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Megacolon

By: Dr. Arnold Plotnick

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Constipation is a clinical sign characterized by absent, infrequent, or difficult defecation associated with retention of feces within the colon and rectum. In cats, the colon has evolved to serve two functions: extraction of water and electrolytes from the colon contents and to control defecation. Anything that prevents normal defecation for a prolonged period of time can lead to megacolon, which is a condition of extreme dilation of the colon with inability to expel feces.

There are a variety of conditions that lead to megacolon.

  • Excessive narrowing of the pelvic canal, which blocks the passage of the feces, most commonly due to abnormal healing of pelvic fracture (23 percent)
  • Neurologic injury (6 percent)
  • Manx cats born with a spinal cord deformity (5 percent)
  • Idiopathic, which means there is no known reason why the condition developed (62 percent)

    Recent research has shown that cats with idiopathic megacolon have a defect in the muscle present in the walls of the colon.

    Although most cats with the disorder are brought to the veterinarian because of reduced, absent, or painful defecation ranging from days to weeks, some cats will be seen to have blood in their feces, or diarrhea. This is because the dry hard feces can irritate the lining of the colon and cause it to produce blood and excessive mucus, which can be mistaken for diarrhea. The prolonged inability to defecate can also lead to some non-specific systemic signs such as weight loss, poor or absent appetite, lethargy, and vomiting.

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