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Intussusception in Cats

By: Dr. Bari Spielman

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An intussusception is a telescoping of one part of the intestinal tract into an adjoining segment of intestinal tract. Intussusceptions can occur anywhere throughout the gastrointestinal tract, but are most common in the small intestines. Partial or intermittent intussusceptions are often associated with chronic, or waxing and waning signs. A complete intussusception with a total blockage of the intestine may cause acute onset of severe clinical signs, with even shock and death. In general, when the blockage is high in the gastrointestinal tract, the signs are more severe and life threatening.

Many problems can cause intussusceptions, and many other diseases/disorders have the same symptoms. These include:

  • Viral enteritis, especially panleukopenia (feline distemper), which is a contagious virus that affects unvaccinated kittens

  • Bacterial enteritis, an inflammation/infection of the intestinal tract with agents such as Salmonella, Clostridia

  • Intestinal parasites such as roundworms, hookworms and whipworms

  • Ingestion of foreign bodies

  • Mesenteric volvulus or twisting of the tissue that suspends the intestines in the abdomen (extremely rare in the cat)

  • Gastrointestinal masses (tumors)

  • Pancreatitis or an inflammation of the pancreas

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