better. Her stool was still very dry
appearing, however the volume produced at each visit to
the litter box increased. Her appetite did not improve.
Back to her veterinarian she went. This time, Franny
received some fluid therapy via injection under her skin
(subcutaneous fluids) and an enema. She appeared more
energetic for the next week or so but her appetite
first point I want to make here is that constipation is
not a diagnosis, it is a symptom. It can occur for a
myriad of reasons ranging from inappropriate diet to
cancer. We must find out the underlying cause in order
to have a reasonable hope for resolution.
are two diagnostic steps that will go a long way toward
helping us figure out what is causing Frannyís
constipation: blood work and abdominal radiographs.
common cause for constipation in older cats is kidney
disease. If the kidney function decreases, affected cats
cannot concentrate their urine and therefore waste
fluid. Over time, this can lead to dehydration, which
can lead to constipation as the colon reabsorbs fluid
from the stool.
disease also can decrease a catís appetite. Blood work
and urinalysis will most often diagnose kidney disease.
Treatment for kidney disease is based on severity and
usually involves intravenous fluid therapy. With fluid
therapy, dehydration can be corrected which then can
help relieve the secondary symptom of constipation.
cause of constipation involves decreased muscle function
in the colon. This can result in a colon that becomes
dilated and unable to move stool properly. In a normal
cat, waste is passed from the small intestine to the
colon (large intestine) where fluid is reabsorbed and
the stool becomes more solid. It is then passed out of
the body during defecation.
a cat with a mechanically malfunctioning colon, the
waste material from the small intestine packs up in the
dilated colon where fluid is continually reabsorbed.
This makes the situation worse as the cat is unable to
pass the stool and becomes more and more constipated. As
one might suspect, this condition can definitely reduce
radiographs can demonstrate this process. In fact in
many of these cases, abdominal palpation during a
physical exam can yield a tentative diagnosis. Treatment
for this problem, commonly referred to as megacolon, can
involve drug therapy to try to increase colon motility
as well as special higher fiber diets and stool
softeners. In severe cases that do not respond to
medical management, surgery can be performed to
eliminate a large section of the non-functional colon.
are certainly more possible diagnoses for Frannyís
constipation than the two I have shared here. The key at
this point is that Franny needs a much more in depth
work-up to definitively diagnose her underlying disease
at which point appropriate therapy can be initiated.